Members of GAWDA’s Member Services Committee Discuss the Biggest Member Benefits of GAWDA

The following is an excerpt from the June 1 episode of GAWDA TV. Watch the episode here:

For the June 1 Episode of GAWDA TV, we had the opportunity to speak with members of GAWDA’s Member Services Committee to discuss the biggest benefits that come with GAWDA membership. Aside from the networking and education that take place at the SMC, Annual Convention, and Regional Meetings, membership in GAWDA comes with a whole host of other benefits. So, whether you are looking to take more advantage of your GAWDA membership, or looking to recruit a new member to the association, read below to see all of the great things that GAWDA has to offer to its members.

Rafael Arvelo, Co-Chair of the GAWDA Member Services Committee and General Manager of EQUIGAS

WGT: For you personally, and for EQUIGAS, what has been the biggest benefit of your GAWDA Membership?

Rafael: I know everybody is going to say the same thing, but to me, as a vendor, it is definitely the networking. However, there are many things that I am passionate about in this industry. Going to the events, getting to see the presentations and the trends in the industry. The content is very valuable.

WGT: You are the co-chair of the Member Services Committee. What compelled you to join that committee and what kinds of things do you discuss during those meetings?

Rafael: The vision and mission of the MSC is to find out how we can give the membership the most value of being part of the association. We are always trying to find new members, especially distributors. We developed a new “test drive” program that is going to be relaunched this year. And we just developed a new video showing members all the benefits that GAWDA has. To be honest, I believe that most of the members are not getting the most out of GAWDA. That’s what we’re trying to spotlight with this new video. We want to let them know every single benefit that the association has to offer. And, as the MSC Committee, we want to take them by the hand and guide them and coach them on what steps they should be following to get the most out of the community.

WGT: For companies who are in the industry but might be on the fence about joining GAWDA, what would you say to them about the benefits of joining the association?

Rafael: If you take the benefits that GAWDA offers, especially to the distributors, and add them up, you end up saving about $12,000. You have access to the consultants. Especially for the small and mid-sized companies who might not have the resources of a big company, like a big HR department, the consultants are an amazing resource. They provide insight into OSHA and safety regulations. Everybody wants to be safe. And with all of the uncertainty we had this year, the consultants helped guide us along the way. They provide so much information.

You also have the Connection newsletter and Welding & Gases Today magazine as part of your membership, with all of the amazing articles that they offer.

You also get CGA access, as a distributor. To get all that information separately would cost more than $2,000. So why not do it if you’re already a GAWDA distributor?

And then, like I said, you have the most amazing annual events. You can’t miss them. And there are other things too. Access to GAWDA University for employee training, distributors have access to the GAWDA scholarship. There’s a life insurance program. I bet not everybody knew that. And, along with all of that, there’s the greatest networking in the industry, hands down.

Brad Peterson, 2019 GAWDA President and Chairman and Chief Acquisition Officer
of Mississippi Welders
Supply Company

WGT: From your perspective, what has been the biggest benefit of your GAWDA membership?

Brad:  The biggest benefit for our company, by far, is the consultants. Their expertise on what’s going on in the industry and the regulations is so incredibly valuable. For me, personally, it’s the networking. It’s getting to know other businesses and business owners and managers and what they are doing and then being able to compare notes. And then also getting to know them on a personal level.

Other things that jump to mind are the training, the partnership with the CGA, and a host of other resources. And the meetings are usually in very nice locations, which doesn’t hurt. There’s just a ton of benefits. So, when I look at somebody that’s in the welding supply business, if they’re not a member of GAWDA, my brow just furrows. It’s like, “Why? Why aren’t you?” Anybody that’s running a good operation should aspire to be a member of GAWDA and help us uphold the high standards as an industry and enjoy all these great benefits of the organization.

WGT: What would you say to those companies who aren’t members about whether or not they should join?

Brad: I would say they should be a member of GAWDA because of the consultant expertise. If you have a DOT stop and you have questions, or a DOT audit, you can call on Mike Dodd or Marilyn Dempsey. If you have an FDA or Medical Gas issue or a Board of Pharmacy question, you can talk to Tom Badstubner. If you have legal questions, you can talk to Rick Schweitzer. It’s just a host of available expertise that’s going to help make your business better.

The value that you get for your dues is a really good investment. It’s absolutely a worthwhile investment.

WGT: What do you feel that GAWDA has meant to the gases and welding industry?

Brad: GAWDA has brought the industry forward continually over the years and just raised our level of professionalism and expertise. We just keep raising the bar higher and higher. And that’s part of life. You want to stand on the shoulders of your predecessors and reach higher and keep things moving forward. And I think GAWDA brings that to our industry.

Colleen Kohler, Member of GAWDA’s Member Services Committee and Noble Gas Solutions Executive
Vice President

WGT: How do you feel that your association with GAWDA has benefited your company?

Colleen: I feel that our membership is really invaluable to us. I’ve basically grown-up having friendships with GAWDA. Abydee is a close friend of mine. Nicole Kissler too. And having those relationships growing up and then going into the family businesses have been invaluable. I would say that the networking within GAWDA is a very important, crucial part of it. But, I feel like it’s another level of networking when you’re growing up with future presidents and future owners and you have a really good relationship with them. We love it.

WGT: What compelled you to join the member services committee and give back to GAWDA?

Colleen: I feel that the member services committee was a great place to start getting involved within GAWDA because it really highlights all of the benefits of why we’re members. We work very collaboratively together. Everybody’s voice is heard. And we really want to get the message out of why GAWDA is so great and how we’ve benefited from joining and make sure that all incoming members understand. And even existing members need to understand all the benefits that they can take advantage of by being a member.

We’ve found that some people don’t realize that we’ve got a life insurance policy that they can participate in. That you can reach out to all the consultants as part of our dues. There’s a lot of value that we provide, aside from the networking and relationship piece.

WGT: What would you say is the single biggest benefit of being a GAWDA member?

Colleen: I would say the relationships that you make. My father is a past president and all of his best friends are past presidents and members of GAWDA. They become like your second family. They are tight relationships, even outside of the association. Another big benefit, aside from the networking, is the consultants. I work very closely, for example, with Mike Dodd. He’s so knowledgeable and well-versed in what he knows and helps prepare us for a lot of the DOT regulations and he’s always readily available to answer any questions. That’s a benefit that we’ve definitely taken advantage of for many years.

WGT: What would you say to an industry company who is on the fence about joining GAWDA?

Colleen: I would say that you can only gain by being a member of GAWDA. You’re going to gain relationships, gain knowledge and be able to discuss best practices. You’ll get access to our great industry meetings, learn about different products that are available and meet with vendors. The list goes on and on. And it’s actually very easy to be part of the member services committee, because the sales pitch of joining GAWDA is very easy. Very rarely do we speak to someone who is on the fence and have them not join.

So, I would say, “Just jump in. It’s fun, you’ll love it, and you’ll make relationships, and you’ll learn a lot along the way.”

Bill Visintainer, GAWDA Member Services Committee Member and President and CEO
of Atlas Welding Supply, and James Cain, Vice President and CFO of Atlas Welding Supply

WGT: What would you say is the biggest impact that your GAWDA membership has had on your company?

James: We’ve really enjoyed our membership through the years with GAWDA. I think the things that being a member of GAWDA has brought to our company is a better focus on the things that our customers are looking for. We hear these things at the meetings, and we discuss them with our friends within GAWDA, so it brings us a wider view of what’s going on in the industry and we’re able to bring that to a local level and focus on it and introduce new things to our customers and bring about continuous improvement. We’re able to consult with our friends in the industry and see how they’re attacking some of the processes and issues that we see.

Bill: GAWDA, and NWSA before GAWDA, basically raised us up in this industry. It’s how we learned. We learned a lot about the industry through our association. Going to those meetings. Regional meetings and national conferences. And we made relationships that we would have otherwise never had a chance to make and meet people in different parts of the country. And not only could we walk out of there with a whole lot of great information to go home and implement, but we had a rolodex full of phone numbers of industry experts that we could call on, that wouldn’t cost us a dime.

WGT: Bill, you’re a former president of the association and now a volunteer on the MSC. And James, you’ve been deeply involved in the association as well. What has compelled you both to remain so involved with GAWDA?

Bill: It truly is a give back situation. It has done so much for me. My father was in this industry, and he passed away very early, at the age of 53. And I’ll tell you, I ended up having literally dozens of surrogates for him, many of whom were business owners and members of NWSA and GAWDA.

James: To echo what Bill said, we really were brought up in this industry by being members of the association. My family has been involved in the welding and fabrication industry for many years. And I was outside of the industry when I started my career. So, when I came back to the industry, it gave me a wealth of experience to consult through the relationships we built by being members. And then, through my involvement with the regional meetings, we were able to meet an even wider range of folks in the industry that maybe didn’t attend the national meetings or the SMC. So, all of a sudden, our group of folks that we grew our relationship with was now deep and wide.

WGT: What would you say is the single biggest benefit of GAWDA membership?

Bill: I’d say it’s the unselfish sharing of information in support of our individual companies and our industry. We’re getting competitors, a lot of times, getting together. But that doesn’t matter. It kind of goes away, and we are able to say, “What’s best for our industry? And what’s best for our company?” And we go from there. I’d say there’s a heck of a lot of additional value, as well, but if I had to name one, it would be that one.

James: This goes hand-in-hand with what Bill said, but the single most beneficial thing that I’ve gotten from our membership is our access to the consultants. You know, Mike Dodd, Tom Badstubner, Marilyn Dempsey, and Rick Schweitzer. They all do a fantastic job and are eager to help you and to coordinate their help to make sure that they give you the best, most accurate assistance in the quickest time possible. Mike Dodd was just here at our facility. And he helps us make sure that we’re both safe and compliant.

Bill: And trained.

James: And trained, that’s right. And he gives us best practices to do in many situations.

Bill: And I would add one more. We haven’t generally called them consultants but that’s really what they are. And that’s ITR Economics. Their quarterly report is something that we really look forward to and it helps us take a look at what’s going on in the marketplace and helps us make decisions based on what we expect to happen based on the information that ITR has compiled.  

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