A third-generation family-owned company based in Amarillo, Texas, Tex-Air Gas supplies helium to welding supplies distributors across the US and has also fuelled projects like launching a box of Kentucky Fried Chicken into space and illusionist David Blaine’s ascent above the Arizona desert with the help of around 50 helium balloons last year.
Founded in 1952 by James Prowell Senior as a welding supply distributor, the company has throughout the years experienced significant growth and has now evolved into a bulk helium distributor with jumbo gaseous tube trailers and a drop and hook business model.
Here, in the next instalment of gasworld’s 12 Days of Content series, we speak to Joe Prowell, President of Tex-Air Gas, to find out about what the company has been up to in 2021, the return on in-person events and plans for the future.
gasworld (GW): Thank you for taking the time to talk to us today. What has 2021 been for Tex-Air Gas?
Joe Prowell (JP): 2021 has been a bounce back year following 2020. As business continues to recover, we’ve had opportunities to attend a couple networking events to include the GAWDA annual convention and the gasworld Helium Super Summit. 2021 has been good, but we are really looking forward to 2022 because we have been making investments in increasing our distribution capacity.
GW: What have been some of the most prominent trends in the market this year, and how has Tex-Air Gas kept up with these?
JP: This year Tex-Air didn’t have any supply allocations due to any shortages, so we have been able to stay on top of our customer’s needs with zero delay delivering molecules to them when they need them.
GW: What project or innovation has the company been working on this year that you are most proud of?
JP: Tex-Air Gas recently acquired a used liquid ISO helium trailer, and it is currently being serviced. Once we have the liquid ISO trailer in service, our plan is to build a transfil plant at our yard in Amarillo where we can fill gaseous trailers.
GW: Earlier this month, Tex-Air Gas attended gasworld’s Helium Super Summit. Can you tell us about your experience at the event and why you think the return of in-person events is so significant?
JP: gasworld did an amazing job planning and executing the Helium Super Summit. I have been to networking conferences in other industries, and this was by far the most beneficial and informative conference I have had the pleasure of attending. Due to the relatively smaller size of the helium industry, this conference was a veritable who’s who of worldwide expertise in this niche industry.
The connections made were invaluable for me as a newcomer to the industry, and the business opportunities were encouraging. There are plenty of opportunities for independents to collaborate together. We are smaller and more nimble than the majors and as such we can service our customers much better than the giant behemoths who only see customers as a sales metric and have no room for outside of the box creative thinking. The major’s biggest strength is their larger economies of scale and floor full of overpaid attorneys who spend their days working on convoluted contracts written in legalese from the fourth circle of hell.
The other independents I met at the gasworld Super Summit all share a common interest in working together to grow strategically and responsibly so we can better serve our customers. For the small independents like us, our strength is our unparalleled customer service, flexibility, and transparency.
GW: What do you have planned for 2022?
JP: I don’t want to give away all my secrets until they are ready to be executed, so for now I will reiterate that Tex-Air is making significant investments in increasing our helium distribution capabilities. We are looking for new customers and potential partners that would be interested in opportunities in helium ENP as well as partners who are interested in a joint venture in smaller skid mounted air separation units with low overhead and economic feasibility.
GW: As 2021 draws to a close, can you tell us about three highlights for Tex-Air Gas from this year?
JP: First and foremost, my biggest highlight was being able to spend a year working with my dad and making great memories with him. That may sound silly to some people, but prior to working with my dad at Tex-Air Gas I was serving in the military and I was rarely home. I’m so thankful that I got this opportunity to work with him and I’m enjoying it more than I’d ever fathomed.
A second highlight would be the business relationships I have made since attending the gasworld Super Summit. There was no lack of expertise at the Super Summit. There are really good things happening in the helium industry currently, everything from innovation to intelligent consulting to in depth global and domestic market analysis being conducted by young hungry capable go-getters. As demand for helium increases there will be more and more supply coming online to meet those demands. I left the Helium Super Summit with confidence that this industry has a bright future ahead of it with many of the professionals I met there at the helm.
And for my third highlight this year – Navy beat Army in football this year! If you know, you know. I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and an amazing New Year. Thank you gasworld for giving Tex-Air Gas an opportunity to have a voice and help get our name out there to any potential customers or partners who want to team up with the best.