APRO associate member PTS Financial Services recently launched Operation Hire a Vet, a new initiative designed to help companies fill open positions with qualified armed-service veterans. PTS has created an online portal where prospective employers can list job descriptions nationwide that will be marketed worldwide.

Operation Hire a Vet is free for both employers and potential employees. Through this program, PTS aims to educate the public on the benefits of hiring veterans, including annual tax credits up to $9,600. PTS will provide hiring companies with the information they need to file for eligible tax credits in the first year following a veteran hire.

For more information, please visit www.HireAVetNow.org.

Rent One Park, home of the Southern Illinois Miners of the Frontier Baseball League, recently revealed it will also be the host of a professional softball team, Canadian Wild of Southern Illinois, for their 2019 season. The Wild, composed of players from Softball Canada, will play at least 25 home games at Rent One Park, as members of the National Pro Fastpitch [NPF] League.

“We are extremely excited to announce that Softball Canada has chosen Rent One Park and Marion, Illinois, as their home for an approximate 25-game home season this year,” says Miners Manager Mike Pinto. “Their games will take place when the Miners are on the road, so there will be no overlap, and we will all have the opportunity to use this beautiful stadium 25 more times this year.”

Rent One Park was one of three venues being considered for the Wild’s home base. Team representatives visited Marion and Southern Illinois University in September; the Wild will be housed at the university and use its training facilities.

The NPF League consists of six teams: Aussie Spirit; Beijing Shougang Eagles; Chicago Bandits; Cleveland Comets; USSSA Florida Pride; and now Canadian Wild. In 2016, the NPF played a series of exhibition games at Rent One Park which were well-received, drawing more than 1,000 fans per game.

“We’re really excited to be here,” says Softball Canada’s CEO Hugh Mitchener. “In the past, we’ve had to travel far to get world-class competition, but this league offers an outstanding opportunity for our team to play against world-class players and teams right here in North America.”

Softball Canada recently finished third in the 2018 Women’s Softball World Championship. The 2019 season will be the league’s 16th year at play.

In 2016, APRO board member and Rent One CEO Larry Carrico announced an extended sponsorship of the park, through the year 2026. “Marion and the surrounding communities have been great to Rent One, and this is a terrific opportunity for us to show our appreciation,” says Carrico. “Mike Pinto is a champion for our community, and the Wild is a big deal for Southern Illinois.”

High Touch President and CEO Wayne Chambers

APRO associate member High Touch Technologies served as the presenting sponsor of the highly successful tenth annual gala for Envision, an integrated community of people who are blind, low-vision and atypically sighted. The gala, Evening with Envision: Fusion! Destination for the Senses, was held October 27th in Wichita, and delivered a night of fun, food, and fine entertainment.

The gala, Envision’s largest fundraising event of the year, featured High Touch President and CEO, Wayne Chambers, as a guest speaker, which raised more than $372,000 to support Envision’s mission – to improve the quality of life, and provide inspiration and opportunity for people who are blind or visually impaired through employment, outreach, rehabilitation, education and research.

Additional speakers at the event included Envision President and CEO Michael Monteferrante, Blind Chef and Master Chef Season 3 Winner Christine Ha, and former High Touch Technologies Intern Andrew McCleod.

Click here to learn more about Envision.

Lifetime of Distinguished Service award recipients with outgoing IRDA President Casey Pristou

The Illinois Rental Dealers Association held its annual meeting October 25 in Springfield, IL. This year’s meeting participation was up by 30 percent from 2017, breaking the association’s all-time highest record for attendance and comprising an equitable representation of store managers, regional/district managers and owners/dealers. The highlight of the event was the Lifetime of Distinguished Service awards, which honored industry leaders for their positive impact on the organization. Award recipients were APRO Board Members Larry Carrico and Gopal Reddy, APRO General Counsel Ed Winn III, National Rent to Own’s Steve Braning and Rent One’s David Keen.

“Illinois has been APRO State Association of the Year, recognized for its Continued Excellence and Legislative Achievement in recent years,” noted Aaron’s franchisee and outgoing IRDA President Casey Pristou. “In my final acts as IRDA president, I want to recognize you all, without whom the association would not have succeeded as well as it has.”

The meeting also featured the appointment of the new IRDA president, Rent One’s Kelly Martin. “IRDA has a longstanding history of being one of the strongest state associations in rent-to-own,” Martin told members. “I’m beyond honored that IRDA’s current board leadership and membership feel I’m the best fit to serve as the next president. This is not a responsibility I take lightly, and I’m looking forward to seeing how IRDA can continue to raise the bar for state associations.”

The event theme was Navigating the Current Ambiguity and Uncertainty of RTO, and the agenda included a panel of industry veterans – including Braning, Carrico and Watershed Development Corporation’s Mike Ceruzzi – tackling current events and critical questions through group discussion, as well as a remarkable roster of great speakers, including Martin, Winn and IRDA government relations consultant Michael Houlihan.

IRDA’s newly elected/re-elected board of directors are: Kelly Martin, president; Mike Ceruzzi, vice president; Larry Carrico, treasurer; and board members Steve Braning, Matt Grynwald, David Keen, Brad Kosem, Kevin Milliron, Dave Scroggins and Glen Wallace.

Click here for more photos of the 2018 IRDA annual meeting.

 

APRO Board of Directors and Vendor Advisory Committee

The APRO Board of Directors and the APRO Vendor Advisory Committee met this week for the organization’s annual fall board meeting and committee meetings. For two productive days, meetings focused on aligning each of the APRO committee’s work with the goals outlined in the strategic plan created earlier this year. APRO’s strategic plan provides organizational focus, and includes goals and strategies for the next three years.

Board members in attendance were  Dennis Adams, Trent Agin, Larry Carrico, Mark Connelly, David P. David, Bill FrenchSandi Frye, Louis Garcia, David Harrison, Chris Kale, Sr., Robbie Kamerschen, Shirin Kanji, Gopal Reddy, Jonathan Rose, Adam Sutton, and Terah Vail; attending vendor advisory committee members were Al Benson, John Blair, Doug Funk, Mike Helton, David Kaye, Bruce Manning and Kelly McClellan; and APRO Executive Director Jill McClure and APRO General Counsel Ed Winn III also participated.

APRO Board of Directors 2018 fall board meeting in Austin, Texas.

“We’re fortunate to have strong leaders who are passionate about APRO and the industry,” says McClure.  “They take their roles on our board and advisory committee seriously, and are willing to put in the work that it takes to move the organization forward. The meetings were incredibly productive.” 

First-place winners Mike Powers and Wayne Warner with Rent One CEO Larry Carrico (center).

St. Louis-based Rent One held its 2018 Delivery Tech Rodeo Finals on October 17 at the Rent One Service Center in Mount Vernon, IL. The finals brought eleven winning regional teams from the company’s 86 stores to battle it out for the title of Rent One 2018 Champions and bragging rights for the year.

This year’s hands-on competition included events such as Rent One Jeopardy, delivery and return of products, refurbishment of furniture, vehicle maintenance, safety, and customer service.

The first-place winners were Region 10’s Mike Powers from Rent One Store 156 in West Plains, MO, and Wayne Warner from Rent One Store 151 in Macon, MO. The first-place team received a new appliance dolly, tool kit, $0.50 pay raise and, of course, a 2018 Rent One Delivery Tech Rodeo Champion Trophy.

Click here to see more photos of Rent One’s 2018 Delivery Tech Rodeo.

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, RNR Tire Express (RNR) announced an initiative to celebrate inspiring breast-cancer survivors or fighters. Throughout October, family members and friends are invited to nominate breast-cancer survivors or fighters for the chance to win a new set of tires, a $1,000 cash prize, and a VIP spa day to honor their strength and courage.

RNR is encouraging families and friends at its 116 stores in 22 states to share inspiring survivor/fighter stories at www.RNRtires.com/pink. Nominees must be at least 21 years of age and have a valid driver’s license. The deadline for nominations is midnight on Sunday, October 28; winners will be contacted on Wednesday, October 31.

“One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer within her lifetime,” says Larry Sutton, RNR Founder and President. “And due to the disease’s prominence, most people know someone affected by it in some way. At RNR, giving back is at the core of who we are as a brand, and we’re happy to have the chance to give back to those who have given and lost so much to breast cancer.”

In addition to the giveaway, RNR is collecting donations at each of its corporate-owned stores throughout October, and will use them to make a cash donation to a local breast-cancer awareness organization in Florida, the home state of RNR’s headquarters.

For more information regarding the RNR breast-cancer awareness initiative, please visit www.RNRtires.com/pink.

 

APRO member and SmartWay/SmartWheels owner Ben Bost passed away on October 17th at the age of 43. Bost supported the rent-to-own industry by participating in APRO conventions, and serving on the TRIB Group board of directors. In November 2017, he suffered two strokes that left him a quadriplegic, but lived the past eleven months with resilience, courage, and good humor.

In March, TRIB Group hosted a special tribute to Bost at the buying group’s 2018 Meeting of the Minds Hot Show, raising more than $56,000 to help fund a specialty van for Bost. In August, Ben and his daughter, MariMac, drove the van to St. Louis to attend RTO World; he gave a speech at the event’s Hot Show expressing his gratitude to the RTO industry for all its support.

A service celebrating Bost’s life will be held today at 2 p.m. at his home in Charlotte, NC. Parking will be available at the Myers Park Country Club Tennis Center, located at 2600 Sharon Road in Charlotte.

Friends of the Bosts have established a GoFundMe campaign to help support Ben’s family during this difficult time. To contribute, click here.

 

 

RNR Tire Express, a leader in rent-to-own custom wheels and tires, has been ranked as one of the top 500 largest franchises in the U.S. in 2018 by Franchise Times magazine. RNR is the highest-ranked rent-to-own franchise on the list, recognizing the brand’s growth and success fueled by RNR’s advancements – entering new markets and opening new stores at record pace.

This year’s ranking of 292 is RNR’s third consecutive – and highest yet – appearance on the magazine’s Top 200+ list; RNR was listed at number 322 in 2017 and at 340 in 2016. “It is an honor to be recognized among some of the largest and most successful brands in the country in this year’s Top 200+ ranking,” says Larry Sutton, founder and president of RNR Tire Express. “It is a true testament to the hard work and dedication of our franchisees and corporate team, as well as the continued support that we receive from our customers. This honor validates and inspires us to continue growing and living out our brand’s mission to be the best tire-and-wheel concept in America in the years ahead.”

Ashley Furniture invests over $3 million in state-of-the-art Mobile Skills Laboratory

Ashley Furniture has partnered with the Trempealeau Valley Cooperative to provide cutting-edge equipment and curriculum in the areas of electronics, manufacturing processes, automation and robotics to its four local school districts in Arcadia, Blair-Taylor, Independence and Whitehall. This more than $3 million investment was made by Ashley Furniture to provide students with the opportunity to take over 300 competency-based courses for high school credit in a state-of-the-art, custom-built Mobile Skills Laboratory.

Ashley Furniture and the Trempealeau Valley Cooperative, joined by Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch and local officials, celebrated the grand opening of the Mobile Skills Laboratory with a ribbon cutting ceremony on Monday, October 8, at the Whitehall School District where the lab is currently stationed. The four-school consortium will each host the Mobile Skills Laboratory at their school district on a nine-week rotation schedule.

The 900-square-foot classroom on wheels features advanced equipment to expose students to industry-standard processes. The features include technical learning systems, highly interactive eLearning, hands-on simulators, and more.

Enrolled students will have the opportunity to learn about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) related fields, including electrical, wiring, motor controls, programming, print reading, mechanical fabrication, precision gauging, hydraulics, pneumatics, troubleshooting and computer aided drafting. A large number of these courses will also provide students with transferable credit to area technical colleges and potential universities.

In addition to the equipment purchased, Ashley provided an opportunity for eight area educators to experience the facility in Jeffersonville, Indiana. These educators were able to see the capabilities of the training equipment and what the Mobile Skills Laboratory can offer to an area through educating the future and current workforce.

“We believe in the importance of developing long-lasting partnerships with our local schools and investing in the area of education for our youth,” says Founder and Chairman of Ashley Furniture Industries Ron Wanek. “The Mobile Skills Laboratory will inspire students to learn advanced technologies through an interactive learning environment that can result in rewarding careers in many different industries.”

Ashley has developed a number of partnerships with K-12 schools as well as post-secondary schools over the past five years. Combined efforts have included investing in STEM-based learning opportunities, scholarships, providing students with exposure to technical trades and career opportunities, instructor training, and robotics programs.