Article about SIMA

John Allin Addict
Erie, PA
The following article appeared today in the Business Section of the Erie Times/News......

Congratulations to Tammy Higham for finally getting recognized locally for her efforts.


Plowing ahead

By Jim Martin

Tammy Higham used to dread snow.

That was back in the days when the Erie woman was a bank manager, focused like so many others on the slippery, slushy aspects of winter weather.

Today, the 39-year-old whom colleagues affectionately have dubbed the Ice Queen, finds herself cheering for Old Man Winter as the executive director of the Snow & Ice Management Association.

"Five years ago if you asked if I liked snow I would have said you're kidding," Higham said. "Now I'm watching The Weather Channel and praying for those cold fronts to come down."

For Higham, a love and of both snow and ice amounts to a professional responsibility. It's also a form of moral support for SIMA members, most of them equipment dealers and snow-removal contractors from around the United States.

"I am trying to help our members," she said, with a laugh. "I have to hope it snows for everyone."

Few people are familiar with the national organization based in Erie. Others confuse it with John Allin's Erie-based Snow Management Group, Inc., the nation's largest snow removal company.

Allin founded the group and served as its president for several years, but his business and the trade association are in no way connected, Higham said.

Higham, who admits she knew almost nothing about snowplowing or de-icing prior to 1998, has done more than cheer for snow.

Under her direction SIMA has transformed a fledgling trade group with 75 members into a national organization with four employees and 1,100 members.

Allin said much of the credit belongs to Higham, a mother of three who has never plowed so much as a single parking lot.

"Her professionalism and dedication to SIMA and the snow industry are such that we are very fortunate to have her at the helm," Allin said. "I would expect that her commitment will allow the organization to sustain the exceptional growth in the years to come."

Higham sees room to grow and opportunity to professionalize an emerging industry.

"I can't imagine where we can go in another five years," she said.

Change has been a constant for SIMA, which provides its members with educational seminars, sample contracts, training videos and perhaps most importantly hundreds of contacts in a business that is increasingly technical.

Not content to be a caretaker, Higham dumped the publisher of the association's magazine when it didn't live up to expectations. It was a move that helped transform the publication from a limited-distribution insert into a freestanding quarterly publication with a circulation of more than 40,000.

The association's Internet Web site spells out her vision for SIMA:

"When a new industry is born, the initial growth is usually learn-as-you-grow with everyone acting as an independent entity. ... If growth is to continue, there must be a support system. ..."

Her efforts to provide that support have won rave reviews from members and the association's 13-member national board of directors, one of whom bestowed on her the title of Ice Queen.

Alan Steinman, owner of a Massachusetts landscaping service, calls joining SIMA the best thing he had done for his company in more than 25 years.

Higham appreciates the accolades and doesn't mind the nickname. What's more, Higham said she's in love with her job — even though family and close friends remain vague on what it is that she does.

Although board members live around the country, Higham said there's no reason SIMA's headquarters can't remain in Erie.

Higham expects that SIMA's location eventually could produce benefits for the area and is hoping one day to bring the organization's annual convention to Erie.

The lack of a single hotel big enough to house the entire conference is a hurdle she expects she can overcome. The absence of more flights into Erie is a bigger problem, she said.

An outspoken supporter and patron of Erie International Airport, Higham said she's encouraged by Delta's plans to bring regional jets to Erie early in 2003. She's also hopeful the SIMA convention — attended by more than 500 members, many of whom likely are to bring their families — could come to Erie in June of 2005.

For now, Higham is planning to host a smaller training session that will bring upwards of 75 people to Erie in April.

Grace Park, member services administrator for SIMA, said she's watched her boss learn the business and adapt quickly to the mostly-male world of snowplows and heavy equipment.

"She doesn't allow her gender to be an issue," Park said. "She can sit down and talk snow removal with anyone."

To this day, however, Higham is yet to take the controls of a plow truck. She has, however, ridden along to get the flavor of the experience.

Although she's a recognized champion of the snow and ice industry, Higham said she's happy to leave the plowing to someone else.

"I don't know that it's fun," she said. "It's cold and it's done in the middle of the night. It's a thankless job."

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