Cover To Cover

Catching Up With 1996’s Cover Greg Freeman

Victor McCune Photography

Twenty years ago the country was plagued by partisan politics, President Clinton was in the White House, email was a new way to communicate and the Locator UpFront printed its very first issue.

Today, the country’s political parties are still at odds … and probably always will be, another Clinton is vying for the White House and the Internet is as common as the landline telephone was 20 years ago.

“Some things never change and some things change every day. But, that’s what makes us grow,” veteran auto recycler Greg Freeman reflected.

In 1996 Freeman was featured on the cover of the Locator UpFront’s inaugural issue. At that time he was already a 20-year veteran in the auto recycling industry and getting ready to lead the industry as ARA President. Freeman owned and operated Greg Freeman’s Auto Salvage Center in Joplin, Mo. from 1977 until he sold it to LKQ in 2012. Prior to owning his own business, he worked with Dirk Van Gorp and Junior Van Gorp of Van Gorp’s Used Cars & Parts in Oskaloosa, Iowa. Back in 1996, he and his wife Shirley had also just attended their 20th ARA convention in Tampa, Fla.

“From 1977 to 2012, I think Shirley and I missed about two annual conventions,” he admitted.

Today, Freeman and Shirley focus on their two remaining businesses, Freeman Liquidators and Freeman Mini Storage, but his heart is never far from the auto recycling industry. In fact, he and Shirley just attended the 2015 ARA Convention & Expo in Charlotte, N.C., nearly 40 years from the date of his first show.

“It’s about the friendship,” he said when asked about why he still loves to attend the annual ARA events. “When Shirley and I go to an ARA convention, it’s like going to a family reunion. I still love the industry and I keep up with it, but I am just not involved in it.”

Then Versus Now

Back in 1996 one of Freeman’s goals as ARA President was to open the lines of communication between auto recyclers and ARA leaders. This was especially important because professional auto recyclers were working hard to remove the label of junkyard and promote their industry and its environmental importance. Today, he said, it’s just as important for auto recyclers to work together.

“There is a greater gap now between politicians and citizens,” he said. “For auto recyclers, I believe joining together in groups is key to survival.”

Freeman was fundamental in bringing QRP (Quality Recyclers Parts) to his area, now called Team PRP (Premium Recycled Parts), and understands the value of belonging to a group.

“It’s just the best way to compete with the other big dogs in the industry,” he added. “An independent auto recycler that runs a good business will always survive, but groups allow for growth.”

Technology has come a long way in 20 years; just imagine living without the Internet or a mobile phone. Even in 1996 Freeman recognized how auto recyclers would need to embrace new technology to stay successful in their businesses. Back then he said in the article, “If people think this new era is a fad, then we should say that computers were a fad. That’s not true. These things are here to stay.” Freeman was even ahead of the writer of the article who wrote, “While an estimated 30 million people are connected to the much-ballyhooed Internet, that number still falls woefully short of the world’s population of over 5 billion.” Not only is the Internet here to stay, but its use grew tremendously in just a few years after this article was printed.

“Fax machines were a huge deal 20 years ago, now we have email. I remember our 800 number used to cost us $.52 a minute,” Freeman remembered.

Looking Towards The Future

Spot on with his predictions in 1996, Freeman also speculated on the changes he thinks the auto recycling industry will see in the next 20 years.

“I think we will see a time when we buy a complete body because of the structural strength of new materials,” he said. “When will we get to titanium or things developed from space projects?”

Technology has transformed today’s auto industry. Not only are offices virtual - allowing users to buy and ship parts completely online - but vehicles themselves are computers on wheels. There are even driver-less cars are on the road now, which are designed to prevent accidents, something that could change how the auto recycling industry works today.

“Technology brings about change, about a different way to do business,” Freeman acknowledged. “Instead of crashed parts, auto recyclers would have to focus on worn-out parts instead.”

One thing that hasn’t changed is ARA, Freeman noted.

“ARA still represents its members,” he added. “It has adapted to different types of auto recyclers but it is still the premier international group. It is still as strong and good 20 years ago as it is today.”

Here’s to another great 20 years.

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