As the third of 10 children growing up on a grain and cattle farm in Surrey, Joyce Solberg knew what is was like to work hard without the spotlight of recognition.
On Wednesday, however, the spotlight will be on her as she becomes the first woman to be inducted into the North Dakota Propane Gas Association's Hall of Fame.
Established in 1994 by the nonprofit trade group, the Hall of Fame honors retired industry professionals who were actively involved in propane marketing or other businesses and contributed to the functions and activities of the association. She will receive her award at the association's 59th annual convention, held at the Holiday Inn Riverside on Wednesday and Thursday.
Submitted Photo •
Joyce Solberg will become the first woman inducted into North Dakota Propane Association’s Hall of Fame at a banquet that will be held Wednesday and Thursday in Minot.
"Propane is a male-dominated industry and it was even more so in the 1980s," she said. "So to have the privilege to work a long time in the industry as a female and be the first female honored makes it extra special."
Solberg began her career in the propane industry in 1983 as a pricing clerk for Behm Energy of Minot and moved up the business ladder, becoming a lead salesperson who bought and sold semi-truck loads approximately 10,000 gallons of diesel and propane to businesses throughout the region. She continued with that work for the next 25 years and was instrumental in streamlining the business process during a series of business acquisitions that began in 1990 with Vision Energy Resources acquiring Behm Energy and then again in 1994 when Ferrell North America Wholesale purchased Vision Energy.
"Having a limited staff I had to know everything from initiating cold calls to the collection of money at the end of the sale so I was in the unique position of continuity with each company," she said. "Most other wholesalers in the nation either buy or sell as a majority of their business, so I had the exciting experience of doing a variety of duties while working with a terrific customer base."
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Solberg joined the North Dakota Propane Gas Association in 1983 and was the first woman elected to the association's board of directors in 1991. During her more than 20 years with the association Solberg served in several positions including vice president, executive director of recruitment, a government affairs representative, convention speaker and also worked with the association's education and research arm known as PERC, dispersing funds to educate the public about the product and find alternative uses for propane through research.
Retired since November 2007, Solberg now spends her days working with The Girl Scouts of America as a membership specialist in charge of recruiting and maintaining members when she is not spending time with friends and family.
Having worked in the industry for more than 25 years, Solberg was witness to its transformation.
"When computers came, it transformed the way we did government contracts, dispatches, imports and collections," she said, "but the foundation of building and maintaining relationships with our buyers and sellers never changed. There (are) daily fluctuations in propane prices so the biggest challenge was to keep customers notified, which is crucial to customer satisfaction."
To keep customers up-to-date on changes, Solberg was on call 24 hours a day, seven days per week, 365 days per year, for 20 years.
Selected by members of the Hall of Fame to receive the award, Solberg said she was thrilled to have been chosen, but insists she didn't do it alone.
"The daily work I did was influenced by the truck dispatches and drivers, the office staff, suppliers and customers. They were all terrific to work with and contributed to my success," she said. "You can buy and sell as many loads (of propane) as you want to but if its not delivered promptly, safely and competently, its not really a sale. My co-workers played a big part in each and every load."