Downturn, Restructure Made For Transformative Year

This is my last column as your president.

It has been an honor to have the membership elect me and put your trust in my abilities to run our organization in our 99th year.

History may show my presidency to have been during the worst downturn in the industry in a hundred years, but for me, I would not have changed anything. We had many challenges as an Executive Committee and the Directors and I have made significant changes to the Association, which included the departures of many staff – members of the AAPG family who had served the Association with distinction. Now we have a new business model at headquarters that will reduce the cost of our operations in the difficult times still ahead.

Mind the Gap

I traveled to most of the Regions and Sections and met with many members, students and young professionals during my presidential year.

The students and young professionals are scared. This is their first downturn, there are too few jobs for too many recent graduates, and they are watching young professionals being laid off at the same time they are trying to join the workforce.

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This is my last column as your president.

It has been an honor to have the membership elect me and put your trust in my abilities to run our organization in our 99th year.

History may show my presidency to have been during the worst downturn in the industry in a hundred years, but for me, I would not have changed anything. We had many challenges as an Executive Committee and the Directors and I have made significant changes to the Association, which included the departures of many staff – members of the AAPG family who had served the Association with distinction. Now we have a new business model at headquarters that will reduce the cost of our operations in the difficult times still ahead.

Mind the Gap

I traveled to most of the Regions and Sections and met with many members, students and young professionals during my presidential year.

The students and young professionals are scared. This is their first downturn, there are too few jobs for too many recent graduates, and they are watching young professionals being laid off at the same time they are trying to join the workforce.

The commodity prices are affecting our members around the world. No one is immune to low prices and associations like AAPG – who rely on providing products and services to our members by connecting the industry professionals and vendors to our members through conferences – are still facing difficult times.

In Barcelona at the spring 2016 International Conference and Exhibition (ICE), my presidential address was directed to students and young professionals and included the slogan “Mind the Gap” – the “gap” being the lack of professionals in our industry from Generation X (35-50 year old professionals). We have the gap because of the same circumstances we’re seeing today: from 1986 to 1995, very few geoscientists and engineers came into the industry. It was a difficult time, no one was hired and good people left the industry.

On the bright side, this gap will afford a long future for millennials who are looking to join the workforce in the next three to five years as the Baby Boomers are being early-retired; many won’t come back, and when prices stabilize the only place for industry to look for new employees will be from the millennials.

Looking Ahead

I would very much like to thank my Executive Committee. They worked hard, were collegial and professional and, at the same time, understood the gravity of the situation this year with an unprecedented budget deficit.

No one panicked. We deliberated many options and we have transformed the Association into a business, which I hope will enable the 100th Executive Committee to move forward with less trepidation as they prepare a centennial budget.

I also want to thank the AAPG staff.

This has been the most difficult year AAPG has faced in at least 30 years. Reorganization is never easy, and with the combination of retirements and layoffs, we lost some great AAPG staff, all of whom were doing a good job.

It’s always most difficult for the staff that remain and I want to personally say “thank you” to all of you – you’re critical to our members and we greatly appreciate everything you do for AAPG!

There are still challenges ahead for AAPG. Conferences are our lifeblood for revenue generation and the Directors and staff are working hard to find innovative ways to reduce costs without changing the look and feel of our flagship ACE and ICE programs, nor increasing the cost of attendance for the membership.

The Calgary Annual Convention and Exhibition in June will have a smaller exhibition footprint, but we are confident that the Canadian geoscientists who have waited 11 years for ACE to return will come out to support this event, and our numbers are trending toward a marginally profitable event.

The September Cancun ICE will be great. General Chair Jose Antonio Escalera, director of exploration for PEMEX, Victor Vega, president of the Latin American and Caribbean Region and exploration business development manager for Shell in Latin America, and their AAPG/SEG joint conference committee have done a great job of pulling together a wonderful technical program and, again, I think we will return to profitability for this convention.

* * *

Very few members are afforded the opportunity to be a member of the Executive Committee, even fewer to be president.

It’s truly been a great experience. My journey through AAPG’s leadership has been an adventure with many turns and a great many friends made along the way. Like many other past presidents, I don’t plan to end my volunteering; there are always more roles to fill in the Association and I hope to see many of you again in the future.

To paraphrase what Past President Pat Gratton said many years ago: AAPG members are part of a clan, a family. AAPG as a clan is strong and enduring; we have a history of members helping members in difficult times. We, as an Association and as members of the clan, will get through the tough times and look back and tell stories about the “difficult teens” of this century, with less pain then we feel today.

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