In some ways, Anne Forristall Luke is a thoroughly traditional choice to be the president and CEO of the Rubber Manufacturers Association.
Her decades of experience in several Washington sectors—the U.S. Department of Justice, the House Energy and Commerce Committee, government relations, public relations and professional associations—is a typically broad, varied background for the leader of a major manufacturing organization.
But in other ways Luke represents something new and innovative for the RMA, and not just because she is the first woman president of an association representing a still predominantly male manufacturing industry. In an interview with Rubber & Plastics News, she spoke of her desire to raise the public profile of the U.S. tire manufacturing industry. “I want to create a greater appreciation of the value this industry brings to the customers and the communities we serve,” Luke said.
This philosophy marks a change from most of the past 25 years, during which the RMA kept a low public profile. After the retirement of RMA president and former Colorado congressman Donald Brotzman in 1989, the association preferred to work quietly on behalf of its members, drawing relatively little attention to itself.
The RMA also chose over the years to narrow its focus. In 2010, the RMA's Elastomer Products Group left to create the Association of Rubber Product Manufacturers, in mutual agreement with the tire manufacturers that always had dominated the RMA.
Before Luke joined, the association already showed signs of raising its profile. The RMA's model legislation on tire repair and used tires, and its advocacy of federal standards for tire fuel efficiency and mandatory tire registration, have been publicly prominent acts of advocacy.
The choice of Luke as RMA president reaffirms this path. She was an executive of the Association of Equipment Manufacturers before joining the RMA, and she said she gained her passion for U.S. manufacturing at the AEM. Although the AEM does not represent tire equipment manufacturers per se, it covers enough of U.S. industry to have given Luke a wide perspective and appreciation of U.S. manufacturing.
Luke also has emphasized her desire to work with government agencies—especially the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration—and with associations allied with tire manufacturers. We have yet to see if she includes the Tire Industry Association, which was angered by the RMA's position on mandatory tire registration.
Nevertheless, Luke at first glance looks like a thoroughly professional and collegial leader for the RMA. She can't yet be expected to be a tire expert, but that should come in time. Meanwhile, her apparent intelligence and enthusiasm should carry her through the early months of her tenure into what should become a long and happy relationship with the tire industry.