The 72nd annual convention of the Gases and Welding Distributors Association (GAWDA) annual meeting has kicked off here in New York City.

For the next four days, distributor and supplier members in the industrial, medical specialty gas and food & beverage industries will get together for networking and educational content. The programme will also include a four-hour booth programme where supplier members display their product and service offerings while networking with attending distributor members.

Over 900 individuals from member companies gathered at the New York Marriott Marquis, located in the heart of Times Square and the Broadway theater district – the theme for the event is ‘Bullish on GAWDA.’

John Ospina, Executive Director of the association stepped up to introduce the agenda for the next few days and to welcome current President Mark Raimy to the stage.

Raimy took some time to honour some of the ”important people in the room” ­– the 2016/2017 board of directors.

He said, “Welcome to New York everybody, I’m really glad you’re with us for the next few days. It appears that we have had a record turn-out for this event, and we’re going to work out later what those final numbers are.”

He continued, “We have had tremendous movement in our industry and in our association this year. I think our speakers will reflect those movements.”

Raimy went on to mention the new GAWDA App, which he says gives the organisation the ability to receive and provide information, and has both a business side and a fun side – much like GAWDA. ”Studies point more towards App based solutions and finding new and different ways to do things”, He said.

”There’s only one way to be prepared for industry transformations and that’s to have raw, deep relationships.”

Mark Raimy, GAWDA President

“I really think the booth programme is one of the most valuable things that GAWDA can offer. He continued, “If anyone would have predicted a year ago some of the transformational things that have happened in our industry this year, you’d probably be laughed at.”

“What are the next transformational things going to be is anybody’s guess, but there’s only one way to be prepared for industry transformations and that’s to have raw, deep relationships.”

“I think tomorrow’s booth programme is a great place to start.”

Raimy then discussed the development of the new updated GAWDA website to tackle generational challenges and member recruitment.

“Besides having a more fresh and modern look, we’re focusing on developing a more robust members section, because I think that’s going to fit in to one of our strategic comparatives moving forward.”

The website updates will be going live in a couple of weeks.

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Mark Raimy, GAWDA President

Safety

Raimy then explained the Alliance for consumer education (ACE) – an alliance between GAWDA and CGA which he says, “will hopefully bring value to ourselves and to our community.” he continued, “CGA tries to install a culture of safety and we will continue to push this relationship forward and closer together.”

As an example of their work, a video co-branded by the partners about a year ago, displaying the dangers of inhaling helium, was played to the audience. The video will be made accessible to members to share across their own platforms, to raise awareness.

”The other thing that we’re excited about, is that CGA and GAWDA are going to be co-branding an acetylene and propane handling safety seminar next June in Lexington, Kentucky. This is one of many projects we’ll be putting together to offer training.”

“The programme will be for anybody in this room that deals with transporting it, handling it, selling it. It will be hugely valuable for you to attend.”

“Out all those things we did this year, there’s actually a theme in connection with it all. Whether its developing the app, or changing the format of the opening night, or using video or social media more effectively, or developing our website, it’s really all about communication. Communicating well is very powerful and that was our focus and one of the main improvements we wanted to make this year.”

GAWDA Gives Back

Always central to GAWDA’s annual meeting is the presentation of donations to local charities. Raimy concluded his presentation by unveiling two checks worth $85, 590.00 which have been raised for two special charities as part of the ‘GAWDA Gives Back’ initiative.

This year, the groups Candlelighters and Headstrong were selected to benefit. Candlelighters assists children who have cancer and their families. The group provides practical help as well as friendship and support, plus opportunities to enjoy fun experiences in New York, during a child’s treatment. Headstrong offers free and confidential mental health treatment for military service veterans in what it says is an “evidence-based, cost-free, stigma-free and frictionless mental health treatment programme for post-9/11 combat veterans that works.”

Raimy said, “I’d like to thank all our donors – thank you for your gifts and your contributions.”

Growth forecast methodology

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Dr. Alan Beaulieu

One of the country’s most informed economists, Dr. Alan Beaulieu from Forecast 101 was next-up to present on growth forecast methodology.

Beaulieu is a principal of the ITR Economics where he serves as President. He is very familiar with the Welding and Gases Industry and has presented at numerous industry meetings. Since 1990, he has been consulting with companies throughout the US, Europe, and Asia on how to forecast, plan, and increase their profits based on business cycle trend analysis. Alan is also the Senior Economic Advisor to NAW, Contributing Editor for Industry Week, and the Chief Economist for HARDI.

Beaulieu divulged information on leading economic indicators, internal trends, ITR long-term business cycle theory, and news and market observations – information that he says gives companies “the ability to see into the future and make a difference.”

The morning session ended with a group discussion on family businesses. Covering topics such as dealing with conflict, entrepreneurship, and family business complexities.