Pinnacle no more

July 1, 2006 By    

Like the annual meeting in Chicago and the Northeast Convention before it, Pinnacle – the propane industry’s premier educational conference – is now just a footnote in the industry archives.

At its June meeting in San Antonio, just one day before the final Pinnacle Conference program, the National Propane Gas Association board of directors terminated the conference because of declining attendance and a desire to consolidate meeting travel.

 Patrick Hyland
Patrick Hyland

The decision raises some thorny issues that concern me and other NPGA Convention Committee members with whom I have been talking.

Pinnacle was created 11 years ago as a forum to provide propane marketers, manufacturers and distributors an opportunity to meet and share insights on how to stimulate the growth of their individual businesses and the industry overall. It helped upper managers formulate new tactics and approaches to meeting customer needs, and ultimately ensure a successful, prosperous future.

NPGA’s plan is to move the event’s general session, keynote speakers and topical seminars to the April Southeastern Convention and International Trade Show in Atlanta. The association’s board meeting, inaugural luncheon and chairman’s dinner will be moved to Washington, D.C. in conjunction with the annual Propane Days event in May.

Association members in the western half of the country already are complaining about the proximity of the lone remaining functions. As Pinnacle, the conference moved around every year, bringing educational programs to California, Florida, Louisiana, Nevada, Colorado, Arizona and Texas since 1995.

Suggestions have been made to periodically move the Southeastern Show to alternate locations to fill that void. The host states that have built the tradition of that event will never let that happen.

Pinnacle attendance fell from more than 600 seven years ago to just over 300 last month. Consolidation in the industry and the cost of event registration and travel certainly weighed heavily in those numbers.

Neither Propane Days nor the Southeastern Show is immune to those influences, however. Total attendees and exhibitors in Atlanta was 3,750 in 2005, down from 4,050 in 1999. Likewise, Propane Days drew 154 attendees this year – about half as many as its inaugural year in 2005.

In my years on the Conventions Committee since 1999, we have had a number of intense discussions about the role and viability of Pinnacle. Each one of them concluded that it was worth trying to save and grow.

For the industry’s sake, I hope the proposed changes prove us wrong.

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