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Thursday, 24 March 2011 16:27

Lousiana & Texas Collision Industry Loses Key Players, Icons

The collision industry has lost several key players over the years, but their contributions continue to live on through their work.

In February of 2011, the collision industry lost an exceptional colleague in Jim E. Adams.

“Though a Louisiana native, he was known nationwide as a teacher, problem solver, product manager and most importantly a friend to all of the collision repair industry,” said coworker Bill Burnside.

Jim’s collision career began in 1980 when he opened Pioneer Automotive Paint and Body with his father. Jim enjoyed painting most and soon became the lead painter at a dealership body shop while continuing to work at Pioneer. He also helped to teach his two younger brothers the autobody repair trade.

Jim joined United Bumper Exchange in 1983 as a paint store manager. He oversaw two paint lines and serviced numerous body shops within a 150 mile radius of Shreveport, LA.     James Hunter, owner of United Bumper said as a team builder, Jim helped assemble the ‘old’ and ‘new’ body shop managers to fulfill a need to repair cars differently.

Jim was instrumental in forming the Northwest Louisiana Collision Repair Association (NWLCRA) which is still active today. From this association the local I-CAR committee also formed and Jim served as an instructor.

Jackie Boyd, shop manager at Holmes European Motors in Louisiana and original I-CAR committee member said Jim was the “go to guy to organize classes... late was not in his vocabulary.”

Jim began a career as a territory manager and regional refinish instructor for PPG in the late 80s. Jim’s personal skills allowed him to communicate effectively with every member of the shop, from skilled tradesmen to the CEO.

Thad Greer, retired regional manager with PPG, said Jim was a very hands on guy who’s skills carried him to work with people in the fleet group, port of entry and the launch of waterborne on the west coast.

After retiring from PPG, Jim was busy again in the local market, he served as a sales manager for Tri-State Coatings for the last 3 years of his life.

Jerry Hart, owner of Tri-State Coatings, said “Jim’s personality and skills made him invaluable as a sales manager. He made immediate and strong relationships with customers and company personnel. His motto, which he lived by, was ‘It has to be good for the customer and the company - win-win.’”

“Jim shared with us all his skills as a technician, shop owner, and factory representative. His outgoing personality, distinctive laugh and sincere concern for others will be missed.  Though he rarely asked for help, he was always the first to offer assistance. He never met a stranger and always developed new friendships even among his competitors,” said Burnside.

The industry also lost Hank Walla in 2010; a key member of the collision repair industry in Texas.

Hank started out his career in the bumper business in the 70s at Quality Bumper. He opened his own business, Walla Company, shortly after which started out as a supply company for various businesses including service stations.

After working with service stations and becoming more familiar with the automotive industry, Walla started supplying body shops in 1987.

Walla was instrumental in starting the Houston Autobody Business Association in the early 90s, which is now known as the Houston Auto Body Association (HABA).

He was very involved in legislation, local labor rates studies and just getting all the shops together on industry issues.

“He knew everybody,” said David Walla, Hank’s son, “It was easy for him to get people together.”

At a time when e-mail was not widely used, Hank would spend a lot of time calling people and reminding them of upcoming meetings, said David.

Hank was really involved with HABA since the association was formed and was instrumental in getting the Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS) and HABA together, according to David.

“Hank Walla was easily considered a figurehead of the Houston collision repair market for over three decades. SCRS appreciates that we had the opportunity to work with him in the onset of the affiliation between our two groups, and his contributions to the industry and to the HABA are certainly missed by his peers and colleagues,” said Aaron Schulenburg, SCRS Executive Director.

Hank was also instrumental in backing current Texas laws stating that insurance companies can not own a body shop while the laws were forming.

“He was big in getting to know your legislators,” said David.

Hank had french polio and was paralyzed for 6 months but learned to walk again, and also sprung back from a serious car accident that left him with a broken hip and on a ventilator in the early 00s.

“The fact that he would just bounce back from stuff really inspired people,” said David, “He just kept going.”

Hank knew a lot of the local body shop managers, whether he worked with them or not, and was always trying to get people more involved in the industry.

“My father fought hard for the autobody shops in Houston. Attending meetings, talking to legislators and spending hours on the phone reminding people of upcoming meetings. He was well liked, good humored and welcomed in almost every shop — even those that weren’t his customers. He always wanted to do something to help the autobody industry, and he talked to everyone about it,” said David.

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