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Helium Shortage Puts GAWDA Members In The Spotlight

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

Still-Leben Mülheim 10 iesWhen it comes to questions about gases and welding equipment, it’s no secret that GAWDA members have a great deal of expertise. In my experience, they’re also very willing and eager to share this expertise with others. I couldn’t even begin to measure just how much I’ve learned about the industry from GAWDA members.

With the helium shortage all over the news, local newspapers and TV stations have turned to GAWDA distributors to tap into this expertise and learn about the helium supply situation. While a product shortage may not be a boon to business, it has no doubt provided some exposure for these distributors.

Here are some of the distributors who have appeared in recent news stories:

Norco (Boise, ID) has been interviewed by several news sources. President Ned Pontious told KTVB, “Obviously the price on helium has been increasing quite dramatically, but what’s really frustrating is when price is not an issue and you still can’t get the product. We’re willing to pay whatever we can pay to get it, but we can’t get it.” Pontious was also interviewed by another area TV station, and the company made an appearance on news station KREM2.

Mike Storie, vice president of sales at Haun Welding Supply (Syracuse, NY), told The Post-Standard that the company has 1,000 empty cylinders that should be full of helium. “We see no signs of it going backward.” Store Manager Brian McDonald was also interviewed by a local TV station, and Sales Manager Grant Hanlon spoke with an area newspaper.

In Wichita, KS, Lampton Welding Supply President Guy Marlin was quoted in the Wichita Business Journal: “It’s probably not going to change for a while. We’re fortunate that we’ve been able to hang in there.”

nexAir (Memphis, TN) Senior VP Steve Atkins told The Commerical Appeal, “Everything we read and see leads us to expect to see more cost increases in the future.”

“Helium in the earth is depleting, not as much as there use to be, demand has gone up somewhat, and it’s a worldwide product now,” said Melo’s Gas & Gear (Bakersfield, CA) President Dave Melo in an interview with a local TV station.

Noble Gas Solutions (Albany, NY) President and CEO Dave Mahoney told with the Times Union, “The last thing I want to do is see a welding operation lay people off … so I can watch a bunch of balloons at a parade.”

“We are trying to spread it out so everybody gets something,” Michael Sutley, OXARC (Spokane, WA) vice president and general manager, told the Tri-City Herald.

An update on Weldstar’s (Aurora, IL) website was quoted by the Pharos-Tribune as saying, “Along with many other distributors, Weldstar is feeling the effects of a global helium shortage, which is expected to last up to three years.”

In Bend, OR, Airgas Branch Manager Phil Price told The Bend Bulletin, “As far as we know, we could see the end of helium-filled balloons.”

In these interviews, GAWDA members offered some great insights into the helium supply situation. Reading through these articles, I realized that having access to this incredible network of industry members is something that I take for granted at times…after all, I get to speak with members about a variety of business and industry related topics on a daily basis (whereas it takes an event like the helium shortage for mainstream media outlets to pick up the phone) . All I can say is it’s about time that the general public got to see how knowledgeable and well-spoken GAWDA members are.

If I left your company out of the list of news appearances about the helium supply, feel free to add a link in the comments area.

Dry Ice Recipe: Make Fog, Make The News

Friday, November 4th, 2011

In the Third Quarter issue of Welding & Gases Today, we wrote about how distributors are using YouTube videos and other social media to connect with customers. Admittedly, many companies don’t have the time, money or technology to produce their own videos. However, there are ways to populate your YouTube channel with videos without ever touching a camera.

Patrick Galphin, marketing & public relations at nexAir, had the great idea of getting local news stations to do the work for you. What do you need? An event, community project or seasonal tip usually does the trick. In May, nexAir appeared on a news station to talk about propane safety in anticipation of grilling season. As a result of the appearance, nexAir received phone calls from both grillers and industrial propane forklift users.

Well, nexAir’s done it again. For this Halloween, Galphin brought dry ice to the local morning news program, Good Morning Memphis, to show viewers how they could create special effects with CO2. As he explained in “Connecting With Customers,” it’s less about selling dry ice, and more about getting nexAir’s name out there and making the association with dry ice. “We want to be known as the gas experts,” he says.

Once a video has aired, many news stations now put their segments online. Galphin also recommends getting a copy of the video and posting it on YouTube. This allows a distributor to add contact information and links to the video.

Check out nexAir’s “Dry Ice Fog Tips for Halloween” in the video below:

Promoting Safety On Memorial Day

Friday, May 27th, 2011

With Memorial Day weekend here, grilling season is officially underway. At about this time last year, nexAir (Memphis, TN) posted a propane safety video on YouTube to share its expertise (watch the video below). I spoke with Patrick Galphin, marketing and public relations at nexAir, who appears in the video. Along with helping grillers operate safely, he says one of the goals of the video is to establish nexAir as the “gas experts” in town. While grilling propane may not be a primary focus for the company, people with questions about gas, cylinders, valves and related topics will think of nexAir next time they need help.

YouTube can be a great way for gases and welding distributors to put themselves out there. It is one of the most popular search engines on the Web, and it’s not only younger generations who are using it. According to YouTube, the website garners more than 2 billion views per day, and its demographic is 18-54 years.

Social media offers distributors opportunities to share expertise and show customers you’re listening to them. nexAir’s video is a great example of this. “By listening to our customers, I knew what questions to answer in the video,” says Galphin. “I didn’t talk about the amount of pressure inside a 20-pound grill propane cylinder because nobody’s ever asked me that. Many people ask us why some cylinders have a triangular handwheel and some have a round one, so I explained about the overfill prevention device.”

Thanks for sharing, Patrick! If any other distributors are using YouTube in interesting ways, I’d love to hear about it. Everyone have a happy and safe Memorial Day weekend (and be sure to check your cylinders over before firing up the grill).

The GAWDA That Keeps On Giving

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010
Haun Sales Rep John Wilmarth (left) and William Stadelman
Haun Welding Supply Sales Rep John Wilmarth (left) and William Stadelman

With the holiday season in full swing (and the economic scales starting to tip in a positive direction), the spirit of giving is stronger than ever. I want to highlight the efforts of a couple of GAWDA distributor members who have been involved in some great projects that represent the industry in a great way.

Last week, I spoke with Haun Welding Supply, located in Syracuse, NY, who played a major role in making a wish come true for a welding student who is fighting brain cancer. When William Stadelman became too sick to attend classes, he asked the Make-A-Wish Foundation to help turn his garage into a welding shop so that he could keep up with his favorite subject. Haun Welding Supply outside sales rep John Wilmarth found out about it through Stadelman’s welding instructor, John Shear, and couldn’t turn down the opportunity to make a difference.

In the 8 months since he found out about the wish, Wilmarth worked alongside Miller Electric and Haun’s supplier partners to bring together more than $15,000 in equipment, gases and accessories for Stadelman’s shop. It really shows what can be accomplished when distributors and suppliers come together for a common cause. What a great project, and what a difference it will make for the welding student.

Next, I found out via twitter about nexAir’s donation to help the local Meals On Wheels campaign in Memphis, TN. The company’s employees, all the way up to the executive level with CFO Milton Lovell, showed their support by donating time and money to help deliver Christmas meals to those in need. In all, the company contributed $5,000, which will fund 750 meals. Hats off to you!

With the most recent GAWDA Gives Back campaign exceeding $200,000 for the benefit of Maui’s Child and Family Service charity, it’s no secret that GAWDA members are a selfless, caring group. I am never surprised, but always thrilled to see the projects members are involved in.

How does your company make a difference? Did you take part in any special holiday charity projects in 2010? I’d love to hear about it.