Jay Copan On Optimism In The Face Of A Challenge

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Meet Jay Copan. Jay is the executive director of the World Gas Conference (WGC) 2018, happening June 25-29 in Washington D.C.

Read our Guide to WGC2018.

WGC is the world’s largest gas industry event.  It attracts 10-12,000 attendees from 100 different countries.  WGC only occurs once every three years and moves around the globe.  

The last time it was held in the USA was in 1988.

What’s the biggest challenge you have faced and how did you overcome it?

The American Gas Association/USA gas industry was bidding (in an Olympics-style competition) against both the State of Qatar and South Korea to win the right to assume the presidency of the International Gas Union, and then host the World Gas Conference in 2018.

In a word, the competition was a huge challenge.  Korea had one of the most sought-after gas markets in the world and billions of dollars.  Qatar had mega-billions of dollars and the largest LNG exporting facility in the world.  The entire United States gas industry (upstream through downstream) was represented by an aging, retired guy who worked for AGA, a nonprofit downstream organization with no commercial relationships — and nowhere near the funding of South Korea or Qatar.

That said, this aging, retired guy — a born optimist — was too enthusiastic to realize he had no chance to win, and therefore plowed ahead.

Using organizational and team-building skills, relationships, decades of knowledge of the global gas industry, and a clear vision for the future of the global gas industry, my team was able to overcome this tremendous challenge. We won the competition and secured the United States as the World Gas Conference’s host country for the first time in 30 years. Plus, it was in conjunction with the 100th anniversary of the founding of the American Gas Association!

What’s one mistake you made and what did you learn from it?

Very early in our marriage, my wife, Maureen, had to go out of town for a long weekend, leaving me to take care of our two very young daughters.  During that weekend, I got caught up in a variety of activities. When Maureen returned home to a sink full of dirty dishes and dirty laundry everywhere, I was subjected to a lengthy, one-way discussion about personal responsibility.

I learned a lot of lessons that have stuck with me ever since:  the value and importance of teamwork, partnerships, shared responsibilities, time management and accountability to your team.  Forty-three years later — and still married to Maureen — I remember what I learned after that weekend and have tried to incorporate those lessons into everything I do, both in professional and personal settings.

What’s been the most rewarding part of your career?

Having spent the bulk of my career with the American Gas Association, it has been most rewarding to provide the 200 member companies and their thousands of employees with a quantifiable financial return on their investment in this nonprofit organization.

This is truly unheard of for most, if not all, associations.  Through our association-unique financial outreach programs, including the AGA Financial Forum, we have brought together members of the financial community with representatives of the AGA publicly traded companies to help AGA companies raise capital in a least-cost, most efficient manner.

Over the years, many AGA member companies have suggested that a primary reason for their membership in AGA has been the return on investment they receive from participation in the association’s financial outreach programs.

Who’s been a “gritty” role model for you and why?

My father, Jim Copan, a member of the “Greatest Generation.”  He was a World War II vet who fought in the Pacific theater, where he was awarded a Bronze Star for an “act of valor in combat.” Born in Canada, he moved to America at a very young age. He volunteered to fight for his country. He fought in the Philippines, where he was one of two survivors in his 200-soldier company.

He returned to the United States to live the “American Dream.”  He got married, bought a home and had a successful career in which — just like during his WWII service — he was always under the radar, always working in the trenches and never complaining despite the many challenges he faced. What a blessing to have such a wonderful role model. In Jim’s world, the sun was always shining!

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