Propane autogas doesn’t comprise the majority of the gallon sales at ProGas Inc. But one of the company’s owners says ProGas stands out from the competition in western Pennsylvania because of autogas.
ProGas, based in Zelienople, Pa., primarily serves the residential market. But owner Ron Schramm says autogas boosted the company’s gallon sales when it entered the market three years ago.
According to Schramm, he had experience working for a family business that provided autogas to a few accounts in the 1970s. He never considered autogas for ProGas until recently, though.
In 2012, he attended a Propane Education & Research Council (PERC)-led educational session on autogas at the Southeastern Convention & International Propane Expo. The session discussed how to market, promote and sell autogas. The session convinced him ProGas could grow because of that market.
“They said if you wanted to grow your gallons, [autogas] is an area you can concentrate on,” Schramm says. “I was at least familiar with it because I dealt with it in the ’70s, and since then the technology got better.”
In 2012, Schramm reconnected with Globe Airport Parking, an airport shuttle bus service he worked with in the ’70s. Schramm wanted to see if it would consider switching to autogas. He used PERC’s marketing concept to guide the discussion.
“We were able to show [Globe Airport Parking] significant savings over gasoline, and that marked our first autogas customer,” he says.
To date, ProGas has more than 20 autogas accounts. Schramm says most of his company’s accounts are local school districts with buses. On average, ProGas adds about 220,000 gallons to its annual gallon sales by branching into autogas.
This year, ProGas wants to provide autogas to landscapers. According to PERC, a growing list of mower OEMs now offer propane-powered engines for landscapers. Schramm says ProGas delivered a presentation to the landscaping industry at the Tri-State Alternative Fueling Expo and Conference in an effort to reach more potential customers.
“A number of our accounts are school districts using autogas for their school bus fleet,” Schramm says. “Every school district has grass to cut, so for ProGas it seems to be a natural progression to develop a marketing plan to include the landscaping market.”
Schramm says he wants to encourage small propane retailers to provide autogas – especially those in rural areas where there might not be as many large retailers to provide the fuel.
“Any retailer can get involved in it,” Schramm says. “It’s not as hard as it looks.”
According to Schramm, commitment is key to entering any new market – including autogas. He says business owners need to develop a plan for any new market they enter, and stick to the plan.
“If you choose a plan, you need the commitment to follow through and do whatever it takes to make it succeed,” Schramm says. “PERC gave us the tools to succeed, and in the end it was up to us to execute and make that happen.”
COMPANY: ProGas Inc.
OWNERS: Ronald Schramm, Judith Schramm, Thomas Kniss
HEADQUARTERS: Zelienople, Pa.
PROPANE SALES: 2.2 million annual gallons