Ever since he founded the International Tire Exhibition & Conference in 1994 for those involved in producing tires and supplying the world's tire makers, Bob Simmons had a dream of making the show even bigger and broader.
His idea was to eventually turn ITEC into a conference for the entire tire industry, from the chemistry, materials and design of tires, to the manufacturing of them, to their sale and distribution, to recycling and ultimately either their reuse or disposal.
For anyone who attended the ITEC Show in 2010 in Cleveland, you know that after 16 years and eight ITECs, he finally turned that dream into reality.
The 2010 ITEC show was the first of what will become the norm for ITEC—a conference and trade show for everyone in the tire industry.
As Bob retires and ends his nearly 36-year career at Crain Communications Inc.—the majority of that time as publisher of Rubber & Plastics News, a company vice president and publications director of six Crain newspapers and magazines—he can look back on lots of accomplishments. But it's his legacy with ITEC that stands out.
The show is the only one of its kind in the world. Nowhere else can tire manufacturers and suppliers mix and mingle at a conference and exhibition dedicated to them and the people who sell their products or who recycle and reuse them.
The value of that is immeasurable. It's a hard reality that those who design and make tires rarely get to meet or talk with those who sell them.
But at ITEC they now get that chance, at least every other year, so that manufacturing personnel can ask a dealer how a certain new design feature resonates with customers, for example. Or a dealer can query a tire designer about just what that new belt package really does, so he can better inform his customers when they are looking to choose one tire over another.
It's all about education, information and sharing of ideas.
That's why Bob insisted from the beginning that ITEC be packed with educational programs and seminars for attendees. He knew that the papers and seminars would serve as the draw for attendees, who then will take time during the three days of ITEC to walk the world-class trade show floor to gather additional information and learn even more.
He also made sure there was plenty of time for networking, understanding that often this one-on-one time is where some of the best information and ideas get shared.
This focus on learning and idea sharing is why, in my opinion, ITEC has been so successful.
Planning for the next ITEC, in 2012, already has begun. The goal is to develop an even better program and exhibit for the tire manufacturing audience and everyone else in the business—following the successful blueprint Bob Simmons first laid out in 1994.
Zielasko is publisher of Rubber & Plastics News.