70 Years Strong, Proud, and Now Independent

GAWDA was founded in 1945 when a group of independent distributors banded together for a variety of reasons: to strategize about ways to stay independent, to knock back challenges with their suppliers, and to learn from each other how better to serve customers. That history is storied and sweet, and you can read it in this issue starting on page 36.

Over the years, the association has gone through many changes, including a name change in 2002 from the National Welding Supply Association (NWSA) to the Gases and Welding Distributors Association (GAWDA), a name chosen to more accurately reflect the varied products of a distributor’s business, as well as our international membership.

Since the beginning, the association had been managed by an association management company. That ended in 2010 when the American Welding Society stepped in to help us move toward independence. It’s taken several years to get here, and on January 1, 2015, the Gases and Welding Distributors Association is now under its own management. In other words, like many of our members, the association is an independent entity self-managed by our Board of Directors.

Headquarters is now located in a beautiful office in Hollywood, Florida, a few minutes from the Ft. Lauderdale airport. If you are in the area, please stop by to meet the GAWDA staff: Executive Director John Ospina, Meetings and Operations Senior Manager Natasha Alexis, Membership Services Manager Stephen Hill, and Accounting and Purchasing Associate Bruce Ellenbogen. Our GAWDA Media partner, Data Key Communications, is based in Syracuse, New York, where Publisher Judy Flanagan and Editor Carole Jesiolowski are just a phone call away. The entire GAWDA team is committed to bringing our members state-of-the-art services. They clearly understand and have the same strong passion for customer service that we show to our own customers.

There will be a lot going on this year as the association begins self-management. A new membership database went live in December that makes your membership information more accessible and your benefits easier to navigate. We continue to improve the quality of speakers and topics at Regional Meetings, so those who attend get real take-home value from their attendance. A group life insurance program is in the works. We are tasking the Management Information Committee to help members learn about new technology channels, including social business. The Spring Management Conference in New Orleans and Fall’s Annual Convention in Phoenix will bring distributors and suppliers together to network and hear leading-edge presenters.

Many of you remember the days of the “Young Executives.” I was one of them. Now they are called “Young Professionals” and they are the upcoming leaders of our companies and our association. They will move us forward. If you are a young professional, please attend the GAWDA events and introduce yourself. If you are a not-so-young professional, take the time to introduce yourself to these wonderful young men and women in our midst. Help them feel comfortable. Bring them along. If we open our minds and listen, I know we’ll have a huge influx of new ideas to help tackle the challenges of our industry.

As we begin 2015 and mark our association’s 70th year, we look back at who we were, mindful that each challenge has helped to define us. The future looks very bright.

Gases and Welding Distributors Association
Meet the Author
GAWDA President Thomas A. Biedermann is vice president of Airweld, Inc. and can be reached by email at thomasb@airweld.net or by phone at 631-227-3219. He is one of an elite group of GAWDA Presidents whose fathers also served in association leadership. Ken Biedermann was president of GAWDA (then NWSA) in 1996-97.