At its annual general meeting last year, the Manitoba Motor Dealers Association (MMDA) bid a fond farewell to Shirley Canty, the organization's popular executive director, who retired shortly after 19 years on the job and 29 years working for Manitoba's new-vehicle franchise dealers. At this year's AGM, on June 7 and 8 at the Canad Inn Polo Park, it was time to say goodbye to Canty's longtime colleague, Bill Arnold, who is retiring after more than 50 years in the industry.
As MMDA past-president (and president of the Vickar Auto Group) Arnold began his career with Ford of Canada -- shortly after graduating from the University of Manitoba, Larry Vickar noted after the Friday evening gala banquet. Arnold spent 23 years with Ford, taking various positions in Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal and Halifax. In 1982, Ford transferred Arnold and family back to Winnipeg, where he was appointed regional manager.
In 1985, with the acquisition of Stadium Ford, Arnold left the corporate aside of the business and became a dealer. He remained a dealer for nine years. In 1993, he sold the dealership (it is now River City Ford) and, after a brief hiatus, accepted a new position as the manager of the MMDA's new, soon-to-be-launched sales certification program, the first of its kind in Canada.
"Bill was a perfect fit," Vickar said.
Over the next 14 years, Arnold travelled throughout the province conducting training workshops for dealership management and staff. To date, Vickar said, the program has certified more than 1,200 sales people, moved online and added certification for business office personnel.
"Once the program moved online," Vickar said, "Bill's role at the MMDA shifted slightly as he moved into a contract position where he focused on government liaison initiatives, an important part of the MMDA's mandate."
Although Arnold wasn't able to attend the AGM this year because he is recovering from surgery, he sent some remarks Vickar read to the banquet attendees. "When I joined the MMDA in 1994, I had no expectations that I would be here for 18 years," Arnold wrote. "It has been a truly memorable experience and I have gotten to know some of the finest people."
He also mentioned the friendships he made with people working in government and the media.
"Above all," he wrote, "I had the fortunate experience of working directly with Shirley Canty for 17 years. That is an experience I will always treasure.
"It has been my distinct and sincere pleasure to have worked with all of you -- and I hope that in some small way I have been able to contribute to the car industry's success and reputation in Winnipeg."
Arnold is looking forward to spending time with his family and noted he is contemplating "recording for posterity" some of the stories and characters he has encountered over the years.
Geoff Sine, Canty's successor as the MMDA's executive director, reports this year's AGM was well attended -- with about 140 registrants -- and the seminars over the two days were well received. "There were a good variety of topics," he says. "There was something for everyone."
The seminar topics included sessions on federal competition law, motivation, workplace health and safety, succession planning, the growing seniors market, employee recruitment and retention, branding, hiring and building a corporate culture a la WestJet.
Keynote speakers were Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach Paul Lapolice and former CFL star player and coach Michael "Pinball" Clemons (who is now the Toronto Argonauts' vice-chairman).
"People really enjoyed Pinball's presentation," Sine says. "He was very upbeat and energetic. It was a great pleasure having him here."
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We extend our sympathies to the family of Terry Alcock, founder and president of Garden Gate Pontiac Buick GMC, whose funeral took place last Friday.
Alcock opened Garden Gate in 1979 and sold the dealership to Jim Gauthier in 2001. He was a strong supporter of the Manitoba Motor Dealers Association, serving on the Board of Directors for many years and as president in 1990. He also represented the MMDA on the Canadian Automobile Dealers Association (CADA) at the time. He was honoured by his peers and the automotive industry by being chosen the province's Maclean's Dealer of Excellence Award winner in 1995.