On Oct. 24, industry professionals from across the state came together for the Alliance of Automotive Service Providers of New Jersey’s (AASP-NJ) 2017 Annual Meeting at the Gran Centurions Banquet Hall in Clark, N.J.
The meeting began with brief introductions from AASP-NJ Executive Director Charles Bryant and President Jeff McDowell before breaking for dinner.
The meeting reconvened with the election of a new slate of AASP-NJ officers. Running unopposed, the association elected Jerry McNee as the new president, Dennis Cataldo as collision chairman and Keith Krehel maintained his position as mechanical chairman.
AASP-NJ re-elected Sam Mikhail, Ted Rainer, Anthony Trama and Joe Amato as board members, and added Gary Gardella and Billy Aiello to the board.
Treasurer Tom Elder then began the evening’s award ceremony, starting with the Russ Robson Scholarship, created in memory of his friend and former AASP-NJ president. Nominated by new board member Gary Gardella, this year’s recipient was Robert Kirk of County Line Auto Body (Howell).
Bryant then came up to present the Stan Wilson/New Jersey Automotive Body Shop of the Year Award to Brand Denning of Dobbs Auto Body.
“Brad has made an investment in the equipment and the training, and he fights the battles every day and he doesn’t give up,” said Bryant. “And I’m very proud to have him as Body Shop of the Year.”
The last award of the evening was perhaps the most special, as Bryant presented Jeff McDowell with the AASP-NJ Hall of Fame Award.
“This award is given to people who really put a lot into this industry,” Bryant said. “We thought long and hard about it, but everything came right back to one guy. If anybody ever deserved it, it’s Jeff McDowell.
“We’ve been through some really hard times, and Jeff guided us through everything. He’s not only a great friend, but a friend of the industry. He’s incredibly knowledgeable about the industry, and so deserving of this award.”
Bryant then introduced the first guest speaker: Robert Palentchar from the Department of Insurance Office of the Ombudsman.
“We try to educate consumers on issues that will help them deal with their insurance companies, that will help you – the body shop – bring things to our attention and review any concerns that you have,” Palentchar told the audience.
Palentchar’s presentation sparked an engaging dialogue for members in attendance, with many voicing their complaints and issues with filing claims. Bryant called on everyone in the room to continue being active and diligent in this fight, and hopes that as an association, change can happen.
Next to the podium was Allan Smith of I-CAR, who spoke of I-CAR’s latest initiatives to educate the youth of the collision repair industry.
“In 2018, we’re going to be using – 99 percent of the time –career and technical schools across the country as our fixed site locations,” Smith shared. “If we don’t save the schools and help the students and get more students in and train them, we’re really in trouble. The pipeline stops.”
The last guest speakers of the evening were Robert Pignataro and Bob Plett of American Compliance, who informed members of the National Emphasis Program that’s caused an increase in OSHA inspections, and ways to combat fines and become OSHA compliant.
“What we do is help auto body shops stay out of the crosshairs of OSHA,” Pignataro explained. “We’ve been around for 27 years – I’ve been around since the beginning of OSHA – and right now, [this] is a very unfair situation.”
To close out the meeting, newly inducted AASP/NJ President Jerry McNee addressed the audience.
“It’s easy to sell something if you believe in it,” McNee said. “I eat, live, breathe and sleep this every single day. My door is always open, and I’m always willing to answer any questions.
I hope you guys will continue to come out and support the association. Looking around the room tonight, there’s definitely strength in numbers. I don’t want anybody to think your colleague, your friend or the guy down the street is your enemy, because we’re all in this together.”
For more information on AASP-NJ, visit aaspnj.org.