The 80th ARA convention recently took place in Kansas City from October 12th to October 14th. It brought together over 900 individuals connected to the auto recycling industry, not only from the USA but from around the world. Attendees had the opportunity to listen to various speakers, meet with vendors, and share their insights and opinions about the significance of vehicle recycling and the industry’s future.
Kicking off the event on the opening day, Ryan Mandell, the Director from Mitchell International, emphasised that there has never been a more opportune time to be an auto recycler, even in the face of industry changes and challenges. He discussed the ongoing transformation in claims handling, highlighting the digital future of claims and the critical importance of accurate data visibility. Mandell also pointed out the growing complexity of modern vehicles, which is driving up collision repair costs and making parts a more significant portion of these expenses. He underlined how Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) would offer new opportunities for recyclers in the future. Additionally, he stressed the need for preparedness in dealing with electric vehicles, particularly concerning safety and how they would create increased opportunities for collision part sales.
Friday morning commenced with Mark Brown from Browns Auto Salvage, a first-generation vehicle recycler established in 1976 in a small town in Vermont. He delivered an inspiring talk titled ‘The Big Footprint of Small Businesses.’ Brown reminisced about the time when he ran his business without computers and how being part of the ARA had helped build his business through networking and mentoring. He underscored the significance of small businesses in regional areas and their role in building local communities. Brown also addressed the potential negative effects of buyouts by larger companies on such communities and emphasised the importance of managing the legacy when companies are passed down to the next generation within the family or to dedicated staff. His poignant question to the audience was about defining success, which resonated deeply with attendees, leading to a standing ovation.
After Mark’s impactful speech, attendees had to decide which morning sessions to attend, with a wide array of topics available.
In the evening, the conference took on a more relaxed tone with the annual dinner, themed “red, white, and boots.” Attendees donned magnificent costumes, adding sparkle to the event. Outgoing president Shan Lathem opened the proceedings, and the anticipation in the air grew as the annual awards were presented. The winners included Mike Kunkell (President’s Award), Slater Shroyer (Member of the Year Award), Novaks (Certified Auto Recycler Award), and Mike French (Lifetime Achievement Award). The audience applauded the winners, and then Shan passed on her presidency to Nick Daurio. Nick introduced himself and shared his views on the industry and the upcoming 12 months. He also announced that Sandy Blalock, the ARA Executive Director, would retire after the coming year. Next year’s event would be a celebratory party to honour her many years of service to the ARA.
Sunday started with a presentation by Shannon Nordstrom from Nordstrom Salvage, where he encouraged auto recyclers to take pride in every stage of their journey, seek inspiration from others, and assess their success. He inspired them to keep making strides towards improvement and not lose sight of their humble beginnings and core values.
Following Shannon’s heartfelt presentation, attendees had their last opportunity to network and explore the vendor’s booths. A roundtable discussion revolved around concerns related to recruiting and retaining staff, the current declining metals market, and solutions for packaging parts.
The afternoon featured more presentations, and attendees had the chance to visit both Vander Haag’s, a third-generation facility specialising in truck salvaging and recycling, and Midway Auto Parts. This provided a final opportunity to network and bid farewell to old and new friends, with promises to meet again in Reno next year.