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CHANGE OF GUARD: Keeping the Pace

By Caryn Smith

The work of the Executive Committee of the Automotive Recyclers Association isn’t a sprint. Anyone who has served in this capacity knows that the effort is long and steady, grueling and exhilarating, up hills and down, with hurdles to leap, as well as good and challenging surprises around the bends.

Taking the lead this year ARA’s President is Jonathan Morrow, a next-generation automotive recycler in his family’s business, where he is the Inventory Manager, responsible for pricing, at M&M Auto Parts, Inc., Fredericksburg, Virginia. The facility sits on 50 acres located 2 hours outside of Washington, D.C., with 205,000 feet of warehouse space and houses 150,000 stocked recycled parts. Two other satellite locations focus on parts sales.

At 36, Morrow maybe be youthful in age, but not in experience. His roots are firmly planted, growing up with an insider’s view of automotive recycling in the business his grandparents started in 1960. They have been ARA members since 1979. Morrow said this about his start in the industry, “My father had just graduated high school when my grandpa died, so grandma kind of kept the business together until my father graduated from college and could take over. He came in full-time at age 22. Growing up, I was always around the business. While I was in college I worked for another recycler. I still did not come to M&M Auto Parts immediately after getting my MBA from Liberty University, Lynchburg, Va, even though that was my plan, to eventually be part of it,” Morrow recounts.

“My family had two rules: Go to school and then go to work somewhere else for a year. I did that, working in commercial real estate for a year. When it came time, I had to apply for my job here and go through the interview process. When I got hired, I started by doing everything and anything that needed to get done. I learned a lot, gaining great respect for every person who works here,” he says.

Already an industry leader, Morrow has served as president of the Virginia Automotive Recyclers Association. He spoke to Automotive Recycling magazine about his upcoming year, as well as issues important to the industry.

Tell us about your family and their support of your role in ARA.
I have a beautiful wife, Ruthie, and two energetic boys Jack (7) and Eli (3). Ruthie has been a big supporter that has allowed me to fulfill my obligation to ARA with one caveat, she was able to choose the 2019 ARA President’s Trip! We have scheduled and booked a cruise out of Ireland to Iceland in June and we would love for ARA members to join us.

Throughout the years while I am an active part of the ARA Executive Committee, Ruthie has done a great job managing the family when I am away meeting with auto recyclers across the U.S. and at the ARA Headquarters in Washington, DC. She also balances being a compassionate Nurse Practitioner for a family practice, as well as a board member for a local free clinic.

Tell us about your automotive recycling facility.
M&M Auto Parts Inc.’s specialty: “We handle Late Model Vehicles which include foreign, domestic cars and trucks.” We have 72 of the greatest employees in this industry. Currently, we have three sales locations in Stafford, Fredericksburg and Chesapeake, Virginia.

M&M was founded in 1960 by my grandfather Rupert Morrow and his brother Ralph Morrow. The yard existed, but it was not their main focus. They specialized in buying used cars out of the Washington, DC market and shipped them to their hometown of Forest City, North Carolina. Following my grandfather’s passing, my grandmother orchestrated a buyout of Ralph and acquired an almost broke business. My father, Rick, who was in college, and Uncle Ron, who was in high school, moved in over the next few years and started turning the yard around from the brink. Ron focused on buying cars
while Rick focused on running the business, and creating policies and procedures that slowly turned the ship. Both are still involved today.

What inspired you to make a commitment to the ARA as a member of the Executive Committee?
The ARA Annual Convention was my parent’s vacation every year, where we attended as a family when I was growing up. From that experience, I realized the impact of the relationships from ARA and how they helped M&M become the automotive recycling facility we are today. Our ARA membership has shaped our commitment to the environment as CAR and Gold Seal members, to our employees to provide a safe, clean, and caring place to work, and to advance our commitment to professional recycling practices. Being close to Washington, DC, we have opened our facility to visits  from legislators to help the ARA gain support in that arena. I embrace the importance of the work of the ARA from all levels, and want to help make a difference for the next generation.

This year has brought change for the Association. What are your thoughts as the EC strives for its initiatives.
Changes are hard. This EC has made a number of changes that will benefit the Association and members for years to come. The marketplace around this industry is fast-changing and complex, more than ever before. We are looking for all opportunities to help members navigate the rough waters, to ensure that this industry continues to prosper. What that looks like in the future we are working to clarify, but the goal is to be at the table of any negotiations that impact our ability to do business.

To the Association’s benefit, we are clearly building upon the success of prior Executive Committee work. They faithfully served in their time with issues of their day, and were effective to make changes and move the interests of our members forward. Each person who has served at a leadership level in our 75-year history deserves the highest levels of our respect and gratitude.

I personally want to glean wisdom from past presidents. I don’t claim to have all the answers. As a member of the EC for the past four years, we respect and value each other’s opinions and positions; we all have a vote. My age has not been an issue. This has been a brotherhood to me and we understand each other strengths and weaknesses, and use those to accomplish goals for the Association.

In your view, what are the most important goals for the Association?
We are working to significantly increase the number of automotive recyclers who see the value of the National Association to their livelihood. We are continuing efforts to create and maintain strategic partnerships with more automotive recycling facilities, industry vendors, other aligned associations and organizations, and industry experts to solve problems that affect all of us collectively. By reaching deeper inside our industry and creating alliances with
organizations moving toward the same general goals outside of our industry, we can only grow stronger to tackle key issues now and in the future.

What is your focus or hope for your year  as president?
I hope to continue to maintain a transparent Executive Committee leadership that works collectively with our Board and Affiliate Chapters to support legislation that helps auto recyclers and educate our members in the ever-changing automotive world. As mentioned previously, this last year has had many changes. This year, we hope to steady the boat and push ahead with our new Executive Director Sandy Blalock, as well as the great team at headquarters.

I also will continue to grow initiatives put in place by Immediate Past President David Gold. The EC has agreed to work towards a unity of mind and mission, which is important so that every year we are not changing direction. We debate issues, share our opinions, listen and consider members’ input, get feedback from the staff, and make a unified decision that is balanced and effective to pursue.

How can members get involved?
I urge all members to take notice of the regular emails that are sent out from ARA Headquarters. They provide really good information that can easily be overlooked. If you are moved to action, get involved on a committee or task force. If you are interested and don’t know how or in what area to participate, ask an EC member or a Board member. We would all love to help members be more engaged.

Also, make plans to attend next year’s Hill Days & Legislative Summit, April 3 – 4, 2019, in Washington, DC, for the first time held in affiliation with The Washington Auto Show®! [Designated one of the nation’s top five auto shows by the International Organization of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers, The Washington Auto Show®, a world class event, continues to wow audiences with its cutting-edge exhibits, latest model cars and displays of historic vehicles.]

In five or ten years, what do you hope (or think) the industry will look like?
Unfortunately, no one likes to hear the word “different” because we associate that with harder, but I do believe our industry will look different. I believe that we will become more focused on the production and inventory sides of our business. This part of our business is truly the only area we succeed over anyone else in the world. We will never be the best at sales (Amazon, Apple or Cisco) or logistic (UPS, FedEx or DHL), but we can and are the best at breaking cars down and harvesting their parts. I believe we will have the opportunity to sell more parts to more customers. I also hope over the next 10 years we have a better relationship with the OEs. We sell OE parts and if we work together, it would be mutually beneficial.

What is the biggest positive change in the industry you have seen in your career?
I believe one of the most positive changes I have seen is a move from secrecy on the individual yard level to a more transparent systematic approach. We are beginning to understand that the more we work closer with one another, the better operators we all become. We are not each others’ competitors. I have learned from operations with as little as 5 employees to as large as LKQ and FENIX, and then also from international operations with different government systems in place. The commonality is we all work to the same end result, yet with divergent business models. I have never run into anyone, and I mean anyone, who was not willing to help.

Overall, this is going to be a fun and exciting year. The EC members and I are energized to continue its work for the National Association that has provided so much to the advancement of the industry.

Caryn Smith is the editor of Automotive Recycling magazine and has been covering the industry for over 20 years.