The 22nd to the 24th of September were the dates for this year’s ARA Convention and Expo held at the splendid Disney World Dolphin Hotel, Orlando, Florida. The event attracted over 900 attendees and greeted auto recyclers and interested parties from across the globe.
A series of committee meetings kicked off events accumulating in membership & board of directors’ meeting. Introduced by outgoing president Marty Hollingshead, the headlines were announced by Executive Director Sandy Blalock, which included cooperation with eBay and the selling of airbags through the platform.
After each upbeat report from the various committee members, proceedings continued with the first of the key speakers at the event, Dave Luehr, who asked the audience how they adapt to change, especially when it came to the challenges of recruiting and maintaining staff; a theme that continued throughout the conference.
The evening followed with the ceremonial ribbon cutting to officially announce the event and let attendees visit the 95 exhibitors at the exposition that ran alongside the conference. Fuelled by a buffet dinner and refreshments, there was a terrific buzz in the hall as friends old and new caught up to share their thoughts and news. And even Mickey and Minne themselves popped in to find out about the auto recycling industry.
Day two began with another keynote speech from Ryan Falco, President of Aesop, who focussed on the importance of leadership and repeated the importance of how good staff make a successful yard and how auto recyclers are as much in the people business as the parts business.
Following on from Ryan, delegates were provided with a choice of speakers and tech talks throughout the morning. Topics included the ‘Advantages of being an independent, ‘the challenges and opportunities involved in the EV battery chain’ and ‘compliance assurance’.
With the opportunity to revisit the exposition, the evening gave way to the networking dinner, which had a Hawaiian theme, with many dressed in appropriate attire. An emotional awards ceremony was part of the evening, thanking those who contributed much to the association and industry over the years. Plus, there were cheers for those joining the directors’ committee. Again, Marty Hollingshead led the proceedings, which was his final act as he reviewed his years’ tenure as president before formally inviting Shan Latham to take on her new role. Both received rapturous applause as the ARA members appreciated Marty’s hard work and the encouraging words provided by Shan, speaking with confidence about a strong future for the organisation.
After a late night for some, a tonic and inspiration were needed, which came from the final keynote presentation supplied by Pat Huessers and Mike Meyers on their experiences building their four-acre site over 30 years into a successful business now spanning over 120 acres. Options were then again available as the day’s programme evolved with a wonderful host of speakers providing their expertise, experience and thoughts on many topics affecting the modern-day vehicle recycler.
The final session brought all the delegates into one room to recap on the three days, bringing focus and opportunity to share present and future thoughts about where the industry may be in the coming twelve months.
Compared with the challenges of previous years with the pandemic in the rearview mirror, there was a general feeling of optimism for the years ahead with the knowledge that vehicle recycling was becoming more valued for the critical role that it plays. This was echoed by reports of a major OEM wishing to work more closely with vehicle recyclers in the USA, news that was met with the urge for its members to become certified and to take advantage of this potential opportunity.
However, there was caution for the future, especially with the impending cost of living crisis, the challenges regarding staff shortages and the situation in Europe, and how the energy crisis may affect the scrap market. New Vice President, Nick Daurio, advised the assembled audience to ‘be smart with what they are buying. And to be prepared and smart with what they are doing’.
The final function was set under blue skies, shaded with palm trees next to a lake; a fine setting for those who attended to bid their farewells and promise to keep in touch with new and established friends before next year’s conference.
Sandy Blalock, Executive Director of the Automotive Recyclers Association (ARA) commented:
“We could not have been more pleased with the turnout and how smoothly the event ran all week. We really look forward to preparing for our 80th Annual Event next year in Kansas City. We hope that everyone will come out and celebrate our 80th Anniversary!”
Images courtesy of the Automotive Recyclers Association (ARA)