Wednesday, 25 May 2011 17:05

Array of Collision Associations Serve New York Regionally and Statewide

Written by David Brown

New York is well represented by regional and statewide collision associations. The largest is the Centereach, NY-based New York State Auto Collision Technician Association with 1,500-plus members, including small and large shops, industry-related businesses and 10 regional collision-repair associations.

These regional affiliates represent shops in Greater Binghamton; Syracuse; Rochester/Buffalo; the Capital District, in the Albany area; Rome-Utica; Greater Newburgh; and the Hudson Valley.

Another NYSACT affiliate, The Westchester-Putnam-Rockland Auto Body Association, also serves Duchess County and the Bronx. Two others are the Long Island Auto Body Repairmen’s Association (LIABRA) and the Autobody Craftsmen’s Guild covering the five boroughs of New York City.

Founded in 1982, NYSACT is guided by Executive Director Ed Kizenberger and an elected board of directors led by a president, currently Mike Orso, owner of Nick Orso’s Body Shop and Service Center in Syracuse. Staff also includes legal counsel and a legislative lobbyist.

The organization influences and effects state legislation through its lobbyist as well as with grass roots approaches such as members’ letters and e-mails to representatives and other public relations efforts. “We have a full legislative program and enjoy broad-based bipartisan support in both the state assembly and senate in Albany,” explains Kizenberger, with two decades-plus in the collision industry.

“Our goal at the state capital is to support legislation that protects consumers and independent auto body shops from unfair claims practices,” notes Orso, who is elected by the board and conducts NYSACT regular meetings.

Toward that end, one of the group’s recent efforts has been to help create an advisory group comprising the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles, its Insurance Department, the insurance companies and the repair industry. The group also sponsors an annual Lobby Day, providing members an opportunity to speak individually with their legislators at the capital.
A fair and equitable marketplace for all collision repair professionals comes about as a result of education, Orso explains. “We are educating our member shops to best serve their customers with safe proper repairs by elevating their awareness of liability,” he explains.

“Education also means keeping shops reminded as to who the ‘true customer’ is—the consumer,” he adds. “When shops understand the need to remain independent and not acquiesce in the whims of an insurance company, the consumer benefits, too.”

Kizenberger also heads the Long Island group. Founded in 1975, LIABRA is the oldest and largest trade association for collision repair professionals in New York, with 500 members, including shops, dealerships and other related businesses. Its shops are located from the Queens border along the north and south shores of Nassau and Suffolk counties to Montauk, 90 miles east.

The group is similarly administered as NYSACT, with an elected board of directors directed by an executive board, legal counsel and a lobbyist in Albany.

Working to further industry and consumer interests, LIABRA is a framework for unifying shop interests such as discontinuing unfair claims practices, Kizenberger explains. With NYSACT, the organization interacts with government regulators to benefit shop owners. In addition, the association recently helped promulgate an industry code of ethics in pursuance of its goal to ensure the public the highest quality and safety standards in auto collision repair.

LIABRA schedules about eight meetings annually as well as offers a number of educational programs on subjects such as time-management, OEM materials, estimating, employee management and environmental compliance.

The association also publishes a monthly magazine for its members and offers workers comprehensive and health care insurance. By joining the Long Island group, shops also become members of NYSACT, Kizenberger explains.

“Associations struggle in the tough economy as all businesses do,” he says. “We’re confronting challenges such as the overcapacity of shops against the amount of work available. Consumers are driving less, and that means a reduction of repair opportunities.”

Westchester-Putnam-Rockland Auto Body Association
Harrison, N.Y.-based, Westchester-Putnam-Rockland Auto Body Association was founded in 1952 as the Westchester Auto Body Association and today comprises 100 body shops. Even 60-plus years ago, the shops realized that together they could better affect legislation and insurance company problems as well as exchange ideas and common problems, explains its executive director, Frank Ferraro.

Its mission emphasizes information dissemination and education: “to keep shop owners informed of the constant changes and technological developments in the auto industry” and “to provide education and updates on… new laws and regulations… ” Also, to that end, the association produces a monthly magazine detailing local, state and national news, and regulations relating to the industry, including Environmental Protection Agency changes and updates.

Autobody Craftsmen’s Guild
Officing on Staten Island, the Autobody Craftsmen’s Guild was founded in 1960. Membership in the guild includes membership in NYSACT, explains one of its three executive directors, Joe Amato.

Training is one of ACG’s goals. “Typically our general meetings are organized around a topic or a task,” he says. “We’ll have a vendor or jobber come in to speak with the members or we will have a class on estimating or about a new product such as waterborne paints.” The group schedules about six of these annually, he notes.
Gas & Repair Shop Association of NY
Independent of NYSACT is the Gasoline & Repair Shop Association of N.Y., based in Albany.  GRANY represents 330 members in the eastern part of the state, from Westchester County to the Canadian border and Herkimer County to the Vermont, Massachusetts and Connecticut borders.

The association is one of five affiliates of the Albany-based New York State Association of Service Stations & Repair Shops, which lobbies on members’ behalfs at the capital and works with state agencies. This group is an affiliate of the Service Station Dealers of America—Allied Trades.

GRANY was founded in 1972 by service station dealers during the first energy crisis, explains its associate director, John Casazza. The executive director is Ralph Bombardiere. Today, the membership includes 35 percent convenience stores, 45 percent repair shops and 20 percent body shops.

In addition to providing members a variety of insurance and other benefits, GRANY offers professional training for automotive technicians and inspectors.

“Our overriding goal is to protect the interests of these independent businesses as well as the motoring public,” Casazza says.

The biggest challenge in the future for the auto-repair industry, including collision shops? According to  Cazazza, it’s clear: “Insurance companies.”

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