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Archive for September, 2010

Will the Small Business Jobs Act Work?

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

Barack Obama Signs Small Business Jobs ActThe Small Business Jobs Act was signed into law on Monday. The new legislation could have an impact on many GAWDA members, seeing as many members fit the category of small businesses. And while the main feature of the act is $30 billion in lending, it is called the Jobs Act, not the Loans Act. The target is 500,000 jobs, and it hopes to help small businesses create those positions by offering access to credit, tax cuts for hiring and write offs for buying equipment.

Is this enough for to get small businesses hiring? We’ll find out soon enough. One thing’s for sure—the Jobs Act has no shortage of skeptics.

A lobbyist for the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors (NAW)—a GAWDA-affiliated association—is quoted by the Associated Press as saying, “Business doesn’t need credit. Business needs customers. If they don’t have a customer base because demand is down, they’re not going to borrow, because there is nothing for them to borrow for.”

The American Small Business League suggests creating this customer for small businesses by allotting a larger portion of government contracts to smaller companies. “Considering the current state of our economy, I can’t imagine why President Obama and Congress would not support legislation to stop giving small business contracts to large and Fortune 500 firms,” says ASBL President Lloyd Chapman.

Clearly, small business advocates want customers before they will justify spending. Just as customers have tightened their belts, companies have worked to operate leaner and leaner. Who will take the leap and start spending again? We are faced with a chicken-egg situation between customer spending and business spending, and neither side wants to go first.

So how big will the impact be? One GAWDA member I spoke with said it would impact his company very little, since the company is not quick to take out loans. What about you? Will your company take advantage of the new legislation?

Casual Friday: Hand vs. Liquid Nitrogen

Friday, September 24th, 2010

Once again, it’s time for a “Casual Friday” video. You could say this is an example of poor safety when it comes to handling gases. In this video, the filmmaker demonstrates a unique property of liquid nitrogen that allows him to insert his hand directly into the Dewar without causing any damage. It is called the Leidenfrost effect, and relies on a barrier of steam that exists momentarily between a liquid and a much higher temperature object.

The effect is cool to watch, but I will never be trying this myself. I like my hands too much for that. Safety definitely outweighs “coolness” in this instance. For every one home scientist who successfully performs the experiment, I imagine there are five who end up in the emergency room.

Would you classify nitrogen here as medical, device or industrial product? Hmm.

Some Major Changes

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

You may have noticed a few changes around here lately. The GAWDA Edge blog is now the GAWDA Media blog, and it has moved to a new home on the brand new Welding & Gases Today website. If you haven’t checked out the WGT site yet (and it may take several days to fully discover the wealth of information within the website), please take a minute to look at the new interactive format and let us know what you think.

In case you were wondering, after 48 amazing issues, GAWDA Edge is retiring. The Edge has always worked to stay ahead of the curve in digital magazine publishing. In working toward this goal, we recognized an opportunity to deliver a better online magazine in conjunction with Welding & Gases Today, one that is highly interactive, searchable, and easy to navigate. With this change, it only made sense to relocate this blog.

While the address has changed, what hasn’t changed is the content. On my blog, I will continue to work to deliver interesting news, innovative ideas, industry relevant videos and more. From the WGT website you have easy access to all of the GAWDA blogs. We are all over social media, and it’s easy to follow on the new WGT site. A twitter feed on the home page shows the latest posts from myself (@GasWeldEdge), my colleague Dan Vest (@WeldGasToday) and all of you, as you tweet about the publications and the industry.

One of my favorite features of the new website is called “On the Edge,” where we try to highlight hot topics and controversial topics that are surrounding the industry. The current topic is the saga between Airgas and Air Products. We put this online exclusive out there for your consideration, and we hope you will leave your comments.

In order for this to be the best resource it can, I ask for your help. If you have opinions or thoughts on our “On the Edge” topic, leave a comment on the article. If you have an idea for another controversial topic, let me know, via e-mail or twitter. You know better than I do what are the immediate concerns of distributors in the gases and welding industry, so I encourage you to share them with me. What’s the discussion around your water cooler? What keeps you up at night?

The Future of Interactive Cylinder Tracking

Monday, September 20th, 2010

Gas cylinder bar code trackingWhen collaborating with colleagues or co-workers, have you ever had someone take the credit for your great idea? Or maybe it’s been a customer, a client or your boss who borrowed your innovative notion. We’ve all been there at some point. If only there was a way to track ideas like we can track gas cylinders.

Enter Creative Barcode, which does just that, using bar codes to track ideas. The service allows users to create a unique QR code for project files and embed ownership, date, usage and a variety of information. Unforunately, the service is a little pricey for the average thinker at just over $300 for an account with five bar codes to start.

At that cost, I’m not in a hurry to sign up, but it still got me thinking. A couple of years ago, something like this would not have been feasible. But with widespread access to smart phones and apps that are capable of reading those black and white lines, bar codes increasingly offer accessibility and interaction between company and customer.

Like cylinder tracking, idea tracking is about protecting your assets. But in addition to laying claim (a simple copyright can do that for ideas), it takes tracking to an interactive level. The Creative Barcode site notes the added capability of licensing and sharing ideas as added benefits of the bar codes.

What if bar codes could make tracking cylinders more interactive? Maybe the customer only need scan the bar code to let you know when to a refill is impending. You could impress them with a quick follow-up call. Or maybe a scan of the bar code could give the customer detailed product information, MSDS, maybe a GAWDAwiki definition. What ways could you see customers using barcodes? How could you use it to enhance your service?

Follow my twitter updates: @GasWeldEdge

Running A Small Business In Style

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

Kentucky Small Business License PlateIt’s time for small business members to stand up and be proud. Small businesses, including many gases and welding distributors, play a critical role in our economy and the advancement of technology. Wear your small business status and proclaim your modest size but massive strength. Let the world know who you are.

But how best to express your small business identity in a novel, but amiable way? Soon, if your company is in Kentucky, you will have an answer. The Kentucky Commission on Small Business Advocacy is hosting a contest to design a small business license plate for the state. Instead of promoting your favorite Kentucky sports team or the League of Kentucky Sportsmen, you can boast your entrepreneurial nature with your plates. You don’t have to drive a big car, you just need a small business license plate.

When I saw this contest, I just had to share it with you. I think it’s a great idea, and I hope other states follow suit. The contest is only open to small businesses, too, so it offers a unique opportunity to qualifying organizations. It’s definitely a challenge to graphically represent such a diverse group as small businesses, so I’ll be curious what they come up with.

What would you put on your small business license plate?

Follow my twitter updates: @GasWeldEdge

What You Need To Know About Airgas vs. Air Products (Part II)

Thursday, September 9th, 2010

AirgasThe Airgas/Air Products war wages on. This week Air Products upped its offer by $2 a share, bringing the offer that started at $60 per share up to $65.50 per share. Shortly after, Airgas promptly reviewed and rejected the offer.

But this will not go on forever. Air Products CEO John McGlade says the company can take a hint: “If Airgas shareholders do not elect these three nominees and approve all of our proposals, we will conclude that shareholders do not want a sale of Airgas at this time—and we will therefore terminate our offer.”

But if you ask Airgas’ Peter McCausland, he’s not buying it: “We believe that Air Products’ threat to withdraw its offer if Airgas stockholders do not elect its nominees and approve its By-Law proposals is just another coercive tactic designed to facilitate the acquisition of Airgas at the lowest possible price.”

Just when it looked like a vote on September 15 could definitively determine Airgas’ fate, the situation is back up in the air. The latest subtext of the back-and-forth is that Airgas may seek other suitors. Says McCausland, “If the January Meeting Proposal does not receive support from a majority of the votes…our Board will explore all available alternatives to the grossly inadequate Air Products offer in order to enhance stockholder value.” According to Bloomberg, “alternatives” typically involves soliciting bids from other potential buyers. Could Airgas be up for sale?

If it seems as though Air Products will not give up, it may be because of the two companies’ history. Air Products sold its U.S. packaged gas business to Airgas in 2002. Now Air Products wants it back, by way of purchasing Airgas. McGlade explains, in a letter to Airgas employees:

“You might be wondering why we are looking to return to the U.S. packaged gas business now. In 2002, our U.S. packaged gas business had limited breadth and scope and at that time, we examined our strategic priorities and decided to exit that business in order to focus on other areas where we could grow and improve our company. Over the ensuing eight years, both Air Products and Airgas have grown significantly, and as we look to the future, we see packaged gas as a growth area for Air Products, both within North America and internationally.”

Even if you do not have a direct stake in this, the potential of a merger could have serious implications for the competition. John McGlade, in a letter to Airgas employees states, “The combined company would be the largest industrial gas company in North America and one of the largest globally.”

What impact do you think this will have on your company?

Follow my twitter updates: @GasWeldEdge

Football, Gases and Demolition

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

The 2010 NFL season starts on Thursday, and that means two things. First, I am eagerly looking forward to taking on my colleagues at GAWDA’s magazines in our office fantasy football league. (Competition is good for the customer, right?) And second, it means the unveiling of the new Meadowlands stadium, home of the Jets and Giants, is around the corner. And you can bet that gases and welding played a big part of building that new stadium.

One thing I didn’t realize, until I recently spoke with GAWDA member AWISCO, was that the gases and welding industry was a major part of the demolition of the old Giants Stadium as well. AWISCO supplied tube trailers of oxygen and pallets of acetylene to supply cutting gases for the demolition team’s cutting torches. According to AWISCO, strategic cuts to beams and girders allowed the stadium to be pulled down in large sections.

Want to see it in action? Check out this video showing the demolition of the stadium’s iconic press tower. You might want to put on your safety glasses.

If you are interested in how gases and welding help to shape modern stadiums, check out our recent feature on Yankee Stadium in Welding & Gases Today. Any cool projects your company was involved with? Tell me about it by leaving a comment.

Follow my twitter updates: @GasWeldEdge

Are You Close To A Serious Disaster?

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

The big news this week is the unfortunate series of explosions at GAWDA member Scully Welding Supply in Collingdale, PA. A small fire broke out in the yard, which triggered a series of explosions for more than 20 minutes. From the videos I’ve seen, it was a scary sight.

It’s almost hard to believe the fact that it could have been much, much worse. Luckily, fire crews kept two larger propane tanks in check, one a18,000-gallon tank at 20 percent capacity and another a 30,000-gallon tank at 30 percent capacity. And thankfully, from what I’ve heard, those involved in the accident are doing OK. The latest news is that crews were called back to the scene a day later to extinguish hot spot fires among the rubble. Needless to say, it’s a bad situation, and we’re all hoping for the best.

For all gases and welding distributors, I’m sure it is a scary thought to think this can happen to your business. Whether or not you sell propane, there are plenty of potentially hazardous products in the gases and welding industry. Are you doing everything possible to prevent a disaster? We pray that it never happens, but does your company have a disaster plan if an accident occurs?

You can’t be everywhere at once, but keeping tabs on safety is a critical, even burdensome task. Does your company have a full-time safety and compliance officer? If it’s only a part-time responsibility, does your compliance officer have enough time to do their job well? See what others in the industry are doing in Welding & Gases Today.

 Let’s hope we can learn from this disaster and hopefully make sure it never happens again.