David Payne: Propane (LP) Expert

 

David has over 40 years of experience working in the Propane (LP) industry where he has performed every function from the "Bottom to the Top"!

 

David started working in the propane industry as a driver which included the following key functions:

 

  • Leak Investigation

  • Safety Checks of regulators, tanks and appliances

  • LP Appliance Repair & Installation

  • Propane Odorization

  • Operations Manager

  • Purchased 14 Propane Companies

 

David Payne was instrumental in preparing a propane company to go public. As well as CEO of several companies until his recent retirement.

 

David joined NatGas Consulting as a Senior Expert in providing unique "hands-on" expertise to our clients!

 

 

 

After 42 years, David Payne retiring from propane business 

By GARY DEMUTH Salina Journal | Friday, June 28, 2013 3:00 AM - 

 

For his retirement party, David Payne decided to do what he's done for years -- cook for his employees.

Payne is officially retiring today after 42 years from Propane Central, the Salina-based propane supply company which his father, Richard, originally founded as Payne Oil.

 

After David joined the company in 1971, Payne Oil, and later Propane Central, grew to become the largest independently owned propane company in Kansas. In 2007, he sold the family-owned company to NGL Energy Supply of Tulsa, one of Propane Central's wholesale suppliers, which made it part of one of the top six retail propane companies in the U.S.

Payne, who continued to work for the company in Salina as regional manager, will spend his last working lunchtime cooking a meal for company employees at the Propane Central offices at 512 N. Ninth.

Known for his employee Christmas parties and cookouts during the past four decades, Payne decided to go out the same way.

"If I'm cooking, I don't have to talk to everybody," Payne said with a laugh.

Payne, 63, said he is retiring to spend more time with his eight grandchildren, travel and work on his golf game. His youngest son, Eric, 34, is taking over as regional manager and will oversee the business from Wichita.

The original Salina branch will be run by district manager Dean Saenger, who Payne said has been with the company for 40 years.

"My retirement won't affect the business at all," Payne said. "I'm sure I'll stop by and see how things are doing. And if Eric needs a little advice, I'll be around."

 

In 1971, Payne was 21 and had just graduated from Kansas State University, where he was on the football team. He had invested with his father in a refined fuel business in Salina which sold and supplied fuel regionally to service stations, construction companies and farmers. That year, there was an opportunity to acquire a small propane company, Salina Propane, which supplied 50 rural propane customers in Saline County that no one else would service.

"I used the money I had invested in Payne Oil to buy into the propane company," Payne said. "The margins were better than the refined fuel business."

The original Payne Oil offices still stand at the southwest corner of Ninth and North streets, where tanks of various sizes are stored and filled, from small propane tanks for home grills to 1,000-gallon tanks for heating rural homes.

"The vast majority of our business, about 80 percent, is for home heating," Payne said. "We deliver to people who live outside natural gas lines."

 

As Payne Oil grew in the 1970s and 1980s, the company's focus shifted almost exclusively to propane, Payne said. From 1985 to 2007, the business acquired 14 other propane companies in Kansas.

"Propane became more of the focus from the late 1980s on," said Payne, who became head of the company after his father stepped down in 1985. "By 2001, we pretty much were exclusively in the propane business."

In the beginning, there were only three employees at Payne Oil -- David Payne and his parents. While father and son ran the business, David's mother kept the books from home.

Today, there are 81 employees in Kansas, and many have worked for the company for years.

"With my management style, it was easier to motivate people if you treated them well," Payne said. "Over the years, people have had a hand in the direction we've headed."

 

Family also has been important to the company. David and his wife, Ann, have three sons -- Brett, Ryan and Eric -- who grew up working in the business during weekends and summer vacations.

"They'd fill bottles and clean up," Payne said. "They did all the grunt work."

Of his three sons, Eric is the only one who stayed in the family business. Oldest son Brett, 37, is a fifth-grade teacher in Oklahoma City, while Ryan, 36, is a urologist in Salina.

"I wanted to be in business, so I thought I might as well be in the family business," Eric Payne said.

Payne Oil became Propane Central in 2001 after the company added the propane divisions of Baer Gas and Electric of Clay Center and cooperatives in Manhattan, Talmage and Clay Center. The same year, a new office building for Propane Central was built at 512 N. Ninth. During the next decade, Propane Central expanded to new locations in Wichita, Hutchinson, Concordia, Randolph, Junction City and Topeka.

 

Eric Payne said his father has been looking to slow down and retire for several years, which was why he sold the company to NGL Energy Supply (now NGL Energy Partners) when the opportunity arose.

"I'm a little sad," he said. "Working with your dad everyday is fun and rewarding. But (retirement) will provide him more time to do leisure activities and visit his grandkids."

David Payne expects he'll stay busy in his retirement. He's been involved in the Salina community as an AMBUCS member and has served on the board of the Salina Area Chamber of Commerce. He's also been president of the Salina Country Club and is a trustee of First Presbyterian Church.

If church and community don't keep Payne busy enough, "my wife has a long list of things for me to do," he said.

Payne said his father, Richard, worked part time at Propane Central until age 87, when he died in February 2012 from respiratory complications.

 

"Dad worked until he went into the hospital, and he regretted that," Payne said. "I don't want to work all the time, so I promised I'd retire before 87."

 

-- Reporter Gary Demuth can be reached at 822-1405 or by email at gdemuth@salina.com.

 

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