News From GAWDA

Spring Management Conference recap

In the photo: from left, Brad Peterson, Scott Myran, Ben Sadowski (Mississippi Welders Supply Company)

Nearly 650 members and guests of the Gases and Welding Distributors Association came together on May 4 – 6 to enjoy great speakers, collect industry information, network and reconnect with friends and colleagues from all over the country at the GAWDA Spring Management Conference in Minneapolis.

As has become custom at GAWDA events, the 2019 SMC offered attendees indispensable value and information that could be brought back to their companies and applied at all levels of the operation. President Brad Peterson was able to combine insightful educational sessions with opportunities to network with like-minded professionals from across the industry in fun, casual settings. The Contact Booth Program continues to prove immensely valuable to suppliers and distributors alike, as more than 560 attendees gathered together at the extended-hours event. In addition, suppliers offered 70 raffle prizes to attendees.

GAWDA President Brad Peterson Led an Industry Roundtable
with GAWDA Consultants and Members

GAWDA Consultants Tom Badstubner (FDA and Medical Gases), Michael Dodd (DOT and Security) and Rick Schweitzer, Esq. (Government Affairs and Human Resources) fielded questions from GAWDA members in an engaging round table discussion.

Each consultant listed the types of questions they answer most often, the best ways to reach them and where they expect the industry to be headed in the near future. When asked whether they had been helped by their GAWDA consultants in the past, more than 90% of the hands in the room shot up.

Then it was the members’ turn, and they asked questions and received clarifications on a wide variety of topics. Many of the questions related to the cannabis market. GAWDA consultant Tom Badstubner pointed out the importance of making sure that the products of one customer don’t make their way to other customers. Methods of ensuring this include: labeling and segregating cylinders, evacuating cylinders and using RPV valves.

Lumberjacks Descend on Nicollet Island

Attendees were welcomed to Convention with a First Timers’ Reception and President’s Welcome Reception at the Nicollet Island Pavilion. Members were encouraged to wear flannel shirts and jeans to the Lumberjack Themed events, which included dinner, drinks, live music and a lumberjack show.

The A-OX Team Discussed Lessons Learned in the Aftermath of an Enormous Fire

Tom Elliott and his team received a standing ovation for their gripping tale of the enormous fire at A-OX last May. The fire occurred just after 5:00 p.m. and resulted in losses of $2.236 million, including $1.2 million in building damage and the loss of thousands of cylinders. Eight fellow GAWDA members provided an immediate response to the crisis at A-OX, offering assistance in the form of equipment, inventory and cylinders. “Because of the people in this room, we were operational by 2:00 p.m. the next day,” Elliott said. He continued, “It’s unfortunate that this happened to us. But if I can prevent something similar from happening to anybody else by giving this presentation, then I am happy to talk about this experience.” Some of the other takeaways:

Elliott noted that your local fire marshal is an invaluable resource; ask if they will come on site and conduct fire safety training. Often, they are willing to conduct controlled fires to train both their firefighters and your employees in the safe response to a gas fire.

Conduct safety training often enough that it becomes muscle memory for your employees. In a crisis, they will react automatically.

Because the cylinders were tagged, A-OX had a record of losses for insurance purposes.

This fire occurred as the result of static electricity buildup. The Propane Council offers a FREE training manual on the hazards of static electricity that you can access at

After Elliott’s speech, his team fielded dozens of questions from GAWDA members in a Q&A session. To see the PowerPoint Presentation and video from Tom’s presentation, as well as many others from the 2019 SMC, visit the Member’s-Only section of

Traci and Lori Tapani Shared Solutions to the Skilled Labor Shortage

Traci and Lori Tapani shared approaches that have worked for Wyoming Machine in attracting great employees in a tight labor market. Some of their ideas included the following:

Establish partnerships with technical and community colleges, including promoting events for younger students, such as Gold Collar Career Days and Women in Tech events.

Offer tours of your facility so the community can gain an understanding of what you do.

Expand your view of who’s right for a manufacturing job. Be innovative: if you don’t have applicants with the specific hard skills, look for transferable soft skills.

Provide employees with the necessary training and an opportunity for advancement.

Craig MacFarlane Inspired the Crowd as He Spoke of Finding a Purpose and Reaching His Goals

From carrying an Olympic torch to meeting the Pope, living with Mickey Mantle, being a good friend of former President George H.W. Bush and winning more than 100 gold medals in a variety of sports, Craig MacFarlane has led an extraordinary life. Blinded in a backyard accident at the age of two, MacFarlane was sent 500 miles away from home to attend a school for the blind and used his desire to return home to drive him to achieve incredible success. Some of his advice included:

Never let your challenges be bigger than you.

Subscribe to a philosophy of being consistently good and you will have occasional flashes of greatness.

Happiness is a choice.

We’re not entitled, it doesn’t just come to you and if you’re looking for a shortcut, it doesn’t exist.

You don’t have to be pushed when you are working for something you really believe in.

Fight procrastination; people who say they work better under pressure typically produce inferior work.

Most highly successful people are willing to fail more often than other people are willing to try.

Ask yourself, does everything you do make the people around you better?
Give people a reason why they should look forward to coming to work for you.

13 Scholarships Awarded

The GAWDA Foundation announced it is awarding 13 college scholarships of $2,000 each this year to students around the country who plan to further their studies in fields applicable to the welding and gases industry.

The GAWDA Foundation scholarship is designed to help educate, attract and keep quality individuals in the industry. Since the program began in 2013, 83 scholarships have been presented for a total of $166,000. A total of 379 applications for the awards have been received.

Members donated $14,000 towards the scholarship program this year, and GAWDA is matching that amount, making the total contributed $28,000.

The 2019 winners, and the colleges they plan to attend, are:

Nate Ackerman, University of Akron

John Austin Brewer, Mississippi State University

Kaitlyn Bruner, Washington State University

Christian Cummings, Coffeyville Community College

Andres Marquez, Northeastern University

Justin McGee, Saint Joseph’s University

Eoin O’Malley, University of Tennessee

Erica Pokorney, University of Nebraska at Omaha

Katie Rimes, Indian River State College

Fariha Khalid Sheikh, Rowan College

Geoffrey Sonenson, Fort Hays State University

Madeleine Stenzel, University of Minnesota-Rochester

Joshua Wilfong, Penn State Behrend

The GAWDA members who contributed to this year’s scholarship fund are: Airweld, Arc3 Gases, ATLAS Welding Supply, Carbide Industries, Central McGowan Inc., Chesterfield Special Cylinders, Cramer Decker Industries, CryoVation &, Dale Oxygen, Inc., Delille Oxygen Co., Exocor Filler Metals, Four Corners Welding & Gas Supply, Holston Gases, Inweld Corporation, Keen Compressed Gas, Minneapolis Oxygen Company, Mississippi Welders Supply, Norco, O.E. Meyer Company, Otto Arc Systems, Red Ball Oxygen, The Horton Group, TOMCO2 Systems, T.W. Smith Corp, and Volunteer Welding Supply.

Contact Booth Program


All photos taken by Daiana Sanchez



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