WASHINGTON—Michael Blumenthal often feels like Major Major, a character in Joseph Heller's Catch-22. Like Major Major, he is never in his office.
“I've been in my job for 1,248 weeks,” said Blumenthal, vice president of the Rubber Manufacturers Association and leader of the RMA's scrap tire activities. “Of those weeks, I have had probably 1,220 different weekly schedules.
“It's rare I have two weeks in a row with the same schedule,” he said. “It's the nature of the beast.”
Since 1990, Blumenthal has been on the road for the RMA—testifying before state legislatures, talking to state legislators and regulators, meeting with industry stakeholders, helping to write state legislation and industry standards, delivering speeches, hosting conferences and generally spreading the gospel of high-value, sustainable end-use markets for waste tires.
That breakneck schedule will end July 11, when Blumenthal retires after 24 years with the association. That's not a bad run, considering that Blumenthal never expected to get the job in the first place.
All Blumenthal wanted to do, he said, was obtain the RMA as a client for Malcolm Pirnie (now ARCADIS), the environmental engineering firm for which he worked.
After obtaining a degree in biology from Michigan State University and his master's degree in industrial marketing from Baruch College of the City University of New York, Blumenthal went to work for Oxford Energy in both California and Connecticut.
“Selling TDF in the late 1980s was a real challenge,” Blumenthal said. Oxford Energy was only the second company in the scrap tire business, he said, and the idea of burning tires as fuel met with widespread hostility from government officials and environmentalists.
By 1989 Blumenthal was at Malcolm Pirnie as a solid waste specialist. One day he read in Tire Business, a sister publication of Rubber & Plastics News, that the RMA was forming the Scrap Tire Management Council and a Scrap Tire Advisory Committee. He figured if he could get appointed to the committee, he could get work for his company from the association.
Blumenthal approached his friend, Mary Sikora, president of the Recycling Research Institute, who was working with the tire manufacturers on various projects.
“I asked Mary if she would help me get on the committee, and she said, "Absolutely,' “ he said. “I asked her how I should approach the RMA, and she said, "Apply for the STMC job.'
“I said, "Are you nuts? I'm too young, and I'm not a tire industry guy.' She said, "Michael, apply.' “
Blumenthal applied and was called to Washington for an interview, still believing he had no chance of getting the job. “I went on vacation, and when I came home there was a message waiting,” he said. “It was the RMA. They started talking about salary, benefits, this and that, and I said, "What are you talking about?'
“They said, "You're our No. 1 candidate!' “ he said. “No one could have been more surprised than me.”