Making Headway in Technology
As a new chairman is set to be elected at this year’s NACS Show, 2013 NACS Chairman Dave Carpenter, president and CEO of Urbandale, Iowa-based J.D. Carpenter Cos. Inc., said he is proud of the work accomplished by the association during his term, including the new Fuels Institute created earlier this year.
The research-oriented think tank consists of representatives from alternative fuels, Big Oil, retailers and more, with the goal of evaluating new fuels and fuel regulations for their effect on the industry and consumers.
“We are going to take a more proactive role and try to stay ahead of the game where fuel is concerned from a legislative standpoint,” Carpenter said.
At the beginning of his term, the outgoing NACS chairman expressed an interest in pursing a better relationship with major technology players in Silicon Valley. He followed through with several meetings this year to look at new technologies, including the future of mobile wallets.
“Each chairman has their specialty. For Jay Ricker, it was fuels. For me, it was Silicon Valley,” Carpenter explained. “We are going to be more aggressive fighting credit card companies and get more involved with the technology providers and experts for anything that has to do with our industry. We think it’s valuable in taking us forward in all areas of technology.”
Convenience Store News recently sat down with Carpenter to reflect on his past year as chairman and review some of the highlights of what he learned in the process.
CSNews: What has the past year as NACS chairman been like for you?
Carpenter: It’s been really good. Being chairman actually allows you to enjoy a broader vision of NACS rather than being in charge of one committee. I have been involved with NACSPAC, the NACS convention committee and held the role of treasurer, so I’ve done a little bit of everything over the years. But the chairman role enabled me to see the depth and breath of NACS and all it influences. It has been a really good experience overall.
CSNews: What has been your favorite part?
Carpenter: I have been able to have a lot of experiences I might not have had if I wasn’t chairman, like going to England and seeing the c-store convention over there. I’ve also enjoyed having more involvement on the broader direction of where NACS is going in the future. The association is run by a large group of people, so no one person has any dominating position. But as chairman, you are definitely engaged more on the broader direction of innovation and other aspects of NACS.
CSNews: What industry issues did NACS tackle this year and what’s been the outcome?
Carpenter: There are several things we have worked on this year, and many that are ongoing. We formed The Fuels Institute this year and created the board and committees who have already met a couple times. We are going to take a more proactive role and try to stay ahead of the game where fuel is concerned from a legislative standpoint.
On the committee, we have someone from an environmental group, as well as ethanol and biofuel producers, Big Oil and retailers, and the board will decide what studies need to be done based on new fuels and legislation. Then, the group will produce an unbiased analysis of it, including other industry player reports.
It will be compiled for the legislators to show how new issues and ideas will affect the industry and consumers.
We also started looking at technology and getting more involved with Silicon Valley. For instance, we are going to be more aggressive fighting credit card companies and get more involved with the technology providers and experts for anything that has to do with our industry. We think it’s valuable in taking us forward in all areas of technology.
The industry is so varied geographically and not all of the big players are national, such as Wawa who is regional. NACS wants to take a significant role in technology. When we started talking to people in Silicon Valley and venture capitalists there, we realized they didn’t know who to talk to from our industry. We also met with Tesla, the electric car company that was talking about putting charging stations all around the country on their own dime. We opened their eyes to a few things and had a good meeting.
We have been out there twice and are going out again soon. There is technology out there that will help put competition back into the credit card industry, and we also want to be part of the discussion as mobile wallets are being created, and help suppliers and retailers shake hands and create relationships so they can test new technology.
CSNews: What are you leaving behind for the new chairman to take over?
Carpenter: When you are chairman, you are just shepherding NACS through the year. The organization is run really well and as chairman, you realize how well it is run, how great our people are and what a good job they all do. Each chairman has his or her specialty. For Jay Ricker, it was fuels. For me, it was Silicon Valley. Brad Call, the next chairman, will take an active role in where he wants to be more involved.
The credit card battle will continue and on the fuels front, you just never know. So, it’s probably more of the same with those two issues. You always have to be aware of the food issues and health issues as well, with the New York issues cropping up around banning different sizes [of beverages] and menu labeling. But there isn’t anything out there right now that we are not aware of already.
CSNews: What have you learned in the past year that you didn’t know before starting this journey?
Carpenter: I always knew it, but it gives you a greater appreciation of the power of our industry when it gets together. We reach almost every consumer every day in the whole country, and we have so many retailers and so many local and smaller regional players. When we are engaged, we can have a huge influence. No one thought we could take on the banks for the credit card fees because they have so much more money than us, but the fact that we won the federal lawsuit, you realize the influence we have when we get energized.
We met with representatives from other associations and even big retailers in other sectors — that is when you realize how well-respected NACS is across the board. We care so much and we give so much to each other in the c-store industry. And it’s not just the big guys sharing with the smaller companies, but it’s the reverse as well.
CSNews: What surprised you about your role as NACS chairman?
Carpenter: You can really make the experience what you want. I think it’s important to have different size retailers and age ranges in the role. For me, I have a new business and two young kids, so I didn’t travel as much as some others. [NACS President] Hank Armour said in the beginning, if you think something is valuable to NACS, then do it.
It’s almost a “thank you” for the years you put into the association and the industry, and giving back in ways you think will benefit them.
CSNews: What are you most proud of?
Carpenter: Right now, it’s our win against the Fed. That is just huge. If they cut the debit [interchange] fees in half, the money that saves our members is just unbelievable. Even if they cut it by two pennies, it’s a huge amount. When someone says, “I don’t know the value of NACS,” you don’t have to look further than that. It’s just a huge one nobody thought we would win. Not only will it save our members huge amounts of money, but it also gives us credit in the future that we mean business and will stick to our guns.
I’m also proud that we continue to grow our membership and our trade show continues to grow when so many others are failing.