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SIGMA: America’s Leading Fuel Marketers is a unique group of approximately 260 regular marketer member companies, with associate members including fuel suppliers, financial services suppliers, transport providers and fleet card companies. Together, SIGMA’s members have built a thriving association that is known for its education and networking opportunities, and its political voice on Capitol Hill. SIGMA’s strength has been its members’ willingness to share new ideas and best practices with each other online or at meetings hosted by the organization throughout the year.
I have worked in the fuel marketing industry for more than 45 years, and over the years, the industry has evolved as new technologies emerged. New products and features help us do business faster, more efficiently and better overall. One of the key contributors to our organizational success has been our continued involvement in SIGMA. Through networking and attending countless meetings and events over the years, many on our staff have benefitted from the knowledge and experience of experts across the industry. In 2012, we expanded this priceless commodity of shared brainpower through our online networking tool, SIGMA Exchange.
On SIGMA Exchange, you can ask questions, search the member directory and find archived resources such as past IGM articles or meeting presentations. Each SIGMA committee has its own private community to do their work. They share documents, continue discussions from in-person events and prepare for future meetings.
Over the years, SIGMA’s educational and networking opportunities have expanded to more than a dozen share groups, special interest groups and masters programs, but it’s difficult to touch on all the specialized areas within the fuel marketing business. We already have more than 40 focused communities set to open over the next two years, and this list will continue to grow and expand with the fuel marketing industry.
SIGMA Exchange will be the easy way for us to stay fluid and move quickly with the industry. As SIGMA Exchange continues to grow, there will be a place for everyone in each SIGMA member company to get involved and connect with their peers across the country.
Robust discussions are taking place in the Human Resources, Environmental & Maintenance, Information Technology, Mobile Refueling, Young Executives and Trucking & Transportation groups. SIGMA Exchange is for all member companies’ employees -- even if they have never attended an in-person SIGMA event. Budgets and heavy workloads may prohibit them from attending events, but SIGMA Exchange brings the knowledge to them.
Other new education opportunities I am excited about are the expansion of SIGMA’s share groups. Share groups allow members to drill down into your company and share best practices and practical tips. Share group education is targeted and specific. SIGMA has added two new share groups this year -- Retail and Propane -- and plans are in the works to expand the list even further in 2013.
This is another perfect example of our association evolving to meet the needs of its members. Through the addition of new share group topics in areas of interest that may not have been relevant to many of us as fuel marketers 15 years ago but are today, SIGMA recognizes that the market is changing. As new fuels come online and we strategize the most effective ways to provide them, education in these new areas and having a forum to share our experiences will be that much more important, and SIGMA is providing it.
Recently, the SIGMA board of directors voted to approve an exciting new venture -- the formation of a separate, allied educational foundation. This new not-for-profit foundation, which will be known as the Fuel Foundation, will access new sources of funding to improve the educational opportunities SIGMA provides its members.
The goals of the Fuel Foundation are four-fold: to increase the knowledge and professional standards of all SIGMA members of the motor fuel industry; provide comprehensive information and research on important developments and trends in motor fuel marketing; educate the next generation of motor fuel marketers; and provide educational opportunities to deserving SIGMA member companies’ employees and their families.
In addition to the enhanced educational opportunities the Fuel Foundation will afford SIGMA members, there is the added benefit of new leadership opportunities within SIGMA. It is my hope that the Fuel Foundation board of governors will be a place to attract and retain the best and brightest SIGMA members.
One of the things I love most about SIGMA is its ability to adapt to meet the changing needs of its membership. Once again, SIGMA is setting the standard for our industry. SIGMA also has been taking political engagement to a new level, and it is very exciting. During our Summer Legislative Meeting in Washington, D.C. in July, a dedicated group of SIGMA members braved the extreme heat to take our message to Capitol Hill. In August, we organized a SIGMA “Hill at Home” week for those who were not able to make it to Washington. Several issues of importance to fuel marketers are pending before Congress, and getting the SIGMA message front and center in a more relaxed, in-district meeting is a significant advantage.
During the Summer Legislative Meeting, SIGMA members discussed The Domestic Fuels Act of 2012 (S. 2264/H.R. 4345), legislation that would protect marketers that comply with all applicable rules and regulations from liability suits related to the sale of new fuels. As the domestic market continues to evolve, this type of protection will become even more important. A key point to remember is that we are not asking for an exemption from the rules, just a clear pathway for retailers to ensure their equipment is safe and legally recognized as compatible to sell new fuels, and that we are appropriately protected from liability issues if we comply with all federal, state and local requirements.
A second issue of importance involves interchange fees. SIGMA members shared with Congress the state of the market now that the Durbin Amendment limiting the fees that may be charged on debit transactions is in place. Although SIGMA believes the Federal Reserve’s regulations to implement debit fee reform are imperfect, they are nonetheless a step in the right direction. Reminding Congress of the monopoly that still exists with regard to credit transactions and their interchange fees is key. SIGMA members also delivered the association’s statement opposing the proposed settlement in the Visa/MasterCard antitrust classaction lawsuit.
Finally, SIGMA members discussed general energy policy issues. This may seem vague, but educating Congress on the need for a low-cost energy supply and long, plentifully supplied and diverse market options is a high priority. SIGMA members are not tied to one type of fuel -- we are fuel agnostic -- but we need to be able to sell that fuel as a legal product in a lawful manner to consumers that want to purchase it.
Members also expressed SIGMA’s support for increased access to crude oil supplies from neighboring and friendly nations, which would be accomplished by construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline, and opposition to proposals that would raise prices at the pump such as the Environmental Protection Agency’s Tier 3 gasoline standards.
As you can see, we had a lot to talk about -- and our work is not done.
As for the remainder of this year, we are highly anticipating our Annual Meeting on Nov. 6-8 in New Orleans. We have a great program prepared and are expecting high attendance. That meeting will be my last as SIGMA president. I am so proud of all that we’ve achieved over the past few years and I look forward to the bright future ahead.
Frank Greinke is the president of SIGMA and CEO of SC Fuels in Orange, Calif.