Nile Cornelison, a Creston native whose love for fast cars led him to launch a Des Moines-based data clearinghouse for the performance auto industry, has achieved the highest honor in the automotive specialty equipment market.


Cornelison, 72, who founded Direct Communications Inc. in 1982, will be inducted next month into the Specialty Equipment Marketing Association (SEMA) Hall of Fame in a ceremony in California. Cornelison's company, now a leading electronic cataloger for the performance parts market, currently employs 42 people in Des Moines.


Cornelison was also influential in starting the popular trend of competitive tractor pulling, as well as the use of scatter shields, a key piece of safety equipment now required on all cars in drag racing.


Direct Communications, which introduced the automotive equipment market's first dealer locator service via telephone, has helped the industry build markets through in-store and online electronic cataloging, revolutionizing how the industry does business today. The company facilitates an estimated $7 billion annually in sales of performance auto parts and accessories made by its clients, which range from the world's largest mail-order parts companies to the major auto parts chains as well as Inc.


"I'd like to tell you it was all planned, but it was the right people at the right time with the right plan," Cornelison said.


Prior to starting Direct Communications, Cornelison gained a reputation as the local hot rodder in Creston and opened the area's first speed shop in an era when modifying cars was politically incorrect.


Cornelison was named SEMA Person of the Year in 1982 and served as chairman of the association's Educational Services Committee, which created the SEMA Show Educational seminars that attract thousands of attendees. During his eight years on SEMA's board, he spearheaded the association's first research initiative, the SEMA Market Study, as well as the SEMA Show's New Products Showcase.


He will be recognized along with three other inductees during the SEMA Installation Gala on July 18 at the Sheraton Fairplex Hotel & Conference Center in Pomona, Calif.