Mateer to the rescue
McCreary Tire & Rubber Co. found itself at a crossroads in the early 1980s. The tire company founded by Harry McCreary in 1915 was in dire straits financially after more than 60 years of success. Bankruptcy was perhaps the most logical course of action.
McCreary’s grandson, also named Harry, chose to go in another direction. On April Fools’ Day in 1982, he named an ex-Marine president in the hopes of saving his family’s legacy. Despite a lack of support from the local union and the community at large, it worked.
New President Don Mateer Jr. used his military background and experience as the company’s former vice president of manufacturing to give McCreary Tire new life. He cut costs, including his own salary. He eliminated low-margin tire production at the company’s Indiana, Pa., tire plant, and moved industrial product and curing bladder production to Piney Flats, Tenn.
In order to use fewer raw materials, he began to manufacture race tires and transition away from medium truck tires.
“It was truly about survival,” says CEO and President Don Mateer III. “The whole of it was there had to be a transformative change in the company, both in products and customers, and a workforce that was aligned with that.”
Some people left, but not many, according to Elaine Anderson, who has been with the company in one capacity or another for 40 years. “It was black and white, life or death. We went in every day thinking the doors would be locked and the banks would take over.”
The privately-held company not only survived but thrived. By 1992, with the company again on a profitable path, a name change was in order. McCreary Tire & Rubber Co. became Specialty Tires of America Inc. (STA), which better fit what the company was, and remains, all about.
Mateer III is one of 26 key individuals who oversee the parent company, Polymer Enterprises Inc., and its four subsidiaries. They are working on succession planning so STA survives for another 100 years. ■
Plenty of products
STA focuses on bias-ply tires
Specialty Tires of America Inc. (STA) produces multiple product lines and brands at its two tire manufacturing plants. The vast majority are bias-ply tires.
- Small off-the road: American Contractor, American Carrier, Big Jake, American Logger.
- Industrial and mining: Specialty Tires of America, American XD Traxion, Big Jake.
- Farm: American Farmer (both replacement and original equipment).
- Racing: American Racer.
The company also manufactures military, light truck (including a radial private brand), medium/heavy truck, antique (private brand only) and aircraft tires.
‘We never left home’: Mateer III emphasized the ‘A’ in STA in 2012
On April 30, 2012, CEO Don Mateer III delivered a shareholders’ address that encapsulated what Specialty Tires of America Inc. (STA) and its parent company, Polymer Enterprises Inc., are all about. And it touched on the one thing unchanged in STA’s now 100-year history.
“Regarding the state of manufacturing in the U.S., unquestionably there have been devastating domestic manufacturing job losses in recent years, including the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, where manufacturing employment lost 35% of its jobs over the past decade,” said Mateer.
“However, a recent report commented on companies that had previously moved production outside of the U.S., are now expanding in the U.S., and are bringing jobs back from overseas. Rising foreign-labor costs in emerging-market countries, higher shipping costs, and the need to shorten delivery times due to leaner inventories have made outsourcing less desirable.
“All I can say is we never left home, and for nearly a century have honored a commitment to American-made products, proudly manufactured by Americans. Polymer Enterprises currently provides jobs for nearly 800 employees in Pennsylvania and Tennessee. To them, ‘Made in the USA’ is more than a shared spirit of patriotism. It represents their livelihood, and the means to be able to provide for their families.”