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Tom Brown: Having labored in this wonderful industry of ours for over 40 years, I have worked with, published magazines for, and generally watched all of our trade associations and groups, flourish, flounder, grow, diminish, or move ahead in a steady fashion. Two qualities have always been major ingredients for ensuring success: strong visionary association leadership and very active membership participation. The PVF Roundtable has been a unique phenomenon because of these characteristics and other contributing factors.
In order to fully understand the PVF Roundtable’s remarkable growth and achievements during a time when other groups and association’s membership and importance waned, we should look at and examine the Roundtable’s history. As far as I’m concerned, there is only one man who can tell the story, my great friend and industry icon Morris Beschloss.
Morrie started in the industry more than 60 years ago making me, a 40 year veteran, look like a piker. He goes back to the time the American Institute and Central States Association were still separate. Jim Peery of CSA combined both to what subsequently has become American Supply Association (ASA). Jim was a great association leader, probably the all-time best. ASA had more than 10,000 members at that time and he and Morrie were great friends. Jim often sought Morrie’s advice and opinions on industry matters.
Besides being an industry sage, Morrie has been an activist, putting his wit, wisdom, and boundless energy behind many worthwhile causes. He was a founder of AIM, where he hired and fired Jule Thomas. It later became AIM/R, the preeminent group for industry manufacture representatives. He was very active with and helped preserve “Plumbing Heating and Cooling Information Bureau” the industry’s public-relations arm. Morrie has had a long relationship with ASA and today is their Chief Economist. Specifically with the Roundtable, Morrie has “The Beschloss Moment” at every quarterly meeting. He has been on The Board of Directors for years and is a member emeritus.
I recently called Morrie to discuss the PVF Roundtable’s history of tremendous growth and success and a very interesting narrative is the result:
Morris Beschloss: While much has lately been written about the PVF Roundtable, with the recognized PVF Hall of Fame providing its latest addition to this proud combination of manufacturers, distributors, end users, contractors, and specifiers, etc. , the amazing 30-year growth of this acknowledged networking focus is truly legendary.
Founded in 1986 by beloved, long-time industry veteran, Sid Westbrook, co-founder of Westbrook Manufacturing Company, to provide focused identity to the often overlooked pipe-valve-fittings sector, it has since become the organizational apex of those associated with this multi-billion dollar, energy-oriented industry segment.
With Sid Westbrook’s farsighted vision and drive to personalize this concept through educational sessions in Houston, Westbrook’s home base, as well as Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and Chicago, Westbrook soon realized that a central location in Houston, the world’s acknowledged energy capital, would give this small, original focus the attention necessary for growth. With such success in mind, Sid generously provided the startup financial and executive leadership to get regular educational group sessions off the ground.
Although the idea of a distinct pipe-valve-fittings educational center received Westbrook’s full attention, the addition of industry veteran, Don Caffee, who specialized in industry personnel placement, gave it a strong push forward by the end of the Roundtable’s first decade.
I was Caffee’s former Lukenheimer Valve boss, and in the interim I had become an industry advisor and publicist. Caffee subsequently interested me, along with Gary Cartright, head of Piping & Equipment, and Sheryl Michalak who, along with her father, had founded Welding Outlets, Inc. in the late 1990’s. Working together, we spread the word of this new PVF sector centrum and began to hold monthly informational sessions at Houston’s Hess Club.
But with the untimely death of Caffee, the astute Sheryl and Piping & Equipment’s Gary Cartright persuaded me to become actively involved in spreading the word throughout the industry here and abroad through his many contacts.
In fact, Sheryl, the only PVF Hall of Fame female manufacturing CEO in this growing industry, provided most of the personnel power, as well as much of her time, to move the Roundtable’s identity forward. This, in turn, attracted other significant industry executives to lend time, effort, and energy to make up a governing board of directors.
With the founding father, Sid Westbrook’s health preventing his previously intense involvement, Fluor executive Ron Merrick was named President, and was subsequently succeeded by Sid’s son, Danny Westbrook.
But with the growing impact of the global industry’s stupendous energy development of the past decade, despite the most recent “glut” setbacks, the past five years have witnessed a “Roundtable recognition” rarely duplicated by other aspects of America’s diverse manufacturing sectors.
From an average monthly attendance of 60 a short 10 years ago at the Hess Club, the Roundtable has grown to four massive quarters with meetings attended by an average of 500. By networking and attracting such outstanding speakers as Jack Gerard, head of the American Peroleum Institute, John Hofmeister, former CEO of Shell Oil, and now head of Citizens for Energy, in addition to industry titan Don McNeeley, these quarter annual meetings have become the gathering place for industry activists at all levels, both from the U.S. and abroad.
In addition to awarding substantial scholarships to worthy students heading for such universities as Texas A&M, which provide industry-related programs, an annual “Don Caffee” golf outing and a “fishing soiree” in October on the part of those interested, have become regular supplemental activities.
A board of directors comprised of industry leaders, together with a new President, Joe Pro, CEO of Pennsylvania Machinery, elected by the Board, are now well organized to take this legendary organization to ever greater industry heights, keeping pace with the ever expanding global energy industry’s growth.