The Gases and Welding Distributors Association (GAWDA) held its Spring Management Conference on 30 March to 1 April in Chicago, Illinois, at the Sheraton Chicago hotel and Towers. The event included 596 attendees, including 199 distributors and 322 suppliers. Sunday’s President’s Welcome Reception was held at Chicago’s Field Museum.

GAWDA President Ned Pontious detailed in his state of the association address, the GAWDA activities for the year and the status of the association’s transition to independent management. He said, “The American Welding Society (AWS) has taught us to walk again — now we are going to run.”

Announced were the preparations for GAWDA to move its headquarters from AWS World Headquarters in Miami, Florida, to new offices located in nearby Hollywood. The association has hired one additional full-time and one part-time staff person in preparation of the transition.  

Two addition regionals were added to this year’s schedule, one in Houston and one in Los Angeles. GAWDA Consultants Mike Dodd, Rich Schweitzer, and Tom Badstubner presented updates on DOT, OSHA, FDA, and other regulations.

Past President Bryan Keen announced the winners of the GAWDA Foundation Scholarship. Keen described the association’s intent as “helping to educate, attract, and keep individuals in the industry.” Interest in the program has grown since last year, when there were 20 applicants and 12 recipients. This year, 69 students applied and 14 scholarships of $2,000 each were awarded.

President Pontious announced the recipients for the the 2014 GAWDA Gives Back program; Support the Enlisted Program (STEP) and The Warrior Foundation-Freedom Station, two local nonprofits in San Diego, California, that support the military. STEP provides emergency financial and transition assistance grants to active duty and recently discharged enlisted military and their families. The Warrior Foundation-Freedom Station assists injured warriors who have been medically retired from the service at a recovery transition center and housing facility in San Diego that provides acclimation time, guidance and resources to transition from military service to civilian life.

Speakers included former distributor Daniel Byrne; former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty; Mikki Williams; Economist Alan Beaulieu; and in a well-received, first-time breakfast workshop Professor Aaron Buchko.

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