Growth plan awaits small marketer from Wisconsin

June 28, 2013 By    

Roland Penta planned for the propane industry centennial celebration. Carl Hughes faced strong “headwinds” and the initial threats to propane’s traditional markets. Ray Murray helped to reshape the path for industry growth.

What will come next for the National Propane Gas Association’s (NPGA) newest chairman of the board?

“Now it falls to me and my fellow officers to implement the most ambitious plan in the 101-year history of the industry,” France said in his opening speech as chairman, during the mid-year board meeting June 17 in Washington, D.C., and prior to the annual Propane Days lobbying event.

That plan is called Vision 2014, a much-talked-about, $700,000 initiative designed to grow the industry through the utilization of outside lobbyists, agency outreach, communications and analytics. NPGA hoped to have it running at full speed by 2014 and working to counter lost gallons (25 percent since 2000) and employment (down 19 percent since 2001) within the industry.

France, owner of five-employee Wisconsin retailer France Propane Service, cited family, faith and the propane industry as most important to him. He talked about a changing industry, with fewer people working in propane and higher costs for equipment. The industry must find ways to be more productive, efficient and innovative, and “not let government get in our way,” he said.

In addition to France, three other 2013-14 officers were sworn in: David Lugar, chairman-elect, of AmeriGas; Charlie Ory, vice chairman, of Aero Propane; and Stuart Weidie, treasurer, of Blossman Gas.

Measuring success

Speaking of Vision 2014, there has been some question about how to measure its success. Texas is one such state wanting metrics that will gauge success of the industry’s large investment and 26 percent dues increase.

NPGA says it will provide regular updates at its executive committee and board meetings throughout the year.

Marketers speak out

One particular topic inciting significant reaction during the NPGA marketers meeting in Washington was the Certified Employee Training Program (CETP).

In March, newly awarded CETP certificates for completed training began displaying a date through which the certificate would remain valid – three years following the certificate issue date. A 60-minute discussion ensued, with NPGA getting a great deal of pushback from members not seeing the logic in adding life to the certificate.

Some fear certificate renewals would require paperwork and additional payments to the association, more than two years after per-test fees increased $25 (written) and $35 (online), to $85.

The CETP committee plans to revisit the issue in July.

Telling our story

Parity with natural gas was a key topic at Propane Days, and Blossman Gas President Stuart Weidie, NPGA’s new treasurer, says there’s one particular story the propane industry should tell.

Natural gas liquids (NGL), including propane, have made natural gas a viable product, Weidie told the board in Washington. NGLs, on which producers have focused because they are getting a better economic return, have resulted in an abundance of natural gas and helped lower the cost to consumers.

“We’re part of the reason natural gas is economical,” Weidie says.

Propane on Broadway

The Propane Education & Research Council (PERC), led by new chair Paula Wilson of AmeriGas, meets July 10-11 in New York.

Outgoing Chairman Joe Armentano of Paraco Gas says the council will face a couple of major issues in the months ahead. The biggest is the possible removal of the U.S. Department of Commerce restriction on PERC’s consumer education activities.

The second is how the council should spend its approximate $35 million budget, especially if it moves forward without the restriction, launches a new consumer education campaign and raises the assessment on propane at the point of odorization.

Brian Richesson

About the Author:

Brian Richesson is the editor in chief of LP Gas Magazine. Contact him at brichesson@northcoastmedia.net or 216-706-3748.

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