Person of Interest
Tom Dobbins, CAE -President & CEO Aluminum Association
As president and CEO of the Aluminum Association, Tom Dobbins, CAE serves as the chief advocate and spokesperson for the full aluminum value chain in the United States, which supports nearly 700,000 American workers. The association’s more than 120 members produce the vast majority of the aluminum and aluminum products shipped in North America. He has over 30 years of experience in public affairs and over 20 in association management.
The Aluminum Association advocates on behalf of the industry to the Congress and the Administration on issues regarding the regulation of the industry, trade and market growth issues. In addition, the organization works to help grow the industry through developing standards, conducting research, communicating the advantages of aluminum, and connecting members to customers.
Prior to joining the Aluminum Association in 2020, Dobbins served as the president & CEO of the American Composites Manufacturers Association (ACMA), the largest trade association in the world representing composites manufacturers and their suppliers.
Dobbins is a recent member of the Council of Manufacturing Associations (CMA) Board of Directors, past chair of the American Society of Association Executives’ (ASAE) Public Policy Committee and a past co-chair of ASAE’s Lobby Task Force.
Before joining ACMA, he worked for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), where he created a comprehensive outreach and education program for small businesses for which the agency won an award from the Small Business Administration. Dobbins brings a wealth of experience from his time at one of Washington, D.C.’s top lobbying firms and as a staffer on Capitol Hill.
His wife, Rebecca, serves as director of global affairs at the American Academy of Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery Foundation.
We asked Tom to answer a few questions for us-
What brought you to the Aluminum Association?
I’ve worked in Washington going back to the 1980s – starting on Capitol Hill and with stints in and out of government including as the Director of Partnership Outreach at the IRS. (I know, I know, not the most popular agency. But I had an opportunity to do some really good work there including improving outreach and education for small business.) I then spent more than 15 years as head of the American Composites Manufacturers Association. Working with the team and membership there, I was able to ramp up our market growth and development program, reimagine our trade show and grow membership. When the opportunity at the Aluminum Association came up – which I knew by reputation as a top-notch organization – it was too good a chance to pass up. As I’m approaching the one-year mark on Team Aluminum, I’m already so proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish on behalf of the membership – including a number of key policy wins on trade and recycling; kicking off an Automotive-Aluminum Roadmap program; releasing a suite of new research; and more all while navigating the COVID-19 environment.
How would you describe the role of SECAT in the industry?
Firms like SECAT provide such a vital service to the industry through high quality, credible technical research. The aluminum industry can only succeed to the extent that it continues to evolve and innovate and R&D is a huge part of that story. Even as an advocacy organization, the Aluminum Association relies on a foundation of reliable research and data to help serve as the industry’s voice. Some of that work is done in house but we also rely on partners like SECAT. (For example, several years ago, the association worked with SECAT to test various protective fabric technology to minimize the effect of molten metal contact and improve worker safety. And we also collaborated on a recent publication on “Aluminum and Its Alloys.”) In an increasingly competitive marketplace – and one in which the need for continued innovation and increased sustainability will only grow – credible research and data like that provided by SECAT will become ever more important.
What is the most exciting development in the industry right now?
Certainly there are a number of developments on the policy front – especially on global trade – that are critical to the near-to-mid-term health of the U.S. aluminum industry. We’re working with policymakers everyday in Washington to ensure a level-playing field for the entire domestic aluminum value chain. But perhaps even more essential in the long-term are the developments we are seeing on sustainability. Innovations in primary aluminum production – from Alcoa and Rio Tinto’s Elysis program to Rusal’s inert anode technology – are helping to lead the way. But we also want to make sure that businesses, policymakers and the public understand the entire life cycle of our material – including recycling and use-phase benefits — in telling the “green aluminum” story. The energy saved by recycling 100 percent of aluminum cans in the United States could power 4.1 million homes for a full year. And by lightweighting cars and trucks with aluminum, automakers can achieve up to a 20% reduction in total energy consumption across the life cycle of the vehicle. All of these issues are important in understanding aluminum’s role in a more sustainable future.
Tell us something about yourself that people may not know. . . and anything else you would like to share.
I am proud to be the fourth generation to live and work on my family’s apple farm and the third generation to work in our family’s apple processing and storage facility. My brother is running the business and has sold apples all over the world as well as in the US. As the son, grandson, nephew and brother of small businessmen and businesswomen, I have been dedicated to helping small and mid-sized businesses throughout my career. It is why I interrupted my public affairs career to go to the IRS to try and help small businesses. I am very proud that the Small Business Administration gave the IRS an award for the work I did in this space.
You can learn more about us on Secat’s website here.