George Grask, former chairman of the American Truck Dealers has been attending the ATD Convention and Expo for nearly 30 years. From meeting with fellow dealers, shopping the expo floor and attending make meetings, Grask views the convention as a valuable investment in the future success of dealerships. The workshops are "relevant and pertinent," says Grask, owner of Cedar Rapids Truck Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Looking back, Grask has many fond memories of past conventions and the cities, but says San Diego will always be a special place to him. During the 1999 convention in San Diego, he was selected as Truck Dealer of the Year, which is presented by ATD and Heavy Duty Trucking magazine, "It was an honor," he said." His first convention as ATD chairman was also held in San Diego. "We worked hard to represent our fellow dealers that year," he added.
This year, ATD will celebrate its 50th convention in Orlando. The first convention was held in 1963, which was seven years before the ATD division of the National Automobile Dealers Association was established.
Marvin Rush, chairman of Rush Enterprises, has attended the ATD convention every year since 1966. He says he returns to learn new information, see friends and share ideas with others in the industry. "I enjoy the camaraderie between the manufacturers and dealers," Rush said.
"Everyone needs to stay supportive of the ATD convention," added Rush, a former ATD board member and Truck Dealer of the Year. "It supplies an enormous amount of information and allows dealers to stay on top of our rapidly changing industry."
Another long-time attendee is second-generation dealer Jim Hartman, chairman and CEO of Truck Enterprises and an ATD board member. He has been attending the convention since the early 1970's when he began working full-time for his father, who was also involved with ATD.
Todd Bloom, president and CEO of Mitsubishi Fuso, who has been attending convention for about 30 years, says the convention is "great venue to get to know the dealer better."
"Business is about relationships," Bloom said. "The convention allows attendees to share ideas and socialize, which creates and strengthens relationships with dealers and others in the industry. Dealer feedback from the make meetings helps shape policies and programs."
As dealers across the country are gearing up for the 2013 ATD convention in Orlando, Rush encourages dealers to try to "meet everyone" and "get information everywhere." Grask advises attendees to walk the floor, ask questions, attend the seminars and be open-minded. "Don't look at it as an expense, look at it as an investment," he added.
In 2012, the ATD convention - for the first time - ran concurrently with the NADA Convention and Expo. "It was a wonderful idea to hold our convention along with the NADA Convention," Grask said. "It has been a rousing success."
This year, the ATD convention will be held at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando from Feb. 8-11. Keynote speakers include Troy A. Clarke, president and chief operating officer for Navistar; Bob Costello, chief economist of the American Trucking Associations; Dennis Snow, a former Walt Disney World executive trainer; and ATD Chairman Richard Witcher.
NADA-ATD University is offering nine workshop topics (16 total sessions) for truck dealers and their managers to learn and implement ways to improve their business operations. Dealers will also have the opportunity to meet face-to-face with their manufacturer executives at 12 make meetings and with exhibitors in the ATD Zone on the expo floor.
For more information or to register, visit www.atdconventionandexpo.org.
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