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By Linda Lisanti, Convenience Store News - 08/08/2011

Pat Lewis considers it his duty to contribute to the convenience and petroleum industry where he can -- and it is a duty he gladly accepts. Lewis serves on the NACS Executive Committee as vice chair of technology, and is board chairman of PCATS (Petroleum Convenience Alliance for Technology Standards), acting as the liaison between PCATS and NACS.

NACS serves a vital role in promoting and protecting the industry, according to Lewis. "While we are busy in our businesses, trying to figure out how to make more sales and reduce our expenses, NACS is fighting our battles on Capitol Hill or arranging opportunities for the industry to periodically get together to share knowledge and meet with our suppliers," he noted.

Equally important to the industry, but not nearly as recognized, is PCATS, said Lewis.

"Unfortunately, not enough people in our industry are aware of the equally important work being conducted by PCATS. I am a huge fan of PCATS," he said. "Their work may not be as glamorous as debating with senators or putting on the industry's annual trade show, but without them, we would not have a voice in many of the technology standards that we deal with today."

The PCATS organization acts as a resource for all the industry technology needs of NACS. It is the body that creates and maintains the technological standards and establishes technological best practices. The PCATS board of advisors also acts as the forward-thinking group that helps identify new technologies that could impact convenience and petroleum retailers.

Under Pat's chairmanship, PCATS has moved financially into the black, while expanding its charter to include data security and future technology leadership, said Gray Taylor, executive director of PCATS. In addition to being board chairman, Lewis also chairs the Retailer Business Requirements Committee and is on the Retail Financial Transactions Committee, where he participates in the Loyalty/POS Standard Integration working group as well.

In some cases, Lewis said there would be no standards without PCATS, and retailers would be left to choose non-standard proprietary solutions and stuck in what could be a non-competitive market with not enough innovation. In other cases, the industry would have been forced to comply with standards created by bodies that never considered its unique needs. In both scenarios, he believes PCATS has saved the industry hundreds of millions of dollars.

Lewis is constantly championing PCATS and urging more companies to join.

He said membership in PCATS is "way too small," and the organization could do so much more if more companies participated. "I always tell my fellow convenience store professionals that it would be very short-sighted, and eventually extremely expensive, to not support the development and maintenance of industry technology standards," he concluded.