OGA Pipeline 2016 - 18
The company used tax-free Gas System Revenue Bonds, a 1950s
precursor of industrial revenue bonds.
In 1988, Consumers and Suburban Fuel Gas merged. Consumers
emerged as the surviving company, operating under the Suburban
name, says Pemberton, who began working with the company
as a regulatory attorney in 1975. Also in 1988, Suburban began
moving into Delaware and Marion counties.
In 1989, the family of Norman J. Rood, a Schwynn son-in-law,
invited Pemberton to become a principal with his purchase of half
the company. In 2000 the company finally passed from Hughes
family ownership to Pemberton family ownership
At Ohio Cumberland, President Mark Ramser and his father,
the late Russell E. Ramser, bought the company in 1980. The
elder Ramser retired in 1986, leaving his son to run the enterprise,
originally incorporated as Upham Gas Company in 1923. Mark
Ramser points out that the company had engaged in drilling and
pipeline operations prior to its incorporation. The company later
adopted the Ohio Cumberland name in 1944.
Mark Ramser explains that he enjoys the "flexibility" of working
in a family business environment. "I have enjoyed the opportunity
to work with my dad, and now with my son," he says.
The company obtains about 60 percent of its system supply
from local producers, with the balance coming from Columbia
Transmission, Mark Ramser says.
"We've got 14 good employees, and we do virtually all our
own construction work, installing new lines and replacing our
existing system. As of July we will have completed replaced all
our steel distribution lines with plastic piping, which will be quite
a milestone for us." Of course, he says, that flexibility comes with
a keen "sense of responsibility," especially in keeping employees
and customers safe.
Pemberton says the best thing about family utility ownership is
that the regulated utility industry "is one of the few safe harbors,
especially if you are in the distribution portion of the business. It
is a fascinating business and a healthy industry in Ohio."
Consequently, "Almost on a monthly basis, I am receiving unsolicited offers for the company," Pemberton says. "I am flattered
but not interested. When I was a corporate attorney in mergers
and acquisitions, my job was to get the deals closed after they
were negotiated. I just saw an awful lot of sellers' remorse in
The family dynamic can be one of the greatest challenges for
a privately-owned company, Pemberton says. "Family businesses
are difficult. That's why many don't make it to the second or third
generation. The biggest challenge is to keep everyone on the same
path and working together for the same purpose."
Pemberton's grandson, David Joseph Pemberton, now works
for Suburban as Director of Community Affairs and Marketing, and
is being groomed for leadership. "He had worked in our business
three years and then left to pursue his own interests. Now he's
come back," the senior Pemberton notes. "He's doing all the right
things and getting all the right attention."
Meanwhile, Andrew J. Sonderman is Suburban's president
and chief operating officer, the first non-family member to serve
in that position in company history, Pemberton says.
Russell A. "Russ" Ramser, Mark's son, now works as Ohio
Cumberland's special projects manager, a position which has
enabled him to learn about multiple aspects of the business in
a relatively short time. This experience will be most useful as he
prepares for a third generation of family leadership.
"I did not involve him in the business while he was growing up,"
Mark Ramser says. "I did not want to put pressure on him. After
he graduated from college, I asked if he wanted to get involved
in working with the company and he said he did. "I think he really
enjoys the variety of the work. My son is very technologicallyoriented. He supervised our conversion to automated meter reading," adds his proud father.
Richard Walden, nephew of Bert and great-grandson of the
company founder, came up through the production side of the
business, assuming ownership of the company in 1998 after his
Because family-owned companies do not have the access to
Wall Street capital that their corporate counterparts enjoy, prudent stewardship is essential to finance investments in growth
and new technology.
Walden notes that Sheldon relies on local capital, rather than
the stock and bond markets. "I can arrange that with a phone call.
We have been working with the same local bank for years. As a
small business, it all comes down to relationships, built on mutual
trust and word of mouth."
"Funding has not been a concern over the years," Rob Black
explains. "Most capital requirements are funded internally."
"We're frugal and it's never been a big issue for us," Mike Poole
says, adding that he sees an even greater issue. "Trying to meet all
the rules and regulations is the biggest challenge. As soon as the
government got their fingers in it, it became an issue for everyone.
Similar to maintaining a family farm, perhaps a more difficult
challenge for family-owned natural gas utilities is finding members
of the next generation willing to accept the legacy of leadership.
First, the next generation has to be willing and interested in
preparing to lead. For example, at Waterville Gas, "Our family members have started at the part-time summer level and progressed
to leadership positions," Rob Black says. "I started in 1965 working
Family-owned Suburban Natural Gas, serves 16,000 customers in northwest and central Ohio.
Photo by Suburban Natural Gas.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of OGA Pipeline 2016
Generation to Generation: Ohio Family-Owned Gas Utilities Survive and Thrive
OGA Members Work to Refill the Jobs Pipeline in Response to Pending Retirements
Using New Approaches to Proclaim the Call Before Digging Safety Message
Vacuum Excavation Delivers Safer, More Precise Digging, Expediting Restoration, Reducing Costs
Practicing the Art of Safety: Protecting Employees Helps Protect Companies
Pipeline Spotlight: PUCO Chair Asim Z. Haque
2016 OGA Affiliate, Associate and Corporate Members Listings
2016 OGA Executive Board and Committee Listings
Index of Advertisers/Advertiser.com
OGA Pipeline 2016 - cover1
OGA Pipeline 2016 - cover2
OGA Pipeline 2016 - 3
OGA Pipeline 2016 - 4
OGA Pipeline 2016 - 5
OGA Pipeline 2016 - 6
OGA Pipeline 2016 - 7
OGA Pipeline 2016 - President’s Corner
OGA Pipeline 2016 - 9
OGA Pipeline 2016 - 10
OGA Pipeline 2016 - 11
OGA Pipeline 2016 - 12
OGA Pipeline 2016 - 13
OGA Pipeline 2016 - Executive Roundtable
OGA Pipeline 2016 - 15
OGA Pipeline 2016 - Generation to Generation: Ohio Family-Owned Gas Utilities Survive and Thrive
OGA Pipeline 2016 - 17
OGA Pipeline 2016 - 18
OGA Pipeline 2016 - 19
OGA Pipeline 2016 - OGA Members Work to Refill the Jobs Pipeline in Response to Pending Retirements
OGA Pipeline 2016 - 21
OGA Pipeline 2016 - 22
OGA Pipeline 2016 - 23
OGA Pipeline 2016 - Using New Approaches to Proclaim the Call Before Digging Safety Message
OGA Pipeline 2016 - 25
OGA Pipeline 2016 - 26
OGA Pipeline 2016 - 27
OGA Pipeline 2016 - Vacuum Excavation Delivers Safer, More Precise Digging, Expediting Restoration, Reducing Costs
OGA Pipeline 2016 - 29
OGA Pipeline 2016 - 30
OGA Pipeline 2016 - Practicing the Art of Safety: Protecting Employees Helps Protect Companies
OGA Pipeline 2016 - Pipeline Spotlight: PUCO Chair Asim Z. Haque
OGA Pipeline 2016 - 33
OGA Pipeline 2016 - 2016 OGA Affiliate, Associate and Corporate Members Listings
OGA Pipeline 2016 - 35
OGA Pipeline 2016 - 36
OGA Pipeline 2016 - 37
OGA Pipeline 2016 - 38
OGA Pipeline 2016 - 39
OGA Pipeline 2016 - 2016 OGA Executive Board and Committee Listings
OGA Pipeline 2016 - 41
OGA Pipeline 2016 - Index of Advertisers/Advertiser.com
OGA Pipeline 2016 - cover3
OGA Pipeline 2016 - cover4
OGA Pipeline 2016 - 45
OGA Pipeline 2016 - 46
OGA Pipeline 2016 - outsert1
OGA Pipeline 2016 - outsert2