Chair's Update 3rd Quarter 2016

By Tim Griffin posted 06-25-2017 19:20


The city of St. Paul and our conference host, District Energy St. Paul, rolled out the green carpet for IDEA at the association's 107th Annual Confer­ence and Trade show, which wrapped up June 23. The event drew more than 800 delegates from 19 countries, 42 states, four provinces and 246 cities. A full agenda of technical presentations, workshops and panel discussions offered stimulating opportunities for IDEA members to exchange ideas with colleagues from around the globe. We also had a chance to explore the history, attractions and beauty of St. Paul, with the conference center and main hotel both situated next to the mighty Mississippi River. Many thanks to District Energy St. Paul and our sponsors, exhibitors, speakers and staff for planning such an inspiring event.

At the annual Chair's Banquet I was privi­leged to accept the association's gavel from my friend Bruce Ander. As board chair, Bruce gave generously of his time and set a wonder­ful example of organizational leadership. Like his predecessor, Ken Smith, he focused on building a stronger organization at the board level. Both of them serve as CEOs of district energy companies and, as such, report to boards of directors. As a result, they recognize the important role a strong board should play in a successful organization such as ours. In fact, their specific efforts to update our associa­tion's strategic plan and to create our first financial audit committee have placed us in a stronger position to navigate the future. It has been a pleasure to learn under their guidance.

As chair I have the unique opportunity of selecting a theme for the upcoming year. As such, I have introduced the theme "Sustaining Our Success." For any organization to survive over 100 years, something has to have been working right. However, over the past 16 years under the leadership of our board and presi­dent, Rob Thornton, we have grown tremen­dously in membership, put our organization in a strong financial position, expanded our influence with government policy and truly lived up to the "International" part of our name by merging with the Canadian District Energy Association and opening a very successful chapter in the Middle East. By any reasonable metric, it would be difficult to argue that IDEA has not been successful.

Success is wonderful, and achieving success is difficult. However, I have seen that, in any organization, sustaining success over a long period of time is much more difficult. To do so, I believe we must continue to focus on the long term over the short term when making decisions. We did not get here as an organization by making short-term decisions. We must continue that course in the future. In particular, there are two areas that need focus.

First, we must stay relevant to the sustain­ability movement. Just as the energy crises of the 1970s forever changed our industry, the sustainability movement of the last decade will continue to do the same. It is not a fad. We are not moving toward a world that will be less focused on sustainability. Just as ASHRAE is the go-to resource for all things HVAC, we need to be the same for all things district energy-related. We have made progress on this front over the last several years but need to continue our work in that area.

Second, we must be relevant to the next generation. The oldest millennials are now 36. More and more show up at our conferences and are becoming members. I did some re­search and discovered IDEA has had members from at least 10 different generations during its lifetime. This means we have had many suc­cessful handoffs from one generation to the next. We need to get this one right as well.

I look forward to serving our members as chair over the next 12 months and building on the successful legacy of the past. Please plan ahead and join your IDEA colleagues at our upcoming conferences and workshops in Dubai in November, Miami in February and Scottsdale next June for our 108th Annual Conference and Trade Show as we strive to encourage, learn from the best, network with colleagues and, this year, sustain our success.


Principal and Regional Manager

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