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GAWDA’s Regional Meetings Are A Must

Tuesday, March 13th, 2012

GAWDA Regional MeetingThe calendar reads March and that means the seasons are changing.  Of course we know that Spring is right around the corner.  But more importantly for GAWDA members, Regional Meeting Season is upon us.  The season stretches from early Spring to late Autumn.  A quick check of the GAWDA calendar shows that nine meetings have already been scheduled.

Regional meetings are a vital part of GAWDA membership.  They nurture the symbiotic relationship between member and association.  The meetings are better when you attend, and you get more out of GAWDA by attending a regional meeting.

At the meeting, you have the opportunity to visit with distributors in your area and hear what is working for them and share ideas for tackling common challenges.  You get to put a face with a supplier who is in your area and is eager to help you grow your business.  And GAWDA provides an update on the latest benefits provided to its members and issues that are important to our industry.

Birmingham, AL, GAWDA Regional Meeting

Vestavia Hills is the home of the 2012 Birmingham Regional Meeting, March 25-26.

This year, the Birmingham-Dixie regional meeting is first on the docket.  We kick off our event with an evening dinner and cocktail reception Sunday night.  On Monday we start with breakfast and an update from GAWDA.  We then have three great speakers who will deliver “take-home value.”  We will hear from a Morgan Stanley analyst for an economic update, an industry executive on the state of consolidation and a university professor who is training the next generation of industrial distributors.  We will wrap up the meeting with a tournament on Birmingham’s finest golf course to determine the region’s best sand baggers.

Since 2008, I’ve attended regional meetings in Hattiesburg, Mobile, Fort Myers, Biloxi, Houston and Birmingham.  Each meeting is unique in its content.  But all have in common the rich camaraderie of industry friends and partners convening to make this industry better. So do yourself a favor, make GAWDA better, find a regional meeting near you and make plans to attend.

Guest Blogger James Cain is vice president of Atlas Welding Supply in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He is chair of the Birmingham, Alabama, GAWDA Regional Meeting.

Helium Alert: Help Customers Stay Safe

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

Helium Safety AlertSafety is a number one priority for the Gases and Welding Distributors Association, as it is for GAWDA members everywhere. When working with welding and gases, there are many potential dangers. Unfortunately, when these products fall into the wrong hands, there is a potential for accidents. The best way to prevent these accidents is through education.

Reports have come out this week that a 14-year-old girl in Oregon died after inhaling helium at a party. A group of teens was using helium to make their voices sound funny, and the girl ended up with air pockets in her veins that led to her death. As MSNBC states, the event “exposes the rare but real dangers of inhaling helium, especially from a pressurized tank.”

Dr. Mark Morocco, associate professor of emergency medicine at the Ronald Reagan Medical Center in Los Angeles, explains the dangers of inhaling helium: “It is similar to when a scuba diver surfaces too quickly. A gas bubble gets into the bloodstream, perhaps through some kind of tear in a blood vessel. If it is a vein, the bubble will stay in the lungs. If it is an artery, it can block the flow of oxygen-laden blood to the brain, causing a stroke. If there is a hole in the heart, the bubble can go from a vein to an artery and then to the brain.”

In response to the event, GAWDA released the following safety alert:

Helium Inhalation Alert

Feb. 23, 2012

On the news today was an article on the tragic death of a teenage girl that died from breathing helium at a party. The Gases and Welding Distributors Association and the Compressed Gas Association have for many years been concerned with the breathing of helium in order to get the high pitched “Donald Duck” sound. These associations have released many alerts and communications over the years warning people not to breathe helium from cylinders or balloons filled with helium.

We want to remind our distributors to remind their customers of the hazards of inhaling helium at any time and under any circumstance.

If you have any inquiries on where to find out more information breathing inhalants such as helium, you can find more at the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition website: http://www.inhalants.org/index.shtml

You can also refer your customers to the MSDS for helium and to CGA P-9, The Inert Gases: Argon, Nitrogen, and Helium.

Feel free to contact me if you have questions, concerns, or comments.
Michael Dodd
GAWDA DOT, Security, EPA, & OSHA Consultant

When you work with gases every day, safety becomes second nature. Keeping customers educated about the dangers they face is paramount. Stay safe, and help your customers do the same.

Learning From Businesses Of All Sizes

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

During a conversation earlier this week with someone in the business community, I was surprised to hear him say that, in reading about a large company in his industry, he could not relate because of the size of the company. I can see where he was coming from as the owner of a small business. But it’s hard to think there isn’t something he could learn from a larger company.

This conversation got me thinking about GAWDA members and the companies we profile in Welding & Gases Today. Over the last year, the GAWDA member profile has looked at companies ranging in size from 9 employees to 900. A big range, yes, and one that reflects the diversity of GAWDA members themselves. I’d like to think that no matter the size of a company, there are always things to learn from others. Large companies can learn from the little guys, and vice versa. How so?

At a 24-person operation like Melo’s Gas & Gear, it might be tales of how cylinder tracking has helped the company with accounts receivable and theft prevention. President Dave Melo says, “Reconciling cylinder balances can be an incredibly frustrating and potentially damaging process for a distributor.” Melo recalls the police making multiple arrests when cylinders ended up in the wrong hands, all because the company’s cylinder tracking system proved that the cylinders were stolen.

Meanwhile, a 900 person organization like Norco might teach a small business about success in a family business. CEO Jim Kissler recalls how in order to work for his father’s company, he first had to complete a four-year degree and then work outside the business for five to seven years. Kissler’s father was a firm believer in the teachings of Leon Danco: “Danco taught family business members to first become somebody before coming into the business,” says Jim Kissler. “It makes you more credible, and it makes you more knowledgeable about running a business when you’ve worked outside of the family business.”

When it comes to business, there are issues that simply transcend business size. Well, that’s my opinion, at least. What do you think? What have you learned from a business of dissimilar size?

GAWDA Member Gets A Nod From The President

Thursday, June 16th, 2011

Last week, President Obama announced a focused effort to promote workforce development through new partnerships with manufacturers and associations. Among the manufacturers named was GAWDA member Air Products, who is teaming up with SkillsUSA to bring standardized credentials into high schools and colleges to help students make sure they have the qualifications and training needed for welding jobs and other manufacturing careers.

The shortage of welders is not news to GAWDA members. At the Spring Management Conference, the AWS Foundation’s Monica Pfarr and Sam Gentry spoke about the need for welders. The numbers they presented were jaw-dropping: 238,000 new and replacement welding jobs through 2019. The good news is that many of these will be the result of job growth, making way for more welders. The bad news is that a lot of these will be the result of an aging workforce. The White House points out, “This effort is especially important at a time when 2.7 million manufacturing employees are 55 years of age or older and likely to leave the labor force in the next 10 years.”

It’s great to see GAWDA members like Air Products get some recognition for their work with students; and there are certainly many other companies working toward workforce development who have not received the same amount of recognition. Maine Oxy has its New England School of Metalwork, while Earlbeck Gases & Technologies is an AWS accredited test facility, and was one of only 80 in the nation when Welding & Gases Today profiled the company in 2009. GAWDA 2011 President Lloyd Robinson and his company AWISCO work closely with schools, and recently hosted more than 50 students at its 2011 trade show. O.E. Meyer Company donated $50,000 to Terra Community College to help build a new technical center, which is now home to the Omar Meyer Welding Lab. These are just a few examples.

Many other GAWDA members have taken it upon themselves to help prepare and train our country’s future workers. What is your company doing with regards to schools and/or training? Share by leaving a comment.

How To Grow More Customers

Friday, August 27th, 2010

The shortage of skilled welders is a well-known fact, and I think it’s great that many GAWDA members are working with schools and in other avenues to promote the trade. Who, if not you, is going to look out for the profession? These are your customers.  So what can you do to make sure the profession thrives? Are we focusing our energies in the right areas?

I came across a study today which indicated that a stigma around blue-collar jobs is partly to blame for the current blight. That stigma is proliferated by parents and educators who direct children toward college as the only path to a financially secure and fulfilling career, even if this is far from the truth.

Growing up, I was instilled with the notion that a college degree is a minimum requirement for most jobs. At college, I met a lot of people who still had no idea what they wanted to do, but they went to college because they were supposed to. How can we change this attitude?

I am not a welder, but a writer. In seventh grade home ec class, we did a research project on careers we were interested in. My teacher took me aside and told me that I shouldn’t aspire to be a writer because writers don’t make enough money. Still, I pursued writing because I loved it. Much in the same way I could not be deterred, you cannot make someone become a welder. You can only provide opportunities for students to be exposed to the welding trade.

Throughout my schooling, I was never exposed to skilled trades. Whose responsibility is it? You may have a hard time convincing schools to give more weight to skilled trades. But you can work with the schools to make a difference. Expose students to careers in the industry and engage them early. Awe them and inspire them. Get them before they’ve already chosen a career and make sure they see the welding industry as a viable option.

These are your customers. What are you doing to make sure they are plentiful for generations to come?

GAWDA Gives Back…To Me

Thursday, August 5th, 2010

Being new to the GAWDA environment, I am always learning new things. The best part of working with members is that they have a lot of wisdom to share and they are glad to share it.

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been talking with GAWDA members about their work with schools and I’ve been learning a lot about the dedication that goes into this kinds of hard work. With their contributions to technical schools, community colleges and high school programs, it’s not surprising that they are happy to help educate me as well.

When it comes down to it, the distributors I spoke to work with schools out of sheer goodwill and kindness. They do it to give back, not to sell more products. How do I know? One of the things I learned is that when it comes to putting equipment in schools, you’re dealing with state and federal money—simply put, it means that equipment purchases go out to bid.

What about that value added selling? How do you sell service over price? Selling value is hard, especially in what has become a commodity business. But rather than shy away from discounted school contracts, GAWDA members are stepping up to provide good service anyway. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that service defines GAWDA members. So when it comes to working with schools, it’s not about the bottom line, it’s about helping. So I laud you, GAWDA’s members, for your good deeds, and I thank you for extending a hand to help me as I learn about the industry, and I hope that I can help you in return by passing on what I’ve learned.