One of the largest annual spring management conferences ever held by the Gases and Welding Distributors Association (GAWDA) is set to take place from the 11th-13th May in Boca Raton.

591 supplier and distributor members, consultants, staff and guests have registered for the event, according to John Ospina, the organisation’s executive director.

GAWDA’s spring meeting is designed so its membership – comprised of national and international welding and gases distributors, manufacturers and individual representative members – can hear from experts on business management topics and learn of changes taking place within the industry. It is also an opportunity for members from all around the country and from several international locations to conduct business in person and to stay informed about the latest products and services that are available to help them expand operations and increase business.


Also planned is the annual awarding of GAWDA Foundation Scholarships. With the presentation of 12 individual $2,000 scholarships this spring, GAWDA will have awarded 59 scholarships of $2,000 each, totalling $118,000 in awards, since the scholarship programme was established in 2013.

The funds for the scholarships are donated by member companies, and each year are matched by a GAWDA contribution of up to $25,000. The programme is open to children and employees of active GAWDA member companies. Scholarship funds are designated for tuition and fees. The programme is designed to encourage young people to consider and follow careers in the welding and gases distribution industry.

GAWDA’s Women of Gases and Welding Committee also plans to award its first $1,000 scholarship to a female student who is pursuing a certificate, associate degree or bachelor’s degree in welding or a related discipline. The Committee has been working to create a new scholarship fund for the last several years as a means of promoting the education of women in the gases and welding distribution field.

Education, generations and space

This year’s conference includes speakers who will address a range of contemporary issues. Christopher Mapes, Chairman, President and CEO of Lincoln Electric Holdings, Inc., will speak about an initiative to involve distributors in grassroots advocacy for skilled-trades education within their communities. Millennial communications expert Curt Steinhorst, from the Centre for Generational Kinetics, will present ideas for maximising success when communicating with the youngest generations of workers and customers. Alan Beaulieu, GAWDA’s chief economist and principal of ITR Economics, will provide a detailed economic forecast for the industry which, for the second quarter this year, is showing an uptick. Kelly Latimer, a test pilot for the Virgin Galactic Launcher One programme, will speak at the Women of Gases and Welding Committee’s luncheon about her unconventional career.

GAWDA firsts

GAWDA has received a record registration with 122 companies being represented so far. Additionally, a new conference feature has been introduced; the GAWDA Events custom mobile app, a technology initiative the organisation undertook in 2016. The members-only app is designed to facilitate access to maps and details about the conference and facilities at the conference location, whilst also permitting easier member-to-member networking and communication. The GAWDA Events app is available at the App Store for iPhone and on Google Play for Android smartphones.