A little bit of history was made on the final day of GAWDA’s 65th Convention for distributors in San Antonio, Texas, as Jenny McCall succeeded Britt Lovin to become the organisation’ first ever female President.

Prior to the momentous election, outgoing President Lovin provided some updated figures on actual delegates attending the three-day gathering of the gases community – which amounted to an impressive 450.

He also introduced guest speaker Dr Bart Bazi, who provided a well timed presentation on the potential changes in tax status of small businesses in the US - although cautioned delegates to get their financial affairs in order as the current US Government was likely to make changes that may not be favourable to many in the audience.

Dr Bazi was followed by Pat Murphy, President of Linde North America, who gave an overview of Trends and Opportunities in North America. Murphy stated that Linde had sales of $16bn in 2008, was present in over 100 countries and had 50, 000 employees across the group.

However, like most companies, The Linde group has been hit by the downturn in the global economy and first half results for 2009 showed a group decline in revenues of 12.5% - the major concerns being Engineering, down 21% compared with the gases group at -7.6%.

“We expect a moderate recovery in the second half of 2009,” he stated and then cautioned, “the economy of North America is unlikely to reach the activity level of 2006/7 until 2013, and that is the best case scenario being painted by economists for North America.”

There is no doubt that the politics of today will impact on the economy and the gases business, with the government focusing on healthcare reform, so-called ‘cap & trade’, energy security, tax, a recalculation of worldwide manufacturing, and banking.

Murphy went on to explain that while the global helium supply position had improved in the past year, with a slowdown in demand and an increase in supply, the same cannot be said of argon - which is of short supply in the US due to the number of ASU closures associated with steel facilities.

“Linde is in a good position to support distributors in the US with our vast network of ASUs and other gas production plants spread throughout the country,” Murphy ventured.

“Our distributors had sales of $1.6bn in 2008 and have 600 facilities across the US. We (Linde) see Energy and Alternative Fuels, Advanced Materials, R&D, healthcare and infrastructure projects as drivers for growth over the next five years.”

Fan fare moment
Murphy concluded his offering with a video presentation, documenting a new LNG project associated with landfill gas in California, before proceedings drew to a close with the historic election of Jenny McCall as President.

McCall was escorted onto the stage by 13 past presidents of GAWDA, to a fan fare and presentation of her personal history.

She said encouragingly, “My first ever GAWDA convention was in 1994 and I wondered whether it was possible for me to become the first women President of the organisation. Well here I am and my message to you all, and especially to new delegates, is that we need your support - and your attendance at the Spring Management Conference in Chicago is encouraged.”

“I am a sport lover and know that you can either stand by and watch sports, or you can get involved. The GAWDA game is real and I urge you not to watch, but to get into the game.”

McCall concluded, “I look forward to working with you, being your President over the next 12 months, and seeing you in Maui next October (2010) for the 66th convention.”