Carpenter Builds New Bridges
Outgoing NACS chairman forged links to fuel resources, high-tech firms.
His name may be Carpenter, butas the past year’s NACS chairmansteps down, what he helpedbuild is less about physical structures and moreabout the informational bridges connecting theindustry to communities and businesses at large.Among the milestones are the establishment of NACS’ new FuelsInstitute think tank, stronger links to technology companies inSilicon Valley and a more grounded strategy for the industry toaddress growth in local communities. For Dave Carpenter, thepresident and CEO of J.D. Carpenter Cos. Inc., Urbandale, Iowa,it has been a year of paving a pathway for sharing ideas.
Q: So how would you assess your year as chairman?
A: It’s been an amazing year to look back on, with all the travelingand the people I’ve met from so many different communities.And it’s a compliment to NACS that I can participate and have itbe more of a pleasure than a burden.
Q: Let’s reconnect with some of your past goals and whatyou’ve been able to achieve.
A: One of the goals was the creation of the Fuels Institute. Wewere able to recruit a board and establish the leadership that’snow in place, giving the industry a formal think tank to help bothour channel and the general public consider and give weight toimportant fuel-related issues. The work it has begun in this shorttime will propel NACS into a more proactive role. It’ll help theassociation become more engaged beforehand, as issues develop.
Q: That’s great to hear. Down what other paths has yourchairmanship taken you?
A: One of the more rewarding directions we’ve gone into isengaging the technology community and introducing ourselvesas a voice for the industry. We’ve gone on two trips to SiliconValley, with a third planned. We’ve met with technology firms tochallenge them and help them devise creative solutions to ourindustry’s problems. One of the firms we visited was developingelectric cars. It was eye-opening. And if we weren’t out there,meeting with these companies face to face, theywould not have thought of us. They’re developinginnovations that affect our industry, things likesupercharger stations. Not one c-store chain hasthe kind of presence that would draw them in. Sowe felt it was incumbent upon NACS to engagethem on that level.
Q: What are some of the more prominent technologiesmoving into our channel?
A: There are many: mobile wallets, mobile payment, social media,price searching tools, GPS. These technologies are combining towhere you have a mapping technology that leads you to a stationand allows you to pay. The challenge becomes: How does the gasand convenience channel become a part of that discussion? Wecan make introductions to chains who may want to test thesetechnologies. We can educate as well as learn more about what’sout there.
Q: Fuels and technology are important categories. Werethere others areas you explored this year?
A: A third issue we’ve started working on is communications tolocal entities: neighborhood associations, municipalities, citiesand towns. It’s fighting the “not in my backyard,” or “NIMBY,”issue. It’s educating homeowners’ associations and planning andzoning committees. It’s an issue about perception and how peopleview the channel. In many communities, we’re still perceived asnot healthy, selling food of low quality. But as we build new stores,we’re starting to sell quality food with more nutritional value. Thelast store I built, I had to fight the zoning board. And in the end,they loved the final result. So we’re starting to work on materialsrelating to that.
Q: Any last thoughts as your term comes to an end?
A: It’s all about driving the bus vs. taking a back seat. Whetherit’s the Fuels Institute, embracing the technology movement orhelping create stronger relationships within our communities, wehave to be engaged. I hope those efforts continue.