David Gadis has recently been named executive vice president of sales, marketing and government affairs for Veolia Water. When asked if he had ever dreamed of achieving such an accomplishment, his immediate answer is no.
Then he thinks again.
“I guess I should have because my dad always instilled in me that with an education I can do almost anything I want to do,” said Gadis. “Each time I saw the end of the rainbow, I would set another goal.”
Gadis is actually a second-generation employee of the water company. His father Mack was an employee of the old Indianapolis Water Co. for more than 35 years. David said growing up, the water company was a place that he wanted to work because not only did he have inside knowledge of the business, it put food on the table and provided a secure life.
“Just by listening to him and talking with him, I heard some of the good and bad things. It was a place I wanted to go and affect change,” said Gadis.
After graduating from Southern Methodist University, the Indianapolis native worked in the insurance industry. The Indianapolis Water Co. had a no-nepotism rule, but Gadis was recruited to the company after his father had retired. In 1998, he became vice president of shared services, and became chief operating officer in 2002.
With Veolia Water, which began to manage the system in 2002, Gadis helped the company earn numerous local and national awards. Prior to his current post, he was the president of Veolia Water Indianapolis, recently renamed Citizens Water.
“(When becoming the executive vice president) it was bittersweet because on one hand my dad was so proud of me being the president of the company that he worked very hard for, but he knew there were other things out there that I needed to achieve,” said Gadis.
As the executive vice president, Gadis’ new duties include formulating and supporting Veolia’s North American growth strategy and helping large communities with their water issues.
Veolia Water North America is the leading provider of comprehensive water and wastewater partnership services to municipal and industrial customers. Locally Veolia Water operated and managed the water treatment, storage and supply system, which serves more than 1 million people in Indianapolis and Central Indiana.
Gadis said he’s been appointed to his new role to not only help Veolia grow, but also help the industry develop what he calls game-changers – strategies to doing business differently.
Gadis knows he has a difficult yet attainable task ahead of him due to the fact that many cash strapped cities across America don’t want to raise customers’ utility rates, but are facing aging, crumbling infrastructures that are in desperate need of repair.
“In Indianapolis under the Bart Peterson administration, we held rates for five years. We’re looking to try and bring those same sort of ideas and tools to other communities to help them increase their revenue so that they can pay for infrastructure and keep people employed,” said Gadis.
Other challenges Gadis expects to tackle is helping utilities operate more efficiently, including using proper amounts of chemicals used to treat water, getting the right price for those chemicals and coming up with energy efficient ways to power water treatment facilities.
Many people believe Veolia is a utility juggernaut, but Gadis said that’s not the case. The company prides itself on equal collaboration using global talent to solve water and utility related issues with plans created specifically for that city.
Veolia has recently been selected to help manage New York City’s utility – one of the largest utilities in the U.S. Gadis said this deal demonstrates Veolia’s capabilities especially when marrying the public and private sector.
“We believe (Gadis’) hands-on understanding of the actual realities facing cities, and his knowledge of the pragmatic solutions that are available to them, will bring tremendous value to our clients and to those looking to meet service requirements and protect the environment while staying in budget,” said Laurent Auguste, president and CEO of Veolia Water Americas.
Gadis has achieved great personal success, but has also made great strides in increasing supplier diversity within the company.
When Gadis took over the supplier diversity arm of the Indianapolis Water Co. it was doing less than 5 percent of business with minority and women-owned business enterprises (M/WBE). That increased to 40 percent.
At Veolia, Gadis said he increased job procurement opportunities by over 600 percent. Competition among their suppliers also meant Veolia was getting the best price available. Veolia was then able to pass the savings on to customers.
“The first thing I did was develop and establish a culture at our company that had diversity and inclusion. That meant having individuals in the company in every role, including the executive team, that looked like the community we served,” said Gadis.
Gadis was then able to provide ample opportunities for M/WBEs in Indianapolis to bid on projects and service jobs with Veolia.
Gadis cites Quest Environmental & Safety Products Inc. that began providing hardhats to Veolia Indianapolis, but eventually began supplying hardhats to Veolia employees nationwide. Sam Yadav, president of Quest Environmental & Safety Products Inc. was then able to grow his business.
“David and Veolia helped us to get into the utilities market which now consists of business with Citizens, Vectren , and American Electric Power (AEP),” said Yadav. “Also, with David’s support Quest earned the 2009 Indiana Minority Supplier Development Council’s Supplier of the Year award.”
In addition to boosting Veolia Water Indianapolis’ supplier diversity, Gadis played a key role in shaping Veolia Water’s national program for MBE/WBE recruitment and involvement in governmental and industrial projects across North America.
“When you have diversity at the table, the conversation changes – when it’s not there, the conversation remains the same,” said Gadis. “God put me in a great position to help others. To not do so is definitely not the right thing to do. I felt like I did the right thing on a day-to-day basis.”
Gadis is proud of his accomplishments within Veolia and plans to remain rooted in the Indianapolis community.