1981 became an important point in Std Labs' history as the International Coal Testing Conference was inaugurated. The conference was organized and managed by Std Labs with the intent of bringing a sense of unity among the many diverse organizations in the field of coal quality control.
Troy Stallard in the official opening banquet made the following observations. We, i.e., the coal testing industry have a very significant role to play in the use of coal until abundant alternative energy sources can be identified and scaled up into massive production…. More, better and faster results will be required ...our profession is becoming increasingly sophisticated ...we must do a better job professionally and this conference is a symbol that we are on our way”.
The first conference attracted nearly 600 attendees with twenty-three speakers and twenty-five exhibiting firms . Karen Gallagher was the conference director and performed this duty over the next 11 years of the conference's life. In total, the conference had several thousand attendees and hundreds of speakers and exhibiters and did a great deal to create a sense of community for our profession. It clearly helped in enhancing the image of Std Labs from that of a small regional lab into a nationally recognized participant in the commercial testing market. The Coal Testing Conference is discussed more fully in the Diversifications Section.
In 1981 a new entity, Standard Laboratories Technical Services Division, was opened under the leadership of Dick Kelly and is discussed in the Diversifications Section. This group provided consulting in the areas of coal sampling and analysis, coal production and transportation, the SLRR, standard reference materials, mechanical sampling and technical training seminars. This work grew out of the International Coal Testing Conference as a result Std Labs’ reputation being recognized worldwide.Special project work was also taken under this name and a good example of such work was bias testing for mechanical sampling systems in China.
The Technical Services Division helped round out the services portfolio offered by Std Labs. At this point in time the company could be seen as providing all the services needed to be recognized as a national coal testing laboratory firm with some visibility in international markets. In 1986 when Dick Kelly left the company, Lee Rigsby headed up this effort expanding its services and eventually becoming Vanguard Solutions (see Diversification tab) as discussed more fully later.
Also, in 1981 Bill Mayer transferred to the New Orleans lab after an incident with a customer in Van Buren, Arkansas who was threatening Bill with a gun to attempt to obtain higher quality results. Melvin Holt then took over the Van Buren lab. The New Orleans lab was closed in 1983 for lack of work after Phil Giolia was manager and Bill Mayer had left to become a CT&E (Commercial Testing and Engineering Co.) employee. The Van Buren laboratory then had a series of managers including Brenda Briley and Dickie Horton and is in existence today.
A laboratory in Long Beach, California was acquired and is discussed in the “Acquisitions” Section.
Merrill Bergstedt, who had been in the Charleston Lab, was responsible for establishing a new lab in Norfolk, Va. This lab lasted only a few years and was closed as a part of the organization of Sampling Associates International which is discussed under the Partnerships Section.
This same year the company purchased an airplane (Cessna 340) and started the Standard Aviation Division. This division operated under Mark White for seventeen years and supported the rapid growth of Std Labs by providing quick and easy transportation for the corporate staff across the eastern half of the United States. Mark was both a pilot and mechanic and fitted well into the Std Labs culture. Standard Aviation formed partnerships with One Valley Bank and later with Spilman & Thomas Law firm to share operating expenses. In 1989, the law firm bought out our interest in the aircraft and the division was terminated.
1981 also brought the age of financial computers into the company as a new Data General, Nova 4D was purchased for the accounting department.
Bob Wills opened a satellite lab of the Henderson, Kentucky lab in Owensboro, Ky.
Gladys Berchtold was recognized with the R. A. Glenn Award from the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) for her work as an individual who has made outstanding contributions in the development of ASTM standards relating to coal and coke. This same year she was elected to the Board of ASTM. She was first women named to that Board which had oversight of about 32,000 members.