History: Growth of the I.W.D.A.


Growth of the I.W.D.A.

The I.W.D.A. grew over the years, and at one time during the early years of the organization, all the independent distributors of welding and cutting gases in the western U.S., except three, were members. With this strong contingent, the organization easily could have devoted itself to gas distribution alone. However, Otto Koll saw a bigger picture.  Mr. Koll was the leader and guiding light in the early days of I.W.D.A. He was president of the organization for most of the decade of the 1950’s and recognized the value of an expanded product line.

In the early years, members held one formal meeting each year, but there might also be one or two interim meetings during the year. All meetings were informal, with members seated around a large table so everyone could be seen and heard. Occasionally, speakers from outside the organization were invited in to explain and educate on legal and governmental issues.

The organization continued to serve only the western states; consequently about half the meetings were held on the Monterey peninsula. Attendance was almost always 100%.

Each I.W.D.A. member was assigned a territory, and no new member could overlap without the existing member’s permission. These rights to sales territories were carefully guarded. 

I.W.D.A. overhead was not much of a financial burden to members in the early years. The only paid position was the Secretary’s, and he was paid only for his expenses and was given a free hotel room at meetings. There was a small membership fee to join, and when the treasury went dry every two or three years, the members would vote to assess themselves a $40 fee.

Over the years, most of the members prospered in varying degrees. No member company ever filed for bankruptcy, and there always seemed to be a market for the sale of welding supply houses.

By the early 1980’s, there were 54 I.W.D.A. members, which made it the largest unified welding distributor organization in the western U.S., Mexico, and Canada.

Meetings were now scheduled for twice each year, one in August and another in February. The fall meeting was geared toward a family vacation and usually held at a resort with activities for the entire family.

Business meetings consisted of a roll call, reading minutes of the previous meeting, electing new officers, conducting other official business, then viewing product presentations by vendors.

As I.W.D.A. membership grew, it was divided into four areas, within which some members shared states:

Area One

Area Two

Area Three

Area Four







New Mexico







Northern California

Southern California

New Mexico













In addition to two general membership meetings, each area would have a meeting to discuss matters of their regions. This meeting was usually held in the fall.

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