Slowly but surely, the Association for Rubber Products Manufacturers has built itself into a worthy advocate for the non-tire rubber companies of the U.S. It has taken nearly a decade, but the organization just hit an important milestone in its journey, passing the 100-member mark.
That's a long way from where the ARPM started in October 2010. At that time, those in the non-tire rubber product game, if they wanted any sort of representation, had little choice but to join the General Products Group of the former Rubber Manufacturers Association.
The big problem with the RMA, from their perspective, was that the larger tire producers easily overshadowed their non-tire brethren in the association. After all, it was the tire makers that covered roughly 80 percent of the RMA's budget, so if they wanted the Washington-based group to concentrate on lobbying on tire-related issues, that was going to top the agenda.
The RMA wasn't meeting the needs of its GPG companies, and membership in that wing of the RMA dropped to a paltry 35 companies. The GPG annual meeting had been scrapped, taking away the one true networking opportunity for those members. And with so few members remaining, they lacked the infrastructure to have programming catered to their needs.
It became clear that an agreement to have the non-tire members split from the RMA would be in the best interests of all. That would leave the tire members free to run the organization as they saw fit, including changing its name to the current U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association.
The leaders of three GPG member companies—Custom Rubber Corp., Eagle Elastomers Inc. and Hamilton Kent Inc. (one of its few non-U.S.-members)—led the effort to find a new home for the non-tire firms. Custom Rubber President Charlie Braun said they settled on Troy Nix as the person to form an association that would cater to their needs. Nix, after all, had organized other industry groups, including one in the plastics industry. He would use the same principles and structures as in the other associations he leads, so the new ARPM wouldn't need to re-invent the wheel, so to speak.
That's not saying it would be easy. The new association didn't even maintain all of the 35 GPG members from the RMA. Nix knew the ARPM didn't have a product to sell, other than the value it could bring to the non-tire rubber community. It had to offer services the prospective members couldn't get anywhere else and would make them believe the membership was a wise investment.
So the ARPM held plant tours, fulfilling the need for networking. It also concentrated on building technical standards, offering industry benchmarking data and educational opportunities such as its safety summit.
One by one, companies joined—mostly rubber product makers, but also custom mixers, machinery suppliers, material companies and others.
The official 100th member, Zelionople, Pa.-based Eagle Rubber Products Inc., with 18 employees, is typical of a large part of the membership base. But the ARPM also boasts some of the larger names among non-tire rubber firms, including ContiTech, Freudenberg and Trelleborg.
In all, ARPM has seen a solid first decade and has what looks to be a bright future ahead.