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Event Celebrates the Best of the Tire Industry

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Event Celebrates the Best of the Tire Industry

Brent Hesje, CEO of Fountain Tire Ltd., may have coined the ultimate definition of the tire industry. Hesje, among the newest Tire Industry Hall of Famers, said, “I think it’s a bunch of characters full of good character.”

Many of those characters gathered Monday night for the Tire Industry Association’s 2019 Tire Industry Honors night. The TIA celebration serves as the unofficial opening ceremony for tire dealers at the annual Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show.

The crowning moments of the event occur as TIA honors its inductees into the Hall of Fame, and celebrates the accomplishments of the recipient of the Ed Wagner Leadership Award. For 2019, Hesje and the late Frank Holeman were inducted into the Hall of Fame. Edward Burleson received the leadership award.

Hesje has spent 27 years at Fountain Tire, including the last 14 as CEO. He’s led the Canadian tire dealership through incredible growth, nearly tripling its stores, all while managing an admittedly unique ownership structure. Fountain Tire is 49% owned by Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., and Hesje said, “Goodyear lets us run this company.” The “vast majority” of its stores are actually 50-50 partnerships between Fountain Tire and the local store manager.

In his remarks Hesje thanked TIA as another valuable partner, saying, “Our company is safer because of you.”

Frank Holeman died in 1996, and his family was unable to attend the ceremony to receive the award on his behalf. But the family sent their appreciation in a letter, describing him as a humble man who “became almost as passionate about rubber as he was about journalism.” He had been the Washington bureau chief for the New York Daily News and past president of the National Press Club when he decided it was time to get a better paying job to support his wife and four children. He joined the Tire Industry Safety Council as director in 1969 and was the go-to source to talk about the safe practices in tire manufacturing, tire retailing, tire care and maintenance.

Burleson said the Ed Wagner Leadership Award was “truly a highlight in my life.” He started changing tires as a senior in high school and has been a part of the tire industry ever since. He worked in retail and wholesale, and also as a retreader. In 1986 when he started Central Marketing Inc. he focused solely on selling rubber and casings to retreaders. He sought out innovators in technology across the globe and worked to bring automation to retreading in North America.

Burleson said “this business has been a big part of my life,” and “I feel like the industry has a great future.”

A look ahead to 2020

In 2020 TIA will celebrate its 100th year, and association leaders provided a glimpse of some of the activities planned throughout the year:

  • Federal Lobby Day in the spring (likely in April during Cherry Blossom season)
  • Environmental Summit
  • International Tire Summit on Nov. 4, 2020, during the Global Tire Expo
  • Centennial gala on Nov. 2, 2020, at The Chelsea inside the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas
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