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OPINION – ATV competitors band together for industry’s sake

July 24, 2006
Filed under Columns

The threat was obvious, even to the beginner’s eye.
A bishop, placed slightly askew in its black square, stared straight at its intended victim, a rook.
“You have two choices now,” I told my daughter, who was learning the intricacies of chess, the historic game of white vs. black. “You can retreat, or you can attack. Both are defensive moves.”
That earned a puzzled look, and rightly so.
Learning to attack in order to defend something you possess or something that’s worth possessing is neither easy to understand, or practice. That’s true in the game of chess, and especially true in the equally puzzling game of business.
And yet it’s something the powersports industry needs to fully embrace if we’re going to more effectively deal with the mounting safety fears and public opinion backlash that each new powersports vehicle accident or ugly incident bears.
Case in point: In late June, vandals riding ATVs destroyed close to 300 saplings at Windsor Knolls Middle School near Frederick, Md. In less than a half an hour, the culprits destroyed almost $5,000 worth of trees that had been planted as part of a joint school and community project.
Unless you’re located near the Washington, D.C. or Baltimore area, chances are you didn’t hear about the incident. And, chances are, you may not care that the saplings were planted in biodegradable sleeves by children who wrote phrases like “Happy Earth Day” to accompany their particular tree, according to the Frederick News-Post. Even if that does pull some heartstrings, the realistic fact is that this act of vandalism happened in an unincorporated area of Smalltown America, far away from my home and probably far away from yours.
But where this happened and to a lesser extent, what happened, isn’t as important as what happens afterward. Ask yourself this: if your dealership or manufacturing facility was located near
Frederick, which is about 8 miles away from the vandalized middle school, what would you have done?
After all, you woke up one weekday morning to a headline on the front page of the local newspaper that reads, “Trees vandalized by ATV riders.” Oh, and at some point during your morning coffee, you turn on the TV and see the big network news channel is having a live report at the middle school, again linking your product to vandalism.
So now what? Do you retreat into the recesses of your dealership, quietly scorning this misfortune, knowing full well that the mother who might have been caving to her kid’s desire about owning an ATV suddenly has a new reason to say no?
Or do you attack? Defend your product and the good people behind it by becoming part of the solution, not part of the problem.
That’s exactly what happened in Frederick.
Three dealership owners, the principal players and, of course, competitors in the area’s ATV industry, banded together and asked the teacher in charge of the middle school’s tree program what they could do to help.
“Since people have offered to buy more trees and to help with the manpower (of replanting the trees), we thought it would be best for them to offer a reward,” social studies teacher Lori Saylor said of the powersports dealers’ contributions.
That’s exactly what Richard Riley of Fredericktown Yamaha, Ted Orr and Gunnar Beale of JT Motorsports and Texanna Dutrow of Dutrow’s Sales and Service have done, offering $500 to the local sheriff’s department for anybody supplying information that would lead to the arrest and conviction of the vandals.
But that’s not all.
“Richard (Riley of Fredericktown Yamaha) is going to come out with different types of ATVs to help us move the trees and do a safety demonstration,” Saylor said of an event they’re planning to do in the fall. “I think it will really turn out to be a positive thing.
“First of all the kids, male or female, will be really intrigued by it. And it will do a service. Maybe we can save some kids from getting hurt by knowing what they should or shouldn’t be doing on (ATVs). And many, many children in this area have them. Lots.”
So what started as a downer for the area ATV dealers has suddenly turned into
something positive. First, Saylor will be
talking to the local media again about the
contributions that have streamed in, from the dealers and others.
Plus, there’s the chance of even more positive press if the dealership and school can organize the ATV safety course and tree replanting at the same time and then let the news media know about the event.
All this took was the inclination of the Frederick dealers to attack the problem rather than retreat into the stereotypical “it’s not my problem, it’ll fade away” mentality. The latter would have certainly been easy to do. After all, Riley had more on his hands then he would have preferred that week. He had to take care of a building occupancy permit — a seemingly simple errand that turned into a four-hour fiasco complete with a parking ticket — organize a long-standing motorcycle race for the July 4th holiday and, in his spare time, manage a dealership.
“At 260 pounds, there’s not enough of me to go around,” he cracked.
There never is.
And that’s why it’s critical that powersports players, dealers and manufacturers alike ask themselves the chess question when a Frederick-type situation arises: Do I retreat or attack?
If you choose to retreat, then the whole industry loses. psb
Send your comments or questions to Editor Neil Pascale at npascale@ehlertpublishing.com. If you are interested in helping Windsor Knolls Middle School, contact Lori Saylor at lorraine.saylor@fcps.org.

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