By Oliver Klinger, Publisher
Don W. Thorn, outgoing president of the Pipe Line Contractors Association and president of Welded Construction L.P. in Perrysburg, OH, welcomed delegates to the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale for the association’s 62nd annual convention. The weather cooperated for most of the meeting, staying in the low 70’s after a very cold winter across much of the U.S. and Canada.
This was Thorn’s 35th PLCA convention and he noted that 2009 “was a pretty good year,” with association members installing 3,600 miles of pipeline. Several projects were completed that had been under way for a few years including the Rockies Express (REX) pipeline. Industry dollar volume was approximately $7 billion, which was down about 20% from the previous year. There were 9 million U.A. manhours worked which was down
Thorn remarked that he didn’t expect to be attending the convention in 2010, because he was told in 1969 by a foreman for M.K. River that “the pipeline business was a totally mature industry and that he had better be looking somewhere else for a career.” Majoring in aeronautical engineering at the University Alabama, Thorn was looking for a full time job when Vernon Gayhart called him back to work in Kentucky in the spring of 1971. He met his wife in September of that year.
Research by Thorn showed that in the period 1967 – 1969, the U.A. worked 29.3 million manhours, which compares to 27.5 million in the 2007-2009 period. Apparently the industry produces a three-year boom every 40 years, he observed.
Looking ahead, Thorn noted that all four labor agreements expire at the end of 2010. “We’ve got to understand and face the issues, that very frankly, our other competitors do not face. We’re not dealing with the same rule book. PLCA members need to be able to meet schedules and budgets, produce quality work and we’ve got to do it safely.” He feels if contractors do quality work safely, the schedule and budget issues will also be met, as long as their clients “get their ducks in a row.
“We’ve got to remove the unsafe acts of our employees, remove the unsafe conditions our supervision might put them in and remove the unrealistic expectations they might perceive that we place on them.” He reiterated that the other issue members must address is the perceived, real or imagined, condition of quality that PHMSA has seen in projects for the past two or three years. “Education needs to go both ways,” Thorn noted and said that the INGAA Foundation is working on this issue.
“We need to educate our supervisors and our craft people that we truly do not have the time or money to do it over again.” He stressed that “safety must be a core value. It should be part of the value system we hold onto. Priorities change, values should not change.”
In mentioning the mentor’s in his life, Thorn said they included his father, Dick Mogg, who taught him there was no limit to what you could accomplish, if you didn’t care who got the credit for it and Mike Thiele who taught him the better you treat people the better results you get. And, last but not least, he paid tribute to his wife.
There were 648 attendees at the Scottsdale meeting where $231,000 was raised at the scholarship auction.
The 2011 convention will be held at the Ritz Carlton, Kapalua, Maui, HI, from February 22-26.
Officers and directors elected at the meeting to serve during 2010 are: PLCA President Brian Ganske, executive vice president, Snelson Companies Inc.; 1st vice president, Christopher T. Leines, president, Minnesota Limited Inc.; 2nd vice president M. Daniel Murphy, Precision Pipeline LLC; and treasurer. John Allen, Pipe Line Constructors LLC. J. Patrick Tielborg continues as PLCA managing director and general counsel. The PLCA office is located in Dallas.
Directors for 2010 are: Robert I. “Bob” Johnston, Henkels & McCoy Inc.; Bill Leone, Delta Gulf Corporation; Bernie Bermack, Associated Pipe Line Contractors Inc.; Ronnie F. Wise, Price Gregory International Inc.; Robert H. Westphal, Michels Corporation; Scott E. Summers, ARB Inc.; Charles P. Joyce, Otis Eastern Service Inc.; John Allen, Pipe Line Constructor LLC; and Don Thorn, president, Welded Construction L.P.
Past presidents and honorary members attending included: Norris Anders, Peter Billey, C. Dennis Bingham, Tom Carpenter, Jeff Coolsaet, Paul Evans, Paul Gregory, Robert I. Johnson, Charles H. Joyce, Charles P. Joyce, Earl Kesner, W.A. “Bill” Leone, R.H. Mogg, Ben Montgomery, R. Dale Morris, Warren Mulkey, William Murphy, Jim Nolan, Mark Osadchuk, David Sheehan, Paul Somerville, Dave Stotz, Scott Summers, Mike Thiele, George Thompson, Bob Westphal and Tom White.