Today (Tuesday 23rd September) saw the close of the 70th Gases and Welding Distributors Association (GAWDA) Annual Convention, held this year in San Diego, California at the prestigious Marriott Marquis San Diego.

More than 850 attendees attended this year’s event, including a few new faces. This year’s event, like those in years past, was a strong mix of business and relaxation for attendees – providing numerous platforms to talk business while also offering the opportunity to take in everything the host city of San Diego had to offer.

Events began this year on Sunday 21st September, with various committee meetings in the afternoon. Highlights of the day included the First Timer’s Reception and the President’s Welcome Reception, with both held off-site at San Diego’s New Children’s Museum. Both events were a great way for attendees to catch up with old friends and make new ones, and for first-timers to introduce themselves to the group.

Sunday morning brought on the first general business session of the Convention, held in the San Diego Ballroom at the Marriott Marquis. During this time, outgoing GAWDA President Ned Pontious, of Norco Inc, addressed the attendees on the state of the Association. Highlights of Mr. Pontious’ address included the transition of GAWDA to operating as a fully independent entity and the relocation of its new headquarters to Hollywood, Florida, and the unveiling of the incoming leadership.

Following his address was the GAWDA Gives Back presentation, which awards a local-to-the-event charity of the President’s choosing a donation raised throughout the year by GAWDA members. This year GAWDA supported two foundations — Support The Enlisted Project and Warrior Foundation Freedom Station — and raised $149,965, which was split equally between the two deserving entities.

After the GAWDA Gives Back presentation, featured speakers were brought to the stage to present on a number of topics important to the gas and welding industries.

Dr. Barry Asmus who presented “America’s Economic Opportunities and Challenges” was followed by the father/daughter duo of Larry and Meagan Johnson – who presented “Let’s Rumble…Generations Duke It Out.”

Monday 22nd September was the day for interaction, which began early with the Convention’s contact booth program. This is where distributors and suppliers were able to showcase their products and business to fellow businesses and prospective customers. After the programme came to a close, participating attendees were shuttled off to the historic Torrey Pines Golf Course for an afternoon of golf and relaxation. The Women of Gases and Welding also held a camaraderie-building event at the Shelter Island Marina that afternoon in conjunction with ‘Sail San Diego.’

Tuesday 23rd September brought on the final business session of the Convention, once again held at the San Diego Ballroom at the Marriott Marquis. President-elect Tom Biedermann, of Airweld Inc, addressed the attendees and invited Michael Tiller of the Compressed Gas Association (CGA) to speak briefly about upcoming CGA documents and news.

Mr. Tiller also announced the recipients of the joint GAWDA/CGA Distributor Safety Awards, presented to member companies who have demonstrated the largest overall day-to-day business safety. This year’s recipients were Cryo Weld Corporation of Poughkeepsie, New York (in the 100,000 or less miles travelled category) and Lampton Welding Supply of Wichita, Kansas (in the 100,000 or more miles travelled category).

Attendees then heard from Richard Farrell, who presented “Selling Has Nothing To Do With Selling,” followed by the keynote address which was given this year by, National Basketball Association Hall of Famer and wildly successful businessman, Earvin “Magic” Johnson.

Finishing things off was the induction ceremony of the now-President Mr. Biedermann, including a video presentation about him put together by his wife, along with a speech from Biedermann himself. He spoke of what an honour and privilege it is to run such a highly respected organisation, and announced several points of emphasis he plans to address during his tenure.

This year’s event — like those past — was a highly successful mix of business and relaxation. Next year’s Convention will be held in Scottsdale, Arizona, from October 11th to 14th.


For a more in-depth summary of the Convention’s happenings, please look for our review in the upcoming November issue.