THE NATIONAL TRUCK Equipment Association turned 40 in style, with a 20% jump in Work Truck Show attendance, 421 exhibitors, and a convention program highlighted by a keynote address from former US President George H W Bush.
More than 50 of the Work Truck Show exhibitors had new products on display, according to Vic Tedesco, NTEA president. Overall, the show occupied 162,450 total net square feet in the Baltimore Convention Center.
Incoming president Rod Robinson of Waltco Truck Equipment introduced the 41st president of the United States. Not surprisingly, the father of the current president and the governor of Florida spoke at length about family.
“When the President and I get together, we do not talk about the pressing issues of the day,” Bush says. “People ask if I consult regularly with the President. He never asks, ‘What do I do now, Dad?’ My relationship is simply the love of a father for his son. It's family love that sustains. I bet all of you find that out in your day-to-day businesses.”
Even the president of the United States can be scolded by his mother. After a lengthy jog at the family home in Kennebunkport, the newly elected president sat down to relax.
“George, take your feet off my table,” Barbara Bush scolded.
“Darling, he is the president of the United States,” the father reminded.
“He knows better than that,” Barbara replied.
Bush provided his perspective of his son's surprise trip to Iraq to serve Thanksgiving turkey to the troops. The family was surprised that the President was not there for lunch.
“Laura and the twins were scared,” Bush said. “When we heard he was safely on his way back, there was not a dry eye in the place.”
After the obligatory turkey sandwich, the former President and First Lady retired for the evening.
“At 5 am, there was a knock on the door,” Bush said. “It was the President saying, ‘Come on, Dad. Let's go fishing.’”
Bush was optimistic about the future of the US economy in spite of how some in the news media are portraying the nation's economic performance.
“In politics, it is the perception, not the reality, that counts,” he said, alluding to the last months of his administration when the Clinton election campaign painted the economy as far worse than what it really was. “When I was running for reelection, my fate hinged not on how the economy was doing but on how people viewed the economy. I am a duly elected un-elected expert on that.”
He does not expect history to repeat itself with the current president.
“It seems to me that everywhere you look, the economy is moving,” he said. “The major indices reported 25%-50% gains over last year. The economy has grown at 6.1%, interest rates are at 45-year lows, and housing starts are strong.
The former president downplayed the importance of his views, portraying himself as an “interested observer of events” and one who is happily retired.
“I don't want to offer you advice,” he said. “You are the experts in your industry. I do not want to make the same mistake President Kennedy did. He told a group of financial advisers that if he had not been president at the time, he would be buying stock. A guy in the back replied, “If you weren't president, I would be buying stock.”
Taking chances, making changes
Bush praised America's entrepreneurial spirit that keeps pace with a changing world.
“It seems like a million years since I was out where you are in the business world,” he said. I loved my business experience — starting a company, taking risks, experiencing failure, and eventually being rewarded with success.
“I appreciate the challenges you face. My four years as president were marked by profound change. The Cold War ended, the Soviet Union actually imploded. Free markets and governments swept through Central and Eastern Europe, Latin America, and Asia. It took hold in China.
“While the Chinese government remains totalitarian, it no longer is Marxist. The growth in China has been fantastic, and free markets and entrepreneurship are the reasons.”
Bush said he considers the defining moments of his presidency to be the unification of Germany and the fall of the Berlin wall. He sees that same force — the struggle against totalitarian regimes — continuing today.
“With the capture of Saddam Hussein and, ultimately I believe, Osama bin Laden, the United States will make a point to the entire world that the brutality of the Taliban and the dictator in Iraq does not fit into this world anymore.
“We are better off today. We have a new enemy — shadowy, cowardly — hitting our country. But we can prevail. Because we made a strong statement in Iraq, we are seeing Libya putting aside its nuclear ambitions and trying to rejoin the family of nations.
“We have achieved so much, and we have come so far. We are ushering in a new American century. It will be filled with more prosperity, and in my view, it will be one in which your kids will have a chance for a much more peaceful life.
“For 35 years, I had my shot in the public arena, and I loved almost every minute of it. I tried to serve as one of a thousand points of light. You do it too — in your communities, helping the Red Cross, serving on your school board, helping someone less fortunate than yourself. There are plenty of wonderful things to do.
Back to basics
Bush told anecdotes of his experiences with world leaders, including the embarrassing dinner with the prime minister of Japan. Inviting him for some barbecue in Texas, Bush promised the prime minister that “this time dinner will be on me.”
However, he returned to the basics of life — even though one son is now President and another is governor of Florida.
“There are many things unrelated to the kids' public lives that give us great joy,” he said. “I hope you feel the same love and joy from your family. Count your blessings. Don't ever neglect your friends. For heaven's sake, say your prayers and thank God for your blessings and family.”
Robinson selected as NTEA's 40th president
Rod Robinson was installed as 40th president of the National Truck Equipment Association (NTEA) during the association's 40th annual convention in Baltimore, Maryland.
Robinson is president of WALTCO Truck Equipment Company in Tallmadge, Ohio.
One of the key agenda items for Robinson this year will be to lead the association's ongoing efforts in providing members the tools they need to help strengthen relationships between distributors and manufacturers.
Another focus is the continued growth in size and scope of The Work Show and the annual NTEA convention, and increasing the value it delivers to members and the industry at large.
“The Association must continue to raise its voice in Washington and assess the necessary resources to proactively help in the process of writing better legislation that benefits the industry and its participants,” Robinson said.
Robinson joined WALTCO Truck Equipment Co as an entry-level salesman in October 1972. He was charged with fulfilling the objective of increasing sales to justify local manufacturing. Subsequently, he was promoted to the position of eastern sales manager. He was elected president in 1987.
Joining Robinson on the executive committee for 2004-2005 are: Mike Frizzell, Royal Truck Body, first vice-president; Robert Green, Robert Green Truck Division, second vice-president; Tom Rawson, RKI Inc, third vice-president; and Jim Carney, NTEA, executive director and secretary.
Joining the NTEA board this year are Charles Kimmel, Allied Truck Equipment in Grand Rapids, Michigan; and Scott Rainey, Fallsway Equipment Company in Akron, Ohio.
Also serving on the 2004-2005 board are the following manufacturer trustees: Jim Kraschinsky, president of Stahl/A Scott Fetzer Company in Wooster, Ohio; and Harley Westfall, president of Adrian Steel Company in Adrian, Michigan. Distributor trustees are Stan Coveleskie, president of SIA Truck Bodies in Largo, Florida; Menno Eby, president of M H Eby Inc in Blue Ball, Pennsylvania; Dennis Jones, vice president of sales and marketing for Auto Truck Inc in Roanoke, Indiana; and Steven Sill, president of Aspen Equipment Company in Bloomington, Minnesota.