Q&A with National Switchgear CEO Doug Powell


After PEARL's 20th anniversary conference, we talked to National Switchgear CEO and outgoing PEARL Board President Doug Powell on this year's conference, PEARL's new look and what lies ahead for the organization.

Q: So how was this year's PEARL Conference?
A: It was the best PEARL Conference I believe we've ever had. The attendance was up about 25%. Great location. Great speakers.

Q: What were the highlights?
A: The highlights were the 20th anniversary celebration and when we unveiled the new PEARL brand. We previewed the new PEARL website too. Later on, we brought out a big birthday cake with the new logo and twenty candles on it and had a champagne toast to celebrate the anniversary. We had a lot of positive feedback on the new brand. People were really excited.

Q: How does the new branding better represent PEARL?
A: The old branding was cluttered and dated looking. The new logo has bold lettering and incorporates a green arrow that symbolizes re-use and reconditioning. And we modified what the acronym PEARL stands for.

Q: What does PEARL stand for now?
A: It now stands for the Professional Electrical Apparatus Reconditioning League. Before, the "R" stood for Recycling. The change more accurately reflects what our members do. PEARL is really a group of companies that buy electrical equipment and recondition it and put it back into the user market. Writing standards for these reconditioning practices is a big part of what PEARL is about. So we felt reconditioning was more meaningful for PEARL. We even created an infographic to explain all the branding changes.

Q: What role did you play?
A: I have been president of the board for the past two years. During that time, we began executing a strategic plan that includes the rebranding. I just wrapped up my two year term in April. So I've passed the baton.

Q: Do you remain connected to the board?

A: Yes, the way the board is set up, the past president stays involved for one more year to offer transition for the incoming president. But I've served on the PEARL board for seven to eight years prior to being president, and I'll probably continue in some kind of ongoing board relationship even after I finish up my Past President term.

Q: How long have you been committed to PEARL?
A: Since the very beginning. National Switchgear was a founding member of PEARL 20 years ago.

Q: What was the theme of this year's conference?
A: Disaster Recovery. This was the first year we decided to have a theme and to bring in speakers in keeping with it. We were able to get Chloe Demrovsky as a keynote speaker who came to us from DRI - Disaster Recovery Institute. She kicked off the conference and got people focused on it. We had a number of other distinguished speakers as well.

Q: What was the main message about Disaster Recovery?
A: The importance of resilience and how to prepare our companies to be better responders to clients who have just experienced a disaster. Maybe a piece of switchgear has blown up or maybe there's been a natural disaster and their plant is shut down. How can we be better responders in situations like that?

Another perspective we looked at is: how do we as responders make sure that we don't become victims of the disaster? What can we do to prepare our own companies? It's hard to prevent disasters, but your company can be prepared to handle them.

Q: How else did National Switchgear participate at the conference?
A: We were a Gold Level Sponsor and we exhibited. At our booth, we gave away a Parrot Mambo Drone with bonus accessories, which was fun. And NTC Training Program Manager Steve Newton did some training.

Q: What kind of training?
A: Onsite and offsite. Onsite, he did a four hour prep course for the PEARL Level II Certification Exam. And we sponsored an offsite technician training workshop at one of the local hosts' facilities where Steve instructed on electrical safety.

Q: Now that you're stepping down as president, what is your perspective on what the future holds for PEARL?
A: I feel really good about where PEARL is today. I see big challenges and opportunities for PEARL in the years ahead in the area of developing and providing training for our members. That is the next big step - putting together relevant online training our members can use to enrich their technical staff.

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