By Miles Moore, ERJ staff (R&PN)
Washington DC-Beginning Oct. 1, the Rubber Manufacturers Association will be strictly an association representing tyre manufacturers, according to RMA President Charles Cannon.
But that doesn't mean it won't work on issues of common interest with the Association of Rubber Product Manufacturers, the successor organisation to the RMA's Elastomer Products Group, Cannon said.
â€œAs of the end of our fiscal year, there will be two separate 501(c)(6) trade associations, each with its own management, boards of directors and budgets,â€ he said.
â€œIt is a fundamental structural change,â€ Cannon said. â€œWe will move forward in a cooperative spirit, but fully independent of each other.â€
With the separation of the ARPM from the RMA, the latter group loses one senior executive and one staff member, as well as about $500,000 from its previous annual bud- get of $7 million, according to the RMA president.
â€œWe're presenting a new budget to the board of directors of about $6.5 million, so it's a pretty clean break in that area,â€ he said. With the creation of the ARPM, the RMA now has 16 permanent staff members, he said.
The reinvention of the RMA as a tyre industry organisation will mean a major refocusing of the association's activities, beginning immediately, according to Cannon.
â€œThe EPG, being a very diverse and dispersed membership, had a multitude of discrete issues, some of them unique to substrata within the group,â€ he said. â€œThe creation of the ARPM refocuses the RMA and its core mission.
â€œTire manufacturers have been the largest part of the organisation for virtually its entire life,â€ he said. â€œThis allows us to move to highly focused activities directed by the priorities of the tyre sector.â€
Statistics regarding RMA membership suggest the division of the RMA and the ARPM is a logical development of the evolution of the rubber industry, Cannon said.
In 1918, he said, the RMA had 340 corporate and 249 individual members. By 1981, membership stood at 215 companies; in 2000, 121; and in 2010, only 48.
â€œIn 1918, the rubber industry consisted of a very dispersed group of small manufacturers, including the tyre industry,â€ Cannon said. â€œBut consolidation has been the rule in the industry almost since World War I.â€
The RMA held steady at about 200 member companies for decades, but consolidation accelerated dramatically beginning in the late 1980s, especially among elastomeric product manufacturers, he said.
â€œWe moved from the Molded and Extruded Products Division, to the General Products Group, to the Elastomeric Prod- ucts Group in an attempt to more efficiently serve our member companies,â€ Cannon said.
â€œWe reduced dues substantially for EPG members, but the trend line was greater than we thought.
â€œIt became apparent that we couldn't serve the two groups equally, but we didn't wake up to that until rather late,â€ he said.
At the time of this interview, the scheduled Sept. 7 meeting of the RMA Board of Directors was still in the future. Under the direction of its new chairman-Rich Kramer, Goodyear president and CEO-the board is working to identify emerging issues, as well as issues in which the RMA and the ARPM can work together, according to Cannon.
â€œRight now we are facing a combination of a much more activist NHTSA and EPA with a Congress that is largely unreadable at the moment,â€ he said. â€œThe administration may be more intense in its activism as the perception grows of a less receptive Congress.â€
Along with charting the RMA's actions on legislative and regulatory issues, the directors will work with the ARPM on transition issues, such as the ARPM taking on responsibility for the former EPG's collection of industry statistics and technical documents.
â€œWe're working out an agreement for them to take full charge,â€ Cannon said. â€œAs part of the transition, they'll be using the original EPG name for a while.â€
While the exact change in the RMA's activities isn't yet evident, it will become evident quickly, according to Cannon.
â€œThere will be new initiatives and e-merging issues, and a number of issues that have been quiescent will become more active,â€ he said. â€œIt will not be a calm time.â€
Six months of working out transitional issues have created a new, totally viable group that the RMA expects to work with on mutually vital issues, according to Cannon.
â€œWe don't celebrate this event, but we recognise it is a rational and reasonable resolution to technical and institutional challenges,â€ he said.
â€œAfter a lot of effort to revise and retool, we have reached an appropriate separation.â€
From Rubber & Plastics News (A Crain publication)