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The Port City of Baltimore provided attendees of the 73rd Annual ARA Convention & Expo: Diversity & Direction

A diverse group of auto recyclers from different nations & generations enjoyed open forum discussion that produced critical industry direction at ARA’s largest gathering.

Passion for the automotive recycling industry and investing in the industry’s future were all a very large part of the 73rd Annual ARA Convention & Exposition held October 26-29, 2016 at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.

With more than 800 ARA members and 105 exhibitors on hand to discuss the future of the industry, there was non-stop conversation from the hallways to the session rooms of Baltimore’s Convention Center, and spilling into the common areas at both host hotels, the Sheraton Inner Harbor Hotel and the Hyatt Regency Baltimore Inner Harbor.

ARA welcomed many international members as well from Australia, Canada, China, Germany, Japan, Poland and the United Kingdom. In fact, the United Kingdom dominated the Annual Awards Gala with Jason Cross of FAB Recycling in Gloucestershire, UK, as the recipient of ARA’s Member of the Year Award (“It’s not me it’s the entire team,” he said later) and Allen Prebble, of Silverlake Automotive Recycling in Hampshire, UK, presented with the President’s Award.

Other awards bestowed included Chad Counselman, the incoming ARA Secretary, honored as the Regional Director of the Year; Carolina Auto Recyclers was named Affiliate Chapter of the Year; and Northlake Auto Recyclers of Hammond, IN, was named CAR Member of the Year; Walt’s Auto, Inc., of Springfield, Ohio was presented the first-ever Gold Seal Award; and Ron Sturgeon was presented the Lifetime Honorary Member Award.

The highlight of the Gala was the presidential gavel ceremony when ARA President Mike Swift handed the gavel over to R.D. Hopper, ARA’s president for the 2016-2017 year.

“I do have a love and a passion for this industry,” said Hopper. “This industry has blessed me every day.” He noted that while in his travels over the past year, he saw “young people with a passion” for the recycling industry, something he says will be the focus of his year-long term. “My job is to make sure we help those people … give them the opportunity to own their own yards.”

The featured keynote speakers were Joseph Pickard, Chief Economist of the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries and Tanvir Arfi, Managing Director of Solera. Pickard’s information was rather sobering, noting that the demand for scrap metal has slowed and “economists see only a 1.6 percent growth this year, which is not great. At the end of the day, it is supply and demand and the demand is not there.”

At the other end of the spectrum, Arfi noted that changes in the automotive industry are making the automotive recycling industry change. Auto recyclers need to embrace the technology that new vehicles are introducing. He noted that, for example, the new BMW has 100 million lines of computer code for the technology, contrasted with 14 million lines of code for a Boeing 777 Dreamliner airplane or two million lines of code for a F22 fighter jet.

Additionally, recyclers need to invest in training and learn the technology to identify the electronic parts that need to be removed, stored and sold. These new parts, he added, will be vulnerable to heat, dust and damage from static and water. Even down to the bumper covers, “they have become more complex.”

International attendance was strong in Baltimore. When the delegation of 15 automotive recyclers from Poland, all members of ARA’s Affiliate Chapter FORS Automotive Recyclers Association in Warsaw, decided to attend, they planned a serious road trip to make the most of their time in the United States. The group joined the delegation from the UK (see story on page 20) visiting ARA members at Chuck’s Auto Salvage, Ltd. in Douglassville, PA, and Robertson’s Auto Salvage, Inc. in Wareham, MA and others.

“Very few of us know the language,” said Adam Malyszko, President of the FORS Board of Directors through a translator. “It’s really amazing, language isn’t the most important thing. We share so many things. We know how the business is run, your problems are also ours. We have similar systems and similar programs. During our visits everything was clear.”

“We came here to see how you are dealing with the business,” added Marta Witkowska, acting as Vice President of the Board and translating for Malyszko. “I think what you are doing is absolutely fabulous.”

Andy Latham of Salvage Wire, Wymondham, Norfolk, UK, helped coordinate the UK trip. Their purpose is “to introduce some of the best in the UK to the best in the US,” and “give the UK recyclers the opportunity to see how U.S recyclers operate. It also introduces them to the ARA to show them how the organization operates, the benefits brought to members and the excellence of the annual convention and expo.”

For the first time at an ARA Convention, Saturday sessions featured a Technology Forum with featured speakers from Hollander,, CRUSH and Power-DB. The sessions were well-attended and provided a very detailed, hands-on learning experience for members. As Russ Spaulding from Spokane, Washington noted, “The stuff we learn here is amazing. I went to the Hollander meeting, and I know inventory very well but there were a couple of things they showed us that I didn’t know.”

One of the more interesting educational sessions focused on the new and increasing alternative fuel vehicles. Presenter Bill Davis is the Director of the National Alternative Fuels Training Consortium (NSAFTC), a program of the West Virginia University, founded in 1992. The Consortium educates and promotes the use of alternative fuels such as electric, propane, natural gas, hydrogen, ethanol and biodiesel.

Davis said their audience is wide ranging, from recyclers and towing personnel, to first responders and fleet managers. In fact, he noted that Blue Bird, a major manufacturer of school buses, said 50 percent of its fleet will be natural gas or electric in the upcoming future.

NSAFTC is in the process of developing training curriculum and anticipates having seven courses available either online or on the NSAFTC website by late spring of 2017 and available to ARA members.

Alternative Fuels Vehicle training stresses the safety aspect, since these vehicles are so different than gasoline or diesel vehicles, and all in the audience found the information very timely.

“Always assume there is power and fuel. Similar to firearms, always assume it is loaded until you confirm,” he noted. Also, with these vehicles the safety equipment is definitely required, including gas detectors.

Safety was also a key part of the discussion during the CAR and Gold Seal Committee meetings. “I’m a big believer in our Certified Auto Recycler (CAR) program. Being the international trade association, it is our program – our program that lets people be in compliance with safety standards,” said Shannon Nordstrom, of Nordstrom’s Automotive, Inc., Garretson, SD and the ARA CAR Committee Chair. “If a regulator comes into your place, you’re going to be in a better position with CAR.”

Nordstrom noted that one day he was visited by a person from the regional EPA office and an IRS inspector. “I was very happy that I was a CAR member. That was one of the first things I did was pull out by CAR certification and showed them. The gentleman saw that we were being very proactive. It made a huge difference.”

Amanda Matlock of Matlock’s Used Cars and Parts, Cleveland, N.C. and Chair of the ARA Gold Seal Committee, took certification one step further in discussing the Gold Seal certification. “One of the great things about these (industry specific) values laid out by the Gold Seal certification is they come from a well-respected source, ARA, and have been endorsed by the Automotive Service Association.”

When a business has both CAR and Gold Seal certifications, they get a stamp of approval award. “Seeing this stamp also gives customers piece of mind. Just the words certified and a gold emblem have a positive meaning,” Matlock said.

Many other sessions were a big hit with attendees One in particular highlighted benefits of ARA membership. “We just started using Sterling Credit Card Processing with our members,” said Barb Utter, Executive Director of the Automotive Recyclers of Michigan, at the Benefits4Members session, “and we use it in the office. It was just a very smooth transition and is a great program for our members.”

Exhibitors were very pleased with the Convention and Exposition. “In fact if the show ended last night I would consider it a very successful show,” said Jim Morrison of Phoenix Automotive Cores. His comments were echoed by Paul Nelson, Regional Operations Manager for Car-Part. “It’s really been a great experience for us because we’re connecting with a huge part of our buyer base that makes a lot of sense for us. It’s more brand awareness. Andy Dante of Holmatro said he already had some sales on the floor on the first day but, more importantly, “our dealers have had sales and we’re going to have sales next week.”

Even after two and a half days of high energy meetings and conversations, attendees were not quite ready to stop on Saturday, the last day of the ARA Convention. After a brief walk around Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, the group gathered for the POWERPlay at Luckie’s Tavern located in the city’s Power Plant Live complex for Halloween ’16. They were greeted by a television projection playing a continuous loop of “selfie stick” pictures taken by attendees during Friday night’s Awards Gala.

The tavern featured local foods, namely Baltimore’s finest in crab meat, and attendees availed themselves to the many games scattered around the tavern. At 8:30 p.m., ARA’s reception ended and Luckie’s Tavern was open to the general public for Baltimore’s Halloween celebration. ARA attendees lingered for the party and continued to enjoy the evening well into the night!