WTC and the Evolving Name Game - Tire Review Magazine

WTC and the Evolving Name Game

So the good people of Ephrata, Wash., want to know if all is as it appears to be.

Well good for them.

As we reported the other day, the Port of Ephrata is demanding proof that Washington Tire Corp. (nee American Tire Corp. and Colorado Tire Corp.) is actually a corp. – a legally incorporated company – and that its purported president Abraham Hengyucius is who he says he is.

Somewhere along the line, someone clued port manager Mike Wren into the mysterious past of WTC and its leader, and learned at Hengyucius’ real name is Hengyu Zhang. Wren now wants certification that both Hengyucius and WTC are legit.

Now, the name thing is really not that odd. It is not at all unusual for transplants from China, South Korea or Japan to adopt Western-style names while doing business here. That is probably the case here.

But Hengyu Zhang has also showed up in the past in connection with an odd non-profit. In March 2009, friend of the show Kurt Hartman wrote in his former Heavy Treaddin’ blog about Hengyucius’ other interests, most notably as resident professor/president and philosopher for the World Hongming Foundation, which was described on its now defunct website as “a tax-exempt, educational and research institution in the USA.”

Quoting from Hartman’s original text: “Upon arrival, circa 2001-2002, he (Hengyucius) immediately filed for 501c3 recognition of a non-profit which would become known as the World Hongming Foundation. He received this certification, and the company is still legally registered as a non-profit in the state of California. Interestingly enough, although he claims to be president of the World Hongming Foundation, all of the tax returns for World Hongming list a ‘Dr. Hengyu Zhang’ as president on form 990. This is the tax return that non-profits must file with the IRS…Dr. Zhang has been listed as President on every single tax return since the inception of the organization.”

Again, nothing really unusual in Westernizing a name for business purposes. I have a Rolodex full of business cards from Asian contacts that feature their chosen Western name. Except the Port of Ephrata and local residents deserve to know more about the mysterious Dr. Hengyucius.

As for Washington Tire Corp. – and its predecessors – well, one could easily call into question whether any of them was ever actually incorporated. Any company can call itself a “company” or “corporation” without the legalities of actually being incorporated.

But for the purposes of wanting to buy 97 acres of land to build a claimed $1 billion tire plant – which, by the way, would be the most expensive tire plant ever built anywhere – it might be nice that the purchaser actually be a legal entity.

Hengyucius has until Aug. 25 to provide proof and explanations for the discrepancies. And he also apparently hasn’t fully explained where all WTC’s financial backing is coming from, or if it can pull together $1 billion.

Still, according to local news reports, Wren and local residents are uneasy. Wren said port officials are “questioning whether they should enter into that land agreement with Washington Tire,” and that he is fielding “25 phone calls a day about this project.”

“We don’t want this to spin out of control,” Wren was quoted as saying. “We also can’t tell people that we’re headed down the right road when something like this comes up.”

Indeed. As Hartman put it: Hengyucius continues further down the rabbit hole.

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