The Women in Propane “Through the Leadership Lens” podcast presented a live panel recording at the Southeastern Expo
A breakdown of the 2024 NPGA Southeastern Expo & the value of propane partnerships

In early April, members of the propane industry traveled distances small and large to gather in Charlotte, North Carolina, for the industry’s largest convention of the year. The 2024 Southeastern Convention & International Propane Expo featured valuable learning sessions, networking events and an expansive show floor filled with exhibitors showcasing their unique propane services and products.

This year’s expo was especially noteworthy for those familiar with the world of racing, as NASCAR hall-of-famer Rusty Wallace attended as this year’s keynote speaker. And if that wasn’t enough to pique the interest of racing fans, the expo took place next door to the NASCAR Hall of Fame. On a given day, you could find several members of the industry — including BPN’s own account executive, Landen Franklin — taking advantage of the ideal location as they put their skills to the test at the hall’s racing simulator.

Before “racing” to the show floor, attendees revved up their engines with opening remarks from the National Propane Gas Association (NPGA) President and CEO Steve Kaminski and the Propane Education & Research Council President and CEO Tucker Perkins. Kaminski drew further attention to the recently formed legal action committee and the legal steps it is taking to advocate for the propane industry.



NPGA President and CEO Steve Kaminski delivers the event’s opening remarks.
Image courtesy of SnapHappy Photos, Doug Stevens.

“With coalition partners, NPGA is currently involved in seven federal lawsuits, including ones against the U.S. Department of Energy, the state of Washington and the state of New York,” said Kaminski. “When I think about the formation of the committee and the work that it’s done at its onset … I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes, from legendary basketball player Bill Russell. He said, ‘The idea is not to block every shot; the idea is to make your opponent think you’re going to block every shot.’”

The legal action NPGA is taking is in step with the growing regulatory pressure on the use of gas-fueled products. In an often divisive media climate, Perkins called for further engagement from the propane community.

“When the [media] articles are positive, say, ‘Yes, I support that,’” said Perkins. “And when the articles are negative, jump right in there as well. Let’s dispel that myth … Let’s bring in all the facts that are relevant … We’ve had such success here with letters to the editor in having our story told again and again.”

Rinnai North America’s Renee Eddy and Dimeta’s Sophia Haywood speak at an information session on the ways innovation can help the propane industry meet decarbonization goals.
Rinnai North America’s Renee Eddy and Dimeta’s Sophia Haywood speak at a session.

Perhaps one of the best ways to begin engaging with those in your community about the role of propane in the energy sector is to take steps to further educate yourself and your team on the latest “hot topic” conversations taking place in the industry. The expo hosted several informational sessions, all featuring experts in their respective fields talking on issues and concepts that are directly impacting propane today — from the place of renewable propane and global decarbonization goals to the best marketing strategies for your brand to carve out a competitive edge.

Another immensely helpful resource at this year’s expo was the incredible opportunity to network with others in the propane industry. The BPN team was certainly not alone in enjoying seeing familiar faces, as well as meeting new ones. Participants continuously attested to the value of seeing propane partners and friends in person.

“One of the most valuable aspects of the expo for our team was the opportunity to connect and engage with numerous professionals in the industry,” said Anna Pantazi, communications officer at Dimeta. “We were able to establish meaningful connections and learn about the latest developments and innovations taking place.”

Forming these kinds of meaningful connections also makes business sense: prospective business agreements are approximately 34 times more likely to occur when conducted in person rather than over text or email, according to a 2017 Harvard Business Review article. In an energy sector that often struggles to find common ground, a tight-knit propane community that works happily and effectively together can help pave a way toward a more cohesive, open and inclusive environment.

And speaking of inclusivity, the Women in Propane’s “Through the Leadership Lens” podcast recorded its first live show at the expo on April 6. The live show was held in a roundtable format, with guest speakers Lauren Clark of Bergquist Inc., Christina Armentano of Paraco Gas Corp., John Peña of the Southeast Propane Alliance Technical Education Center, and Tamria Zertuche of Ferrellgas. Participants heard from the panel on the essential characteristics and demands of a leader inside and outside of the industry.

“Bridget and I have been hosting podcasts for Women in Propane for over a year, but this was our inaugural in-person event,” said Freddie Ridler, co-host of the roundtable discussion along with Bridget Kidd. “Seeing their expressions, feeling their energy, basking in their smiles — it truly resonated, especially as they shared insights at a profound leadership level. … What caught me off guard was how different it felt compared to our usual conversations with guests. Despite having spoken with them before, being face-to-face made the experience much more enjoyable.”

Women in Propane was not the only industry organization that made the most of being in-person. In addition to welcoming two new advisory board members — Rachel Wendt with Wendt’s Propane & Oil and Evan Meier with Destwin — Young Gassers kicked off the expo Friday night with its annual Young Gassers Reception. The event was held this year in the Bank of America Stadium, home to the NFL team, the Carolina Panthers. The ticketed reception included drinks, live entertainment and good conversation between young and not-so-young gassers alike, a picture of the kind of collaboration that will ensure the success of propane going forward.

As the industry continues to provide its customers with an efficient energy source, the race ahead will likely consist of conversing with an evolving customer base about the benefits of both traditional propane and the renewable iterations of the fuel. Fascinating research continues to be conducted on the uses of propane and ways to maximize the clean energy potential of the adaptable fuel source.

As Wallace reflected on his career as a NASCAR driver, he shared how his results were never a solo project — creating a legacy of success always requires a team effort. If the quality of collaboration displayed at this year’s expo is a sign of things to come, the propane industry has a bright future indeed.

Johnny Nickel is managing editor of Butane-Propane News magazine.


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