This month, the National Propane Gas Association’s Southeastern Convention & International Propane Expo returns to Nashville, Tennessee. Ahead, hear from several exhibitors on their expectations for the show, decades of memories from the show floor, what they expect to discuss with other exhibitors and attendees alike, and more.
- What: NPGA 2023 Southeastern Convention & International Propane Expo
- When: April 23-25
- Where: Music City Center, Nashville, Tennessee
As we celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Expo, what have been some of your favorite show memories over the years?
We’ve enjoyed walking the expo floor and seeing how companies have grown and changed over time. The capabilities of hardware and software alike have become more and more diverse over the years, and it’s inspiring to see just how much time, effort and passion these B2B businesses put into their energy industry offerings. — John Ratchford, manager of sales and business development, Cargas, Booth 743
The NPGA Southeastern Expo has always been one of those shows that brings the best networking to the show floor. Over the years, we have met with so many current customers, partners and future customers. I always look forward to a busy few days and some great conversations. — John F. Coyle, vice president of sales, ADD Systems, Booth 401
This will be my 14th year at the show (excepting 2020) and it is always nice to see our industry friends! One of my favorite memories is the year our beloved Bill Young (who passed away last year) was inducted to the LPGas Hall of Fame. Not only was he an all-around awesome guy, but he contributed so much to the propane industry over his 55-year career. I still remember the smile on his face that night! — Crystelle Markley, marketing director, Superior Energy Systems, Booth 319
I have been attending the show since I was young, maybe seven or eight. Back then, I looked forward to filling vendor bags with candy, pens and other goodies. My favorite memories have been the fun times spent with our employees, our customers and our vendors on a business level and developing long-lasting friendships that we look forward to seeing each year. — Lauren Clark, president and CEO, Bergquist, Booth 543
Seeing great friends and colleagues is always a highlight of the expo. I look back fondly over our growth of autogas and the seminars I have spoken at and attended. I have also personally appreciated the military veteran speakers and recruiting events that have taken place to recognize our fellow service members. I am a veteran of the United States Army.
— Warren Patterson, vice president, commercial business development, AmeriGas, Booth 456
At the 2018 Expo, Alliance AutoGas performed a live propane conversion on one of our FORD F750 bobtails on the exhibit hall floor in Atlanta, Georgia. It was awesome to have so many people in attendance to watch the conversion. We received so many compliments on how nice the truck looked. People also noticed how we used the wrap designed for that truck as a way to market propane and our brand. — Dan Richardson, president and CEO, Conger LP Gas Inc.
My favorite memories are about meeting customers and getting insight into the many unique challenges they face. — Glen MacGibbon, senior vice president of sales and marketing, Rochester Sensors, Booth 737
We enjoy bringing new, innovative products and ideas to the show. Some specific highlights would have been the release of our Ergoload Deck, Proline LT Transport, Blueline QX Bobtail, Pathway Delivery System and the Blueline Distribution Trailer. The other half of our memories consists of relationship-building with our teammates and customers on the show floor and the great memories that are made when the floor closes each day. It is simultaneously the most exhausting and most rewarding experience as it all comes together each year. — Mandi Carlberg, marketing communications manager, Westmor Industries, Booth T1208
Revealing our F750 ROUSH CleanTech autogas bobtail last year was exciting. This year we are proud to showcase that bobtail after one year in service, along with a new autogas-powered F550 Service Truck. — Monte McLeod, director of autogas, ThompsonGas, Booth 553
For the first ever NPGA Southeastern Expo we attended, we drove all the way from Montreal, Canada, to Nashville, Tennessee, with our booth in the back of a pickup truck. We got to meet so many future customers and industry leaders. — Andre Boulay, president, Otodata, Booth 853
I have two: All of us as a team, going to our partner Growmark’s axe-throwing event and walking around getting to know the people who share our industry space better — and eating hotdogs. Hanging out at Robert’s Western world with our friends at Bergquist. Breaking bread and getting to know partners, customers and even our own team members on a personal level is the most important thing. And secondly, being out on the dance floor, two-stepping to country music with my work colleagues is as fun as anything. Here’s the punchline: At Anova, we came together from six different companies over five years ago — showing our togetherness in one boot scootin’ boogie night of dancing is better than a whole year of sitting in meetings. It is an expo thing we do — and we love it! — Eric Duckworth, vice president of sales, Anova, Booth 409
Collecting Young Gassers Reception swag — the German Bavarian hat in Atlanta, the big ole’ cowboy hat last year in Nashville, and as the Diamond Sponsor again in 2023, Anova will be providing the best-ever, never-taking-it-off, non-hat swag. Get your ticket; show up early; thank us later! — Bridget Paraino, senior vice president of customer growth, Anova, Booth 409
If you’ve been exhibiting for 10 years or longer, what notable changes have you observed over the years?
Two of the big changes is venue change — adding in Nashville to the mix — and the consolidation of companies throughout the propane industry. — Mike Gray, vice president of sales and marketing, Crum & Forster, Booth 812
It’s been fun to watch the industry grow and change over the years. Not that we don’t love our long-timers, but it’s been refreshing to see some younger generations entering and engaging. Our industry has been fantastic about embracing them and encouraging them to join us and share their ideas! — Mandi Carlberg, marketing communications manager, Westmor Industries, Booth T1208
Autogas has obviously established a growing presence over the past 10 years, with the number of autogas equipment suppliers growing with demand. Being in that industry, it is neat to see the product development on both the vehicle and infrastructure sides. It has also been neat to watch propane become a viable part of long-term sustainability goals for our country. — Crystelle Markley, marketing director, Superior Energy Systems, Booth 319
The change to alternating the expo between Atlanta and Nashville has brought new life to the event. We believe that introducing Charlotte, North Carolina, to the mix of host cities next year will only increase excitement for the show. — Lauren Clark, president and CEO, Bergquist, Booth 543
I have been attending for 12 years and have absolutely noticed the emergence of telemetry as a common technology, as well as more and more human resource and recruiting tools and strategies. — Warren Patterson, vice president, commercial business development, AmeriGas, Booth 456
The biggest change we’ve seen is more technology coming to the industry. It’s not just software and tech companies like Cargas on the expo floor; technology is integrating with the equipment used broadly throughout the industry. — John Ratchford, manager of sales and business development, Cargas, Booth 743
Without question it is the use of social media to connect with prospects and customers. — Glen MacGibbon, senior vice president of sales and marketing, Rochester Sensors, Booth 737
The biggest change would be that most of us never thought the expo would leave Atlanta and travel to other places. Alternating with Nashville has revitalized the Southeastern Expo. — Dan Richardson, president and CEO, Conger LP Gas Inc.
In our 15 years exhibiting at the show, the change we have noticed is the expansion from trucks and tanks to today’s wide array of solutions and technology. While the show remains centered around serving the nation’s propane marketers, today the event is larger and more diverse. This is truly a reflection of the evolution and digitization of the business and all the new players that support this growth and transformation. — Bridget Paraino, senior vice president of customer growth, Anova, Booth 409
The changing venues have been nice for keeping the show fresh, and while I have missed having the Masters attract an audience to our booth when the dates changed, I have also noticed the caliber of attendees continues to get better each year. — John F. Coyle, vice president of sales, ADD Systems, Booth 401
What industry trends do you expect to be the topics of conversation at the event?
I expect this year we will hear lots of talk about decarbonization and how we can and should band together as an industry to educate ourselves and fight the “electrify everything” movement. Industry mentorship will also be widely discussed, as a new cohort of the Knowledge Exchange will be kicking off a two-week sign up starting at the expo on April 24. We are fortunate to offer mentorship to our entire industry that is being funded by the NPGA. — Lauren Clark, president and CEO, Bergquist, Booth 543
The “electrify everything movement,” off-season gallon opportunities and renewable propane. — Crystelle Markley, marketing director, Superior Energy Systems, Booth 319
Renewables and retention and recruiting are two headlines for sure, as the entire industry is continuing to consider the changes involved with renewable energy and how to retain and recruit great people. — Warren Patterson, vice president, commercial business developent, AmeriGas, Booth 456
The trends we expect to discuss more are artificial intelligence and machine learning; hiring and retention; inflation; and supply chain disruption. — John Ratchford, manager of sales and business development, Cargas, Booth 743
1) Weather is always a hot topic as it affects sales of propane and how drivers are able to navigate. 2) Drivers. This is a topic that remains top-of-mind as companies continue to have difficulty finding drivers — especially younger drivers — to join the propane industry. 3) Continued effort in certain states to downsize propane and push electric. The latest issue is trying to ban gas ranges. — Mike Gray, vice president of sales and marketing, Crum & Forster, Booth 812
There are still interesting things happening with the supply chain. We’ve “lovingly” started calling it the game of whack-a-mole — one thing gets resolved only to have another thing pop up. All of us continue to work through it. We also anticipate plenty of conversations around renewable energy, biofuels and how propane fits into that mix. — Mandi Carlberg, marketing communications manager, Westmor Industries, Booth T1208
The panel discussions by industry experts on supply and distribution will be a very big topic this year, as there are so many unknowns about the future of propane supply. Of course, topics concerning the electrification of everything will also be well-attended. — Dan Richardson, president and CEO, Conger LP Gas Inc.
We are noticing the increased awareness in the many ways propane can work together with other energy sources to provide that perfect energy mix. Autogas is the perfect bridge fuel, and there is plenty of room for it in the energy mix! — Monte McLeod, director of autogas, ThompsonGas, Booth 553
One of the topics I foresee being discussed a lot this year is customer satisfaction and retention through smart technologies like mobile apps. — Andre Boulay, president, Otodata, Booth 853
The ongoing discussions of supply and demand will be hot topics. With the warmer winter this year on the East Coast, a lot of people will be sure to talk about the future of the industry and where we are headed. Additionally, I expect to hear from companies who are looking to be more efficient in their operations in the coming years to battle the challenges to their businesses. — John F. Coyle, vice president of sales, ADD Systems, Booth 401
The future of our industry has increasingly become a prime topic of discussion. State and local level legislation aims to drive a sustainable future, and this impacts NPGA members, currently, to varying degrees. There is considerable work underway around the world to develop and supply clean, bio and renewable energy sources. The hottest topics at events of this scale continue to be what we can and should do today and over the coming years in terms of our sustainable future and the impact on our businesses. Propane marketers have far more data at their fingertips than ever before enabled by a fundamental industry shift toward the widespread use of tank monitoring. This has enabled new insight. However, as the data proliferates, artificial intelligence-based advanced analytics, such as Anova Advanced Analytics, will be key to getting the most out of the data and facilitating data mining-based, intelligent peak shaving. Aside from running more efficient, profitable businesses, operators are also better able to support their state associations and advocacy groups with data-driven insight and information enabled by new technology. It is exciting to see this translate into broader uses of propane, such as getting kids safely to and from school in clean-burning, propane-powered school buses. — Bridget Paraino, senior vice president of customer growth, Anova, Booth 409
I believe visitors will talk about the continuing demand in the residential, commercial and transportation markets. This is being driven by automating the tank sensor (liquid level) reading process. By automating the reading process, the propane marketer can better understand specific demand needs of each customer and realize significant cost reductions while increasing customer satisfaction. This is one of the most transformative improvements in memory for the industry. — Glen MacGibbon, senior vice president of sales and marketing, Rochester Sensors, Booth 737
What is the most important aspect or feature the show provides the industry?
NPGA shows and meetings are where the industry goes for propane news. There’s a lot of information shared out that gets everyone on the same page so the industry can continue to be a united front. And it’s a great place to see so many of customers at the same time. If you visited each one individually, you’d be visiting a lot more places than Nashville. — Mandi Carlberg, marketing communications manager, Westmor Industries, Booth T1208
The opportunity to meet the major stakeholders in the propane industry. Learn about the latest in technologies, including emerging environmental trends and emerging green fuel options. — Glen MacGibbon, senior vice president of sales and marketing, Rochester Sensors, Booth 737
A chance to network and connect with friends and colleagues, and several opportunities to learn from the best in our industry. — Warren Patterson, vice president, commercial business development, AmeriGas, Booth 456
Making personal connections with others in our industry; seeing the latest innovations; and gathering information and creating new customer insight for our next level advances in technology. — Bridget Paraino, senior vice president of customer growth, Anova, Booth 409
The show brings out the best in our industry, and we come together to discuss our collective challenges. But we also get to share our collective strengths, helping one another to head home with new ideas and to be armed with successful plans for the year. — John F. Coyle, vice president of sales, ADD Systems, Booth 401
Innovation does not happen in a vacuum, even if that vacuum is an entire company. Presentations, product demos and conversations with fuel dealers and HVAC service professionals help us keep a pulse on the big issues impacting the energy industry. It’s great to see every industry leader and expert under one roof and learn from their stories. — John Ratchford, manager of sales and business development, Cargas, Booth 743
For me, it’s the chance to network with other marketers and have face-to-face discussions with our vendors about new products. — Dan Richardson, president and CEO, Conger LP Gas Inc.
The expo is always a well-executed show with the biggest turnout, and it’s where we are sure to connect with more customers and industry leaders than any other show during the year. — Andre Boulay, president, Otodata, Booth 853
What is your best advice for newer show attendees on navigating their time spent at the show versus handling normal workloads?
Be curious and don’t be shy about asking questions. If you do this, you will enrich your life and those with whom you work. — Glen MacGibbon, senior vice president of sales and marketing, Rochester Sensors, Booth 737
In terms of managing workload, when you get that one figured out, let the rest of us know. We are exhibitors, so what we’ve observed many attendees doing is making their first day a quick walk through the entire floor, getting their bearings and making notes of where they need to stop with the questions they have. In the evening, they plan their route, and the next day, they go back and visit the spots they mapped out. — Mandi Carlberg, marketing communications manager, Westmor Industries, Booth T1208
Do your homework before you go. First, delegate as much as you can of your normal daily duties to someone at your office before you leave. This will allow you to focus on being on the floor, instead of spending time on the phone with the people back at your office. Also, contact some of your main vendors and ask them if they are bringing anything new that should be discussed. Contact a fellow marketer that you respect and ask them what they are going to be looking for and if they have tips for navigating the show. — Dan Richardson, president and CEO, Conger LP Gas Inc.
Have a plan. It always seems that the time passes quickly because everyone is trying to do a lot within a short time. Visit with people you know, attend educational sessions, visit with exhibitors, go to dinner, participate in meetings, take care of business and have fun. Without exhibitors, there is not a show, so we recommend taking quality time to learn about the products and services that each one has to offer. — Mike Gray, vice president of sales and marketing, Crum & Forster, Booth 812