Morris Beschloss was the youngest incoming VMA Board member ever when he attended the VMA’s 25th Anniversary event at the Waldorf in New York City in 1963. In 1988, he was the speaker for the past chairmen in Washington, D.C.
These are but two of the milestones Beschloss has achieved since he first started work as an assistant sales manager at Hammond Valve Corp. in Hammond, IN. "It started when I got a call from Chuck Kennedy in 1960," he said. "He was chairman that year. He asked when I was going to be in New York. The Board of Directors would like to see you."
At the time, Beschloss was with a company he called "a little guy" and the other board members were with big companies like Crane and Powell. He couldn't help but wonder what they would want with him. But he went to a board meeting. He continues his story, "I was a 30 year old kid and these were the days just before the Kennedy era, the Eisenhower years where the old guys were predominant. It was Jim Dwyer of Crane, Harold Brown of Walworth, Al Yardley of Jenkins, Chuck Kennedy and Bill Crawford of Edwards Valves. Kennedy said, 'Call me Chuck. You're probably wondering why we wanted to see you."
Beschloss recollects. "You'd better believe I was wondering. Every one of those names is still prominent in the valve industry. They were all privately owned back then, family companies, and all of those men there owned the companies or ran them on behalf of their families."
It turned out that the board had been taking note of Beschloss's drive. The members were concerned that, even then, the industry and the VMA were dominated by older men and they were concerned about the future. Kennedy said to Beschloss, "You look around the table and you see the youngest guy outside of yourself is in his late fifties. The rest of us are in our sixties and seventies. We love this industry and we want to look forward to see what’s happening in the future. You’re the only one younger person that we can see who has the ambition and foresight; so we’d like you to join the board."
"I will never forget that moment," said Beschloss. "I accepted with great humility and have never looked back. I have literally molded my career on that basic premise – that it is about the industry, rather than individual companies."
Sometime later, Beschloss became president of Hammond Valve Corporation and continued actively contributing to the VMA. But membership began to decline and the association was faltering, as were other associations at the time. "In 1969", he said, "VMA was going through transition. Members were getting older, membership was getting slim, and I became Vice-chairman. At that time, the professional person was Bob Sullivan. He was strictly a paid employee, and did not have a prominent position like Bill Sandler does today. He was just working for the bosses. But Sullivan was hospitalized for a serious heart ailment, and I ended up as Chairman and President. That was the same person back then. But it wasn't easy."
Beschloss was faced with the fact that out of the 26 members at the time, six of them had expected to turn in their resignation, so it was not a good start. "But Bob came out of the hospital," continued Beschloss, "and he turned out to be a great right hand man and together we made some significant changes." Beschloss was in the VMA CEO chair from 1969 through 1973. During that time, he helped institute a new constitution and managed to triple membership to 65 by the time he left. "The guys who were running the business back then didn't appreciate the quarter turn, ball and butterfly valves. But we opened the door to this application expansion, and “legitimized” quarter-turn as an integral VMA factor. We also brought in the actuator people like Rotork and other manufacturers responsible for mechanization and automation." Beschloss chuckles with the memory. "The old guys were against it because these guys were the 'interlopers."
Beschloss admitted that sometimes the only way to get things done was by pushing things through and he made some pre-emptory, unilateral decisions, one of which was to make sure the VMA gatherings were not just an old home week, where the members could hang out with their friends. He recalls, "So we brought in the people that were really doing things, the meetings had focus, and VMA became very successful from then on."
While he left his post in 1973, Beschloss remained active in the VMA throughout his long career. He became chairman of the international valve segment to help forge the connection with the British and European valve associations. “It’s all about communications and relationships”, he said. “Then in 1977 I was chairman of the search committee that hired Bill Sandler. I’ve continued to be good friends with him and a couple of others on the staff even after retiring from the association.”
Beschloss said that when he was chairman, he wanted a publication for the association, and they came out with ValveViews. “I always liked the idea of having communication. And I think that’s part of the reason the VMA has been successful where other associations have fallen apart. It’s remarkable,” he said, “how things have continued to progress. Look at the magazine now! The association kept focusing on it, and it has become very prominent and is well known. It’s really the only magazine in our industry (pipe, valves and fittings) that reaches the end user, the architect, the engineer and the specifier, in addition to the manufacturer and sales organizations.”
On the changes in the industry, Beschloss ruminated. “When I became chairman in 1970, imports were a distant rumble. Inflation was getting out of hand uncontrollably; prices went up 50, 60, 70 per cent.” It was the opportune time for imports to enter the picture. They began to fill the demand that wasn’t being met domestically. Nuclear plants and refineries were growing. He continued, “The Europeans and the Japanese had tooled up and were ready to go. Nature abhors a vacuum, and they filled it. It changed the way business in our industry was done.”
But the VMA remained true to its founding principles – it has always limited membership to those actually manufacturing in the USA. “That’s not to say it doesn’t recognize the changing reality of doing business. But we knew it was important to keep it American. I felt that, if we didn’t do that, the importers would take us over.”
And, according to Beschloss, it’s always been important that the VMA and the magazine stress how important valves actually are. “Valves were once just considered a necessary evil by the casual observer, like screws, nuts and bolts,” he said. “So you have to magnify updated information to all relevant industry participants. Valves are primary to flow control!”
When asked what he thought was the biggest contribution the VMA has made to the industry itself, Beschloss was quick to answer. “In the 56 years I’ve been involved, the VMA has maintained and expanded the identity of the valve industry. The industry and VMA are ONE. Even though the VMA doesn’t actively get involved in the marketing associations, you go to VMA for any in-depth information about all aspects of flow control function.”
Beschloss was also quick to acknowledge the contribution of current President Bill Sandler. “I’ve known Bill since 1977, and I give him a lot of credit for maintaining the momentum of the association and keeping it relevant. This is a long-standing industry that has continually brought itself up to date and is relevant to valve manufacturers and people that deal directly with them. Thanks to Bill and the VMA, that job has been done superbly.
“VMA has been a critical factor in informing the end user industry in all its aspects as to usage application and development. It has made them aware of what the changes are – that’s why the publication itself is so important,” said Beschloss. “And the education factor is critical, keeping end users updated as to the latest evolutions in the valve industry.”
However, Beschloss believes that the issue of training has to be a national commitment. It needs better government sponsorship, of which there has not been any. “There are 6 to 7 million skilled jobs going unfilled because a lot of the graduates from India and China, that used to fill those jobs, are unavailable. They’re going back home to work in the industries there. I’m hoping for greater sponsorship and retraining commitments from big business and institutions,” he said, “But I can’t see the VMA getting actively involved in this because it would require a comprehensive training facility that’s beyond the capacity of even such an outstanding institution as VMA.”
Beschloss believes that the future looks exceptionally bright, in his words, “if overzealous Environmental Protection Agency regulation can be contained. With hydraulic fracturing generating unlimited potential in oil and natural gas, America is destined to become the world’s leading fossil fuel provider by the next decade.
“The valve industry could double its U.S. revenue volume by 2030, if the current outlook is realized,” said Beschloss, “and if the VMA stays on the track it’s going on right now, a 100th Anniversary in 2038 is sure to be in the offing.”