Walking down an aisle separating two sides of sectioned-off meeting spaces, one can hear a controlled buzz of conversation taking place between propane retailers and equipment/service vendors.
A mixture of conversation styles is evident – from serious dialogue in one space, to an educational, show-and-tell meeting in another, to a lighthearted, laughter-filled exchange in yet another. There are 10 spaces in this ballroom where propane industry members are networking and discussing business deals.
Every 20 minutes, the attendees – 24 propane retailers representing 19 companies – are reminded by an announcement that it’s time to move to another meeting space within the ballroom, to meet the next vendor and see where their discussions might take them. Attendees’ one-on-one meeting schedules have been prearranged, so it’s simply a matter of finding the nearby location of their next appointment.
This is the model for the first LP Gas Growth Summit, a unique networking event that the magazine’s parent company, North Coast Media, launched in the golf course and landscaping industries over the last several years. The event is designed to provide an intimate setting for industry members to come together – through these one-on-one meetings, as well as through other networking functions – and uncover business solutions.
To truly explain the basis for this event, we must look back on the propane industry’s recent history.
The downward trend in propane gallon sales since 2000 is no secret to those within the industry. Sales fell significantly between 2000 and 2012 – from more than 12 billion gallons to 7.7 billion, respectively, according to the American Petroleum Institute (API). Though gallon sales finally moved upward to 8.8 billion in 2013, the latest year for available API data, the propane industry has worked through the years to overcome a slower economy and housing market, energy competition, customer conservation and appliance efficiency gains.
With the changes taking place in today’s energy environment and threats impacting propane’s traditional markets, we felt the time was right to launch such an event to help promote gallon growth across newer segments of our industry.
Even as our traditional markets have been hit hard in recent years, opportunities remain. With domestic production of propane sourced from the nation’s shale plays and natural gas processing plants soaring to new heights, the industry has product available right here, right now to grow markets. There hasn’t been a better time to tout the benefits of propane to customers old and new, and prospects waiting in the wings.
Forecasts are bright for on- and off-road engine fuel applications. New federal energy-efficiency standards seem to favor propane-fueled water heaters, especially tankless models. And the continued propane industry shift toward technology will only help companies enhance efficiencies and satisfy customers.
Through the LP Gas Growth Summit, we have sought to create a forum for propane retailers and equipment companies to explore these growth areas together, form partnerships that will boost their businesses and, at the same time, steer the industry successfully into this new energy era.