Distributor and Supplier member attendance at the Spring Management Conference (SMC) of the Gases and Welding Distributors Association (GAWDA) resulted in the highest participation level since 2010, said John Ospina, Executive Director of the organization.

Held in Savannah, Georgia from 2nd-5th April, the event drew participation from a total of 651 attendees, including gasworld publisher John Raquet and team members Tim Rice and Aggie Baker.

Participants are this year’s SMC heard from several experts about the state of the industry; from fellow distributors and suppliers about the impact of economic and market trends; and from several young professionals about the work styles of the newest generation in the workforce.

They also learned from distribution-industry speaker, Dirk Beveridge (founder of Unleash WD, an industry innovation resource center) about how disruption creates opportunity for innovation; and from motivational speaker, Steven B. Wiley (of the Gettysburg Leadership Institute), about how developing leadership skills can sustain success, a value especially pertinent to industry businesses, since many are family-owned and a number are now third- and fourth-generation legacy companies.

The association announced its presentation of $20,000 in scholarships to 10 college-bound students. GAWDA President Bill Visintainer also revealed the two organizations that will benefit from tis year’s GAWDA Gives Back campaign — The Boys and Girls Club of Maui and The Neighborhood Place of Wailuku.

GAWDA Gives Back is a philanthropic initiative established in 2000 to help community-based groups in locales where GAWDA’s annual meeting is held. Since the program’s inception, GAWDA Association members have contributed more than $1 million to share with worthy local organizations, Visintainer said.

GAWDA’s Annual Meeting will take place September 25 through 28 at The Grand Wailea in Kihei, Hawaii.