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Exclusive interview with: Mike Berra Jr.

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Exclusive interview with: Mike Berra Jr.

Mike Berra Jr., 41, has been involved in the tire retreading and repair business all his life. His late grandfather, also name Michael, started Community Tire Co. Inc. in St. Louis, Mo., in 1935.

His father, Mike Sr., is CEO of the company, and a former president of the American Retreaders Association (ARA). His mother, Carol, is vice president.

Berra officially joined the company in 1991, although he received his first paycheck in 1981 “as a floor sweeper.” After the ARA had morphed into the International Tire & Rubber Association, he served on its advisory council.

As president, he now handles the day-to-day activities at Community Tire, which does business as Community Tire Retreading.

Community Tire is the 23rd largest retreader in the United States, according to Modern Tire Dealer. It retreads 30 OTR tires a day and 80 truck tires a day at its single plant in St. Louis.

In 2005, Berra was named president of the Tire Retread & Repair Information Bureau (TRIB). He will step down from that position, however, when he takes over as president of the Tire Industry Association (TIA) and its nearly 6,000 members at this year’s Global Tire Expo in Las Vegas, Nev.

He hopes to one day see the St. Louis Blues win the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup. When he is not attending games as a season ticket holder (he shares them with his cousin) or working at Community Tire, he will be traveling on behalf of TIA, at least until his one-year term as president ends.

“If I can leave my term as TIA president with an industry that is more united under TIA, I will feel very satisfied.”

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MTD: What legislative issues will you and TIA focus on over the next 12 months?

Berra: Much of this will depend on what happens over the next few months with regards to the upcoming Congressional elections. Will the Republicans win back control in one or both chambers? Will it be a “lame-duck” Congress? One of the top issues right now that TIA is working hard on is the repeal of the onerous 1099 reporting provision in the healthcare reform law. While this isn’t industry-specific, the burden on our members — especially the smaller operations — will be enormous.

I have worked with (TIA Director of Government and Business Relations) Paul Fiore on the attempts to permanently reform the estate tax, but that’s another issue that may prove to be driven by the November elections. I also have the feeling that we will be on the defensive with some federal legislation dealing with tires . . . I can’t point to anything specific at the moment, but the miscellaneous bills attacking some aspect of our industry that pop up every year seem to be increasing.

And, for our retailer members, the Right to Repair issue is still foremost in their minds. Every year, they struggle with TPMS information for various makes and models, in addition to other repair specifics. We will continue to work closely with the two or three other aftermarket groups on Capitol Hill, as well as any state that decides to tackle this issue.

MTD: You have a strong retreading background. How does TIA address the needs of the retreading industry?

Berra: Whether it’s the recently passed healthcare legislation or the need for better training, the needs of retreaders are often the same as those in other sectors of the tire industry.

And TIA is equipped to provide the best assistance and representation to retreaders, as we do to all other segments of the industry.

TIA will also continue our strong support of TRIB, as its work on behalf of the retreading industry is also crucial.

MTD: What has TIA done to improve the Global Tire Expo at the SEMA Show?

Berra: Well, for starters, this is the first year of the new Global Tire Expo — Powered by TIA. We have strengthened our ties and level of collaboration with SEMA to create a true tire industry event. The Expo is open to everyone in the tire industry, from automotive, to commercial, to retreading, recycling, and more.

We’ve also expanded our educational session offerings. Attendees of the Expo have the option to attend sessions in four tracks that cover relevant, useful information given by some of the best experts in their fields. Attendees at the Expo really get the best of everything — they can attend top-notch educational sessions while still having time to walk the Expo floor; catch up with existing buyers and suppliers; and, most importantly, meet new buyers. And, there is no place quite like Las Vegas!

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MTD: What is new on the training front?

Berra: TIA is currently updating the Automotive Tire Service, or ATS, Program, and is excited about a soft launch at SEMA. The new program will include comprehensive modules on the relationship between torque and clamping force, as well as the step-by-step procedures for lifting vehicles, demounting and mounting, balancing and tire repair.

As part of the update, TIA is also developing a new Advanced TPMS Program that will focus on identifying different types of TPMS, servicing valve stem and band-mounted sensors, and relearn procedures for domestic and import vehicles.

After the successful release of the new Commercial Tire Service, or CTS, Program this year, TIA is translating the program into Spanish and will work with several members to ensure it can be utilized from coast to coast.

Other training initiatives that we plan to complete in 2011 include electronic versions of the TPMS Relearn Chart and the “Passenger Light Truck Tire Conditions Manual” in addition to online applications of the ATS, CTS and Earthmover Tire Service (ETS) Programs.

MTD: You will be president for one year. What is your agenda?

Berra: I’d say my top agenda item is to continue providing the best possible service to, and representation of, our members.

Another item high on my list is to continue TIA’s efforts to unite the tire industry. Whether it’s the recently passed healthcare legislation, the consumer education effort, the Chinese tire tariffs, bringing the industry together at the Expo — it’s clear that there are plenty of reasons why uniting and working together is imperative. And, TIA is the organization that can accomplish this unity.

I also want to continue to make TIA a world-leading training organization, and I still plan on us actively pursuing the consumer education program.

MTD: Seventh game of the Stanley Cup at Scottrade Center, St. Louis vs. Boston. That same day, TIA is holding a board meeting in Los Angeles, Calif. Where are you?

Berra: Since I no longer believe in Santa Claus, it is tough for me to comment on other such questions that have their roots in make-believe. However, our executive vice president (Roy Littlefield) is from Boston, and can relate. I can promise you that, much like the game itself, that meeting would never be scheduled.

Second answer: Section 116, Row K, seat 20... jersey on, attitude on, game on. Official press release: “Michael Berra Jr. was unable to attend the meeting due to an unforeseen, personal matter. Our prayers are with him.”

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