Ed MacDonald: Leading Edge
Ed MacDonald is no stranger to leadership in the automotive recycling industry, and his approach to it is progressive and global.
Recently, Automotive Recycling magazine caught up with Ed MacDonald, incoming president of the Automotive Recyclers Association (ARA), to discuss his perspective on auto recycling from a global perspective, his term on the ARA Executive Committee, and his upcoming (2013-2014) year at the helm.
MacDonald, with wife Lana, have been owners of Maritime Auto Salvage Ltd. in Truro, Nova Scotia since they purchased it in 1988. Their son Andrew  joined the business last year, and the family team is now solidly going forward with a succession plan for the next several years.

It’s been a while since ARA has had a President who is not from the United States. How do you feel your perspective may be different from your counterparts?

I have been fortunate enough to be involved with the ARA board of directors for 12 years, and the Executive Committee (EC) for the last three, as well as with the Automotive Recyclers of Canada as a long-term founding member, helping it grow by quantum leaps from a small organization to a truly national association with worldwide recognition. There is a different perspective of auto recycling in North America, and I believe it is the way auto recycling should continue growing here and beyond.

For instance, a unique dynamic, what I call the North American Model, is that approximately 25% of the parts of the vehicle are harvested and sold directly for its component parts without any further remanufacturing, i.e. purely recycled for the same use it was initially intended. This is the backbone of ARA’s members business model. In many other countries, a majority of the vehicle is “urban mined” if you will, for its primary metals and materials, and this material is utilized for the remanufacturing of other products, with the added manufacturing and environmental costs of the process. The beauty of our model is that it has been and continues to be driven by the marketplace – not government or industry – and it is self-sustaining, profitable, and environmentally advantageous, without resources being spent on remanufacturing. It is certainly my sincere interest to promote the benefits of this model with our business partners, and sharing our processes and procedures with recycling associations of other countries.

The way ARA is governed compared to the Canadian Association, for instance, is quite different. National membership in Canada is equal representation amongst the Association jurisdictions. With the USA having 50 states, each with their own political agendas and varying interests, we must, as much as possible, develop deeper and stronger relationships with recyclers in all jurisdictions, especially those areas that have very little association activity. We are learning that the more ARA can interact with the state affiliates and other world associations, the better it is for all. It is my goal to continue this dialogue to be as inclusive as possible with the state and international organizations. This will be a true benefit to all recyclers regardless of their jurisdiction.

The more I interact with the ARA staff in Manassas, the more I realize how fortunate we are to have such an extremely motivated, dedicated and highly-effective group. They are a great, dynamic, multi-disciplined (and colorful) team whom really want to make a difference for our membership.
How do you feel your international perspective will affect the goals you have for your year at the helm of ARA?

Specifically, I think ARA is the national voice, doing whatever it can for its membership. It seems that, more than ever, there are more complex issues to address daily in ARA and, in many cases, we have had spectacular successes for our membership as an organization. There is a lot going on in the U.S. to focus on and we are good at facilitating resolutions to complex matters. Most other countries have their own associations with issues and activities that are no less complex or important as ARA’s; we would bode well to deepen our collaboration with these entities and, to a higher degree, work on an international basis to develop ideas and strategies, thus improving the automotive recycling industry worldwide. I do not think it will be my mandate to influence the direction they are going, but we would fully support issues that are important to all that transcend national borders. Because common problems exist, the more we assist each other to nurture, and grow our industry worldwide the more progressive and respected we will become as an industry.

I believe our industry is an absolute necessity for the total automotive recycling solution. Environmentally, economically and profitability-wise, that is our true opportunity. We must educate governments, the consumer and our strategic partners of this position at every opportunity.  

Increasing public awareness, relations with insurance companies, and the repair industry, using the Green Recycled Parts™ brand, is part of the overall direction of ARA.

Within the states, we have to convince markets and  the state and local governments, that we are a legitimate business, and an environmentally responsible industry. This is accomplished via ARA’s Code of Conduct, Certified Auto Recycler and Gold Seal programs. I will be making Certification of our membership a personal goal. It is essential if we are to be recognized for what we are. More of the membership must be engaged. In Canada, for example, it is a requirement of membership that an auto recycling facility be involved in certification programs and I can say unequivocally that it has driven both product and business to our doors and has truly strengthened our industry.

More and more positive engagement with the repair, mechanical, and insurance industries, translates into more sales. We are looking at opportunities to communicate the benefits of utilizing more of our recycled OEM parts to our industry partners.

What are your specific goals you would like to focus on as President?

Along with those previously stated, I had the wonderful advantage of being involved in the development of the ARA Strategic Plan this spring. We were presented with a blueprint for the Association’s future, developed by the stakeholders of our association, including a large number of our past presidents, board, and committee chairs as a road map. For this I am grateful. This master plan will give us clear direction for the next two to three years. I plan to stay on track and use it as a guide. Personally, I’d like to make sure we are effectively and positively helping all within the automotive recycling industry, always with one eye on the strategic plan.

You are a seasoned auto recycler, how has it been with your son joining you in the business the past year or so? How is the transition going?

We are having fun and I am learning a lot! Lana and I were fortunate enough to be successful, putting our heart and soul into the business. It was not expected that either of our children would come into the recycling fold and quite frankly we were following quite a different path in our succession planning. We always expected our children to do their own thing in life, and that they did. For Heather, my daughter, this is the pursuit of her MBA, for Andrew it was engineering, working with Toyota and other manufacturing companies in the development of automobiles. His education and experience bring a depth of knowledge and creative talent that I do not possess. He is forward reaching and it is fascinating watching his mighty spark of interest and energy as he takes the reins. 

I am lucky that he seeks out my thoughts and opinions, but it is the appropriate time to watch and let it grow on its own. I have gone as far as I could, now I will move out of the way and let the new generation do what they are doing. He has goals and objectives and works well with the staff. We get along well and I appreciate his skill and depth. I am here every day, I love to work, and am quite happy that I can also be heavily involved with ARA or within the industry. Focusing more on ARA has now become a priority and Andrew will allow me the freedom to do so.

Your Presidential trip to Vietnam is a unique choice. What led to it? What do you hope to learn there?

Living in our North American and European world, we know little of the Asian world. Personally, I wanted to really understand and engage with the country. It is a beautiful country with an intriguing history and depth of culture. We will observe and look at what opportunity is available there and see how we can help from our side of the auto recycling community.

When we last spoke, you were just joining the EC. How has the last three years been, what did you learn that was unexpected?

There is an absolute depth and complexity that happens at the ARA level, with massive changes in government activity that always affects our efforts. We have major players worldwide with keen interest turning their heads towards what we have and what we do. From that, difficulty and opportunity arises. As a large group of people doing automotive recycling correctly, how do we get it known to the world that we are the established go-to organization?

The smaller operator must keep growing faster, better, or we will fall behind. The “U Pull It” and consolidation concepts have changed the character of how we operate, as well. All of these have to be accommodated and included as we move forward.

With good stewardship, good public relations, and inclusive forums for creative, thought provoking activities, such as the International Roundtable, to discuss common themes, I believe we will show the world we are a sustainable industry that is market driven, and respected as such. I chose this industry and it is my passion to assist in any way for its success grows daily.

Caryn Smith is the Editor of Automotive Recycling magazine.

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