John Evankovich, outgoing president of the Tire Industry Association (TIA), has worked nearly 30 years at Sam’s Club Inc. in Bentonville, Ark. He started out as a tire technician, was promoted to management positions over the years, and 15 years ago was named director of the company’s tire and battery centers. There are currently 581 Sam’s Club outlets that sell tires. That number will grow as “there will be a tire and battery center in every new Sam’s Club built,” he told us. The outlets sell Michelin, BFGoodrich, Goodyear and Pirelli brand tires.
He became involved in TIA years ago when he had a question about tire pressure monitoring systems. He turned to Kevin Rohlwing, TIA’s senior vice president of training, for an answer. Rohlwing’s knowledge so impressed him that he recognized the value in becoming a TIA member. “We joined TIA, and after working with them over the years, I considered running for the board,” he said. Freda Pratt-Boyer, TIA’s president in 2014, urged him on and “it’s been a wonderful experience. I will continue to be involved in many ways because it’s the right thing to do. I can’t imagine not being involved.”
MTD asked him about his year as president and what the future will hold for him.
MTD: What assistance and advice did outgoing president David Martin give you once he handed over the gavel last year?
Evankovich: Dave and I have become good friends over the years. He and I have been each other’s sounding boards, while he was president and while I was moving up through the chairs. His advice was to be patient, stay the course. Also, ask a lot of questions, especially on areas I’m not familiar with. And take the time to listen to what others say.
We’re elected by our peers, and they have spoken on what they want to see from the president, from the executive board. It’s a pretty big responsibility. It makes us put aside our personal business thoughts and really look at the collective good. I feel we’ve done a really good job with that and we’ve laid the foundation for many years to come. I’m very confident with Brian Rigney coming up and Dan Nothdurft behind him, we’ll not only stay the course, but we’ll accelerate our growth.
MTD: As incoming president, you told us you wanted to continue to strengthen the collaboration between the U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association (USTMA) and TIA, and attract new members to TIA. Please give us an update on these initiatives.
Evankovich: We continue to strengthen the collaboration between USTMA and TIA. That’s something I’ve been involved with since I joined TIA. On critical industry issues, we have to work together. When that happens we all win, and that benefits the consumer, the retailer and the manufacturer. The level of communication now is as good as it’s ever been in my time with TIA. We don’t always agree on everything, but what we do agree on is to work together to move forward.
Currently, TIA has nearly 13,500 members, and that’s a growth of about 14% over last year. TIA continues to drive value to our membership, and I think more and more are seeing that and are joining.
MTD: What advances in TIA’s government affairs are you most proud of now that your term is ending?
Evankovich: I felt it was important for TIA to take a leadership role in regard to environmental concerns, to bring together the legislators, the regulators of the industry, in areas of political activism.
For instance, there are a lot of scrap tires out there and we need to work hard to make sure we’re getting the best use out of them and make sure the tires are disposed of properly.
One of my primary goals as TIA president was to reenergize TIA’s environment advisory council — to expand its educational programs, its leadership role in issues of environmental sustainability. I was aware of the environmental council that was formed in 2010, but it sort of faded away. What we did was reinstate it primarily to develop an educational resource that can serve as a sort of clearing house for environmental issues that affect the tire industry. We continue to work on that by driving awareness and working with legislators, industry key leaders. The council’s mission is to identify recycled manufactured products and promote environmentally sustainable practices through education.We want to develop methods to use raw materials so that scrap is 100% recyclable. We want to “close the loop.” That’s been my goal for the last 20 years.
As an example, in Cotton Plant, Ark., population 649, there’s a scrap tire pile with 440,000 tires. We need to get it cleaned up — take that town out of jeopardy. No one wanted to do anything about it. We’re working with people in Arkansas. Right now, there’s no progress because of some litigation going on. But we’re lining up resources so that once that’s settled we can get it cleaned up quickly. In three to four months, it could be cleaned up.
We are watching other legislation in states concerning use of crumb rubber. A bill in Maryland would classify crumb rubber as a hazardous waste. If that happens, it will have a huge impact on the scrap tire industry.
MTD: What was the most challenging aspect of being TIA president?
Evankovich: Keeping up with change — the industry is changing, the scope of retailing is changing, distribution is changing — and keeping up with that takes work. The industry is more digital, it is a more connected world with more information out there to sort through. We have to stay in front of that to serve the needs of our members.
We know most consumers look online before they go to a brick and mortar location. It’s going to continue to change at an even faster pace as time goes on.
MTD: Now that your year is over, what do you hope your legacy will be?
Evankovich: The most worthwhile project has been working on scrap tire initiatives. It will have the most long-lasting effects. It’s not just about the industry, but it’s about environment — quality of life. It just makes sense to me to reuse that raw material and make something useful. I’ve made great friends who have guided me and helped me develop skills that have helped me to continue the course for TIA as president. I want that legacy to carry on. Brian and those after him will continue to drive value to TIA members to meet the needs in this fast-changing industry.