LP Gas Hall of Fame introduces Class of 2023

December 13, 2022 By and    

Three years have passed since LP Gas announced a new group of exceptional propane leaders poised to enter the LP Gas Hall of Fame. So it’s with added pleasure that we introduce the Class of 2023.

Steve Ahrens of the Missouri Propane Gas Association; Tom Jaenicke of ATomiK Creative Solutions; Billy Prim, formerly of Blue Rhino; and Don Schultz of former retailer Schultz Gas Service will be recognized at a black-tie induction dinner and awards ceremony April 22 at the Omni Nashville Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee, preceding the Southeastern Propane Expo.

For more information about the LP Gas Hall of Fame and to purchase tickets to the event, visit lpgashalloffame.com.

Steve Ahrens – Missouri Propane Gas Association

Headshot: Steve Ahrens


Steve Ahrens has led the Missouri Propane Gas Association (MPGA) and its related organizations for more than 23 years. He has continually evaluated the role a state association plays on behalf of its members and has moved the focus from traditional expectations into opportunities of greater visibility, outreach and impact. In the process, he has brought about advances that benefit propane marketers everywhere.

Ahrens has represented his members and marketers by consistent attendance at Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) and National Propane Gas Association meetings. Outspoken and engaged, he’s an advocate for issues of importance both to his constituents and for his executive director peers. Through this involvement, he has earned a reputation for sound judgment, persuasive reasoning and pioneering vision among colleagues.

Under Ahrens’ leadership, Missouri has either created locally or spurred the development nationally of industry programming. More than a decade ago, Ahrens gathered executive directors and state trainers from six other states in Kansas City, Missouri, to benchmark state propane education programs. Today, PERC’s National Propane Education & Training Conference has assumed that role and reaches hundreds of industry educators.

Also, like other states, Missouri offers appliance rebate programs, but today the state’s residential outreach includes a “Welcome Home” marketing campaign, a “Propane HomePro” construction tie-in and a “Propane TechTeam” equipment and training component for high school building trades classes.

Industry colleagues relate that Ahrens is a supporter of strategic partnerships and multi-state collaborations, such as regional trade shows and workforce development programs. Ahrens’ board members remark on his effective servant leadership, his sense of humor and an overriding focus on taking appropriate risks that can benefit the industry.

Ahrens, 65, lives in Jefferson City, Missouri. In addition to his longtime role as head of Missouri’s propane organizations (MPGA, MOPERC, MLPGA Inc.), he assumed leadership of the Arkansas Propane Gas Association in June 2022.

Tom Jaenicke – ATomiK Creative Solutions

Tom Jaenicke’s path in propane is well-worn and his depth of experience in all facets of the industry well-earned.

Headshot: Tom Jaenicke


He began his propane career manning the bottle dock for Fuelgas, a private propane operation in Michigan. He drove bobtails and cylinder trucks, installed tanks and piping systems, and serviced furnaces and boilers. He became a branch manager, area manager, and eventually led marketing and advertising at company headquarters in Flint.

Over the course of his career, Jaenicke cultivated a passion for propane appliances and their gallon-growth potential. That passion would lead him to establish a wholesale equipment distribution company that specialized in gas space heating and water heating equipment, hearth products, kitchen and laundry appliances and outdoor grills.

All the while, he moved through various positions in retail propane management, including vice president of operations and vice president of sales and marketing for Ferrellgas.

In 2005, after more than three decades of experience in the retail propane business, Jaenicke started his own energy consulting company, ATomiK Creative Solutions.

His exceptional dedication to volunteerism meant Jaenicke was involved in notable national initiatives. He chaired the Propane Education & Research Council’s first consumer education advisory committee, which formed the “Energy Guys” marketing campaign. He served on the National Propane Gas Association’s board of directors and its executive committee, in addition to chairing its convention and governmental affairs committees and the services section.

Nancy Coop, LP Gas Hall of Famer and founding chair of the Women in Propane Council, credits Jaenicke for first proposing the idea of a women’s business council for the propane industry.

Today, Jaenicke continues to serve as a trusted adviser in the areas of marketing, technical subjects, business development and succession planning through his affiliations with Warm Thoughts Communications, Blue Peak Resources and the Renewable Propane Alliance.

A subject matter expert on energy efficiency, economics and sustainable energy, he writes for a range of energy industry publications, including LP Gas.

Jaenicke, 74, lives in Charlevoix, Michigan.

Billy Prim – Blue Rhino

Headshot: Billy Prim


Billy Prim founded what has become the nation’s largest propane cylinder exchange company. In the process, he helped increase consumer access to barbecue grill cylinders and create new propane users who learned about the versatility and portability of propane.

It all started during an African photo safari, the company explains. Prim saw a rhino during the safari and thought it looked like a propane tank. He added “blue” to the name, depicting the color of a propane flame. Blue Rhino opened in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, in 1994.

Prim grew the brand through relationships with big box retailers and a nationwide network of independent distributors. Blue Rhino grew from just a handful of locations to about 29,000 selling locations in 49 states and Puerto Rico when it merged with Ferrellgas in 2004. Later that year, as Prim began his transition out of the propane industry, he founded Primo Water.

His legacy in the propane industry lives on, as Blue Rhino propane exchange is available at more than 60,000 locations across the U.S.

Not only did Prim and Blue Rhino help fuel Americans’ love of backyard grilling, but they also expanded the use of propane through other products, including patio heaters, fire pits and mosquito traps.

Prim helped inspire the creation of the National Propane Gas Association’s Cylinder Exchange Council, and he served as its first chairman.

Prim, 66, resides in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, and remains active in Primo Water.

Don Schultz – Schultz Gas Service

Headshot: Don Schultz


Don Schultz, who owned Schultz Gas Service in Lansing, Illinois, made an impact in the areas of industry safety and industrial market growth.

Schultz, operating a single location in the Chicago area, represented the voice of the independent marketer at the state and national levels in the 1960s and ’70s. His voice was one of reason, inclusivity and friendliness, and helped create a positive image for the industry.

Schultz built that image on safety. In fact, he dedicated his 1978-79 term as president of the National LP Gas Association (NLPGA) to safety. He became president that year after having served for 11 years on the NLPGA board of directors, including four years on its executive committee.

Schultz also volunteered his time to the safety, technology and standards, and research and development committees of the NLPGA; the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) Committee on LP-Gases; and as a director with the Illinois LP-Gas Association.

Schultz conducted classes to educate others about the safe installation of LPG carburetion systems on vehicles. He also developed a safe and efficient system to refill forklift cylinders at the customer’s location. This helped pave the way for the company to pursue the industrial market when much of the domestic load was lost to natural gas.

Schultz is a 1983 winner of the NLPGA’s Distinguished Service Award. It honored him particularly for “his leadership and guidance in achieving good industry safe practices and in the development of new technologies.”

A native of Lansing, Illinois, Schultz died in 2009 at age 77.

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