Thursday, 30 November 2006 17:00

Akzo Nobel honors five Most Influential Women in collision repair industry

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Five industry leaders were honored at the eighth annual Most Influential Women in the Collision Repair Industry Awards program held at the Red Rock Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada during NACE.

Shannon Valdez of Salt Lake City, Utah, Julie Miller of Wixom, Michigan, Sue Jacobsen of West Allis, Wisconsin, Vivian Spires of Monroe, Louisiana and Eileen Sottile of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, were chosen as the 2006 Most Influential Women in the Collision Repair Industry. Collectively, their careers represent over 100 years of experience and contributions of innovation, awareness and improvement to the industry.Active Image

"The Most Influential Women program has become an institution of the collision industry," said Akzo Nobel Car Refinishes Americas Director of Marketing Tim Loden. "This program impacts not only those that we honor from year to year but more importantly the lives of generations to come as a result of the I-CAR education scholarship. Our 2006 honorees reflect the depth and breadth of this industry. From the paint booth to the halls of Congress, their sphere of influence in the industry and their communities is truly impressive."

Global impact

Julie Miller and Eileen Sottile's impact on the industry during their careers have had a global impact. Miller is a Global Account Manager for Lord Corporation. Her work has resulted in growing the company's OEM and aftermarket business. Their products are now found on almost every car in the world.

Sottile also works with aftermarket products as Director of Government Relations for Keystone Automotive Industries..

"I am in the company of some truly amazing women tonight," said Sottile. "It is a great honor to be recognized among them."

"Government affairs are extremely important to me," Sottile added, "and I feel privileged to be an advocate for such a worthwhile cause. Consumers deserve to have high quality, affordable parts available to them and we're working to educate the entire market about the benefits of quality aftermarket parts."

Directing all federal and state legislative and regulatory activities, Sottile spends up to 250 days a year traveling across North America representing Keystone Automotive. Other responsibilities include lobbying, political contributions and grassroots efforts for the automotive aftermarket parts industry.

Among her many accomplishments, she is the first woman to serve a second term as president of the Florida Automotive Association; an organization she has been actively involved in for eight years. Additionally, Sottile co-chairs the Government Affairs Committee for the Automotive Body Parts Association.

According to Christopher Northup, vice president for Keystone Automotive, "Eileen is a talented activist. She demonstrates tremendous dedication to this industry as she strives to build coalitions and gather groups together who share our common cause."

Paint is her passion

Vivian Spires has been a cornerstone at Ryan Chevrolet in Monroe, Louisiana, for more than three decades. She entered the business at a time when men were reluctant to let her paint and repair their vehicles. She started in metal work but soon found her passion was paint.

"I never dreamed I would win an award like this," said Spires. "It made me proud of what I have accomplished and that I have done something for the women in our industry. I love this work and love working with my hands. It is a great reward to see a finished product and realize that you did that. I want to encourage the women out there that are now entering the business not to give up. If they have the talent and the passion for the business they should keep at it. It can be tough at times, but its much easier being a woman in the industry now."

Carrying on family tradition

Sue Jacobsen, owner of Auto Industrial Color is the third generation in her family to work in the collision industry. Her grandmother began the distribution business in the early 1920s. Today, Jacobsen's business has grown to serve more than 150 customers. She is an avid supporter of education hosting numerous I-CAR and Acoat selected classes at her facility. Jacobsen also finds time to work with inner city youth and participates in numerous ministries.

Moving on up

Shannon Valdez has experienced the collision repair industry at almost every level. She began her career as a receptionist and studied manuals in her spare time. Her aptitude quickly altered her career path. She became I-CAR certified and started running the front office of the business. She then became the manager of the shop. Here efforts resulted in the business growing in volume by more than four times its size prior to her arrival. In less than five years she has grown her own business to more than $7 million annually.

Akzo Nobel also awarded its annual scholarship of $25,000, in the name of the Most Influential Women, to the I-CAR Education Foundation. The funds will be used for prospective female students pursuing a career in the collision repair industry.

The Most Influential Women program began in 1998, by Akzo Nobel to recognize the unique leadership characteristics, accomplishments and contributions of women to the collision repair industry.

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