The Houston, Texas-based PVF Roundtable networking organization continues to thrive on multiple fronts. President Joe Pro (Penn Machine) told Supply House Times during the group’s summer meeting at the Bell Tower on 34th Street that membership has increased to 228 active companies.

The news also is positive for the group’s extremely popular TroutBlast event in October that helps raise funds for the PVF Roundtable Scholarship Fund. “The registration and sponsorship already is well ahead of last year’s pace, which was a record,” Pro noted. “We are expecting to exceed all our total number of fishermen and sponsors toward the scholarships that come from this event.”

The PVF Roundtable Scholarship Fund now encompasses two universities (Texas A &M and the University of Houston endowments), plus five trade schools in Lamar College, ABC Pelican, Houston Community College, San Jacinto College and Lee College. “Harold (PVF Roundtable Scholarship Fund Committee chairman Armstrong) and his committee just recommended some direct-dollar contributions to Texas A&M and the University of Houston vs. the endowments that simply spin off what they earn. We have given them some extra direct dollars to more comfortably use now.”

Pro reported the group budgeted for $250,000 in scholarship donations in 2019, which will bring the fund’s total to $1 million since it was started a decade ago. “That is pretty amazing considering we used to sit around a coffee table at the board meetings fighting over where to spend $12,500,” Pro said. “Now we’re up to a quarter-million a year. But this isn’t Harold’s money or Joe’s money. This money is the sponsors, the members and the contributors throughout this organization that have so generously put up significant sums of money.”

Pro recited a recent story Armstrong told about being at one of the five trade schools and talking about the money the Roundtable was going to donate. “They mentioned to Harold they have a food bank because many of their students cannot afford to eat let along go to college,” he said. “When you ask the question: Are we changing lives? Without question. The opportunity these young people will have to go to school wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t for the generosity of the scholarship money being donated. It’s an overwhelming story. These are the people in some cases that are being helped.”

Pro continues to hear from the industrial PVF end-user community that there is a lack of a qualified workforce to fill the many jobs being created through expansion and the retirement of baby boomers. “The growth opportunity of jobs will be endless in this industry, and we felt compelled as manufacturers and distributors to help fulfill some of those gaps by putting these scholarship programs together,” he said.

Pro said word on the street in the industry right now has a tint of skepticism to it. “Between the tariffs, the trade wars and the rhetoric, everybody is kind of sitting back a little bit right now, concerned this could go multiple directions, and could do so very quickly,” he said. “But if you talk on the ground to the actual people involved, everybody says our industry is strong and is going to remain strong for quite a few years going forward. There are so many approved projects and so much expansion waiting to happen. Right now we are in a period of uncertainty and when there is uncertainty you get a little bit of paralysis, and we are seeing some of that.”

The Roundtable hosts its big fall gala Tuesday, Oct. 15 at the Marriott Westchase in Houston where NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Terry Bradshaw makes a return appearance. Bradshaw was a huge hit two years ago during the October 2017 meeting at the Westchase. “We have an incredibly generous sponsor in Ferguson Cares, which has donated multiple $25,000 checks to our scholarship program and for the second time is sponsoring Terry Bradshaw as a guest speaker,” Pro said. “We want to make sure all our members who attend have the greatest time with a speaker such as Terry, but it’s through the generosity of someone like Ferguson that we as an organization do not have to spend our members’ hard-earned scholarship or membership money on guest speakers. It takes great sponsors through our members to do this. We are expecting an off-the-chart number of people to show up. Anybody who saw Terry at the previous Roundtable walked away with a smile on their face and had a great evening.”

—Mike Miazga reporting