Cheers to ABAT’s 10 Years!

by Burl Richards, ABAT President

Time sure flies when you’re having a good time and doing something that matters. When Texas Automotive Managing Editor Chasidy Rae Sisk mentioned ABAT was coming up on our 10 year anniversary, my first thought was “damn, those 10 years went by fast!” 

As I’ve reflected over this past decade and thought back to when we first got started, I can’t help but recognize that God works in mysterious ways. Our initial intention was to create a somewhat localized association here in East Texas, but little things happened and added up to thwart that plan…for the best. For instance, a company already existed with a similar name to the one we wanted to use, so we just went with Auto Body Association of Texas.

Next thing you know, we’re holding our second meeting in Tyler, and several shops from Dallas show up after hearing about our first meeting. Well, if they wanted to join, we weren’t going to stop them – we welcomed them right into the fold! At the time, I was driving around a lot, traveling to different cities around the Lone Star State, and in those first six months, we had a lot of successes. It seemed like each meeting would result in a group showing up with the desire to be part of what we were doing. Even though one market may be experiencing things that another market isn’t seeing yet, it seems like those market conditions have a tendency of creeping into other markets eventually, so having a good system to communicate and share information has really benefited all of us by giving shops a heads up about what may be coming. 

And as we added chapters in Austin, Dallas, East Texas, South Texas, West Texas and so forth, we immediately recognized that we needed a Board member to represent each of those regions. We wanted to make sure that those parts of the state had some say about what happens with our association, and I think we did a really good job with that. Our Board consists of a great mix of guys from all over with lots of different viewpoints and ideas, and that’s a huge part of what makes us so successful. ABAT Vice President Eric McKenzie, Chairman of the Board Corey Pigg, Treasurer David Osburn and Board members Bobby Beason, Larry Cernosek, Kevin Ellison, Brandon Gillespy, Chad Kiffe, Greg Luther, Darrell Smith, Robert McDorman, Chad Neal, Logan Payne, Anthony Palomo, Manuel Rubio and Albert Salinas are all incredibly successful members of the industry. Add in ABAT Executive Director Jill Tuggle, and you’ve got a quality group where everybody is bringing something pretty amazing to the table. 

And I’m not just the president of this association. I’m also a shop owner, and when I ask myself what ABAT has done for my business, I can tell you unequivocally and without hesitation that ABAT has worked wonders for my shops. It has helped get the message out to customers about what we’re doing, but the biggest thing that this group has done for my business is help me truly realize the importance of repairing vehicles properly and safely. It all starts with that; any profitability or other success is backdoor to the safety component. But it all goes hand in hand because if you’re fixing cars properly, you’re aware of the training and equipment needed, and that isn’t sustainable if you aren’t being reimbursed properly…it’s all tied together!

So, what’s next? As an association, ABAT has a lot of confidence going forward. The next legislative session is a year away, but we’re already preparing for that. In the meantime, we’re gearing up for the 2024 Texas Auto Body Trade Show, scheduled July 11-13 at the Irving Convention Center. 

As an organization, we’ve learned a lot, we’re still learning more, and we plan to stay on that track as we continue to gain traction. Anyone who comes to an ABAT meeting is certain to leave in a better position with something new to add to their business; otherwise, what’s the point of even having an association?! We’re going to keep doing what we’ve been doing – giving Texas shops a forum for education, communication and sharing information so we can all be successful. It’s been a great first decade, but we’re just getting started. Cheers to the next 10 years!  

Want more? Check out the February 2024 issue of Texas Automotive!