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Are Slow-Payers Putting the Brakes on Accounts Receivable? Factoring Companies Can Rev Up Your Cash Flow

trucking accounts receivable factoring companies

Trucking is a race against the clock. No matter the cargo, the trucker faces constant pressure to navigate traffic snarls, avoid highway closures, overcome mechanical problems, and stay awake and alert to deliver their load at the contracted time. But as all truckers know, that’s only part of the story. There’s a lot more to the trucking business than what you see on the open road.

Just as the driver’s truck runs on diesel fuel, the owner’s company runs on cash flow. Whenever a customer is slow to pay their invoice, it’s a troublesome pothole in the trucking company’s cash flow. Get enough of these slow-payers and the result is the trucking firm’s ability to pay its own bills and its employees can grind to a halt.

Smaller trucking companies are especially at risk to cash flow problems. They have fewer trucks on the road, so the small profit margins prevalent throughout the industry hit them harder. A two- or three-truck operation can face real trouble when one of those trucks breaks down unexpectedly. Add several slow-paying customers into the mix and suddenly the firm is confronting a serious cash flow problem at a time when they need funds the most.

Has this happened to your trucking company? Are you currently struggling with slow-paying customers not taking care of their invoices in a timely manner? Are you looking for a solution that will enable you to improve your cash flow and keep cordial relations with your customers?

Good news, such a solution exists that lets you keep on trucking with invoices paid and cash flow problems now in the rearview mirror.

This solution is called invoice factoring. With this type of alternative business funding, the factoring company advances you funds for your accounts receivable invoices. The factoring company pays you right away for your outstanding invoices and takes care of collecting on them from that point forward, freeing you of the troublesome and time-consuming chore. Invoice factoring is also quick – you can usually get paid within just a day or two instead of waiting the usual 30, 60, 90 days or more.

Factoring companies can get you the money you need when you need it… with no long-term obligations. Gone is the worry and hassle of slow pay collections. You’re now free to run your business, to buy new equipment, hire new employees, expand operations, pay bills, or whatever else you choose. And, best of all, invoice factoring isn’t a one-time solution. You can utilize invoice factoring as often as you need to keep your cash flow running as smoothly as your fleet on a wide-open, traffic-free road.  Invoice factoring is a convenient alternative to a traditional bank loans or fee-laden online loans. To learn more about how factoring companies work, simply call toll-free 1-855-219-6008 or email Get your cash flow in gear today.

Court allows bankrupt Philly refiner to award secret bonuses [The Philadelphia Inquirer]

Oct. 17U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Kevin Gross will allow Philadelphia Energy Solutions to award secret bonuses to unnamed managers.

The judge, sitting in Wilmington, on Wednesday approved a request by the refiner, Philadelphia Energy Solutions, to award an undisclosed number of bonuses to executives. The bonus awards will be kept under seal, and a small circle of parties are bound by court order to keep the information confidential.

The refinery, whose bankruptcy is filed under the corporate name PES Holdings LLC, paid $4.6 million in bonuses to executives following a devastating June fire that led to its closure and bankruptcy. It filed a request on Sept. 27 to award additional bonuses, though it asked to keep details confidential to reduce the “negative impact on employee morale” and also the chances that competitors could use the information to recruit PES executives.

The bonuses, which are sometimes awarded by companies undergoing bankruptcy reorganization to retain key employees who might otherwise be tempted to depart, raised protests among some parties that are getting the short end of the refinery’s closure.

The committee of unsecured creditors objected, saying there was “no legitimate basis” for shielding all the information from the public. But it withdrew the objection a day later.

The United Steelworkers Union, which is a member of the unsecured creditors committee, filed a separate objection that argued that it was impossible to assess the necessity of the bonuses without having access to details. The union represented more than 600 of the refinery’s 1,100 workers, and said the company awarded union workers a $2.8 million “transition fund” for its laid off employees without disclosing the earlier round of bonuses.

The bonuses “have understandably produced considerable employee and community uproar,” the steelworkers said, citing media reports.

The judge said the refinery had established “just cause” for its request and granted the order. A hearing scheduled for Friday was cancelled.

The order was granted on the same day that the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board issued a preliminary report attributing the June 21 fire and explosions to a leak caused by the rupture of a corroded steel pipe. The accident caused the release of more than 5,000 pounds of a deadly chemical and launched pieces of shrapnel as large as a truck hurtling across refinery complex.

The awarding of retention bonuses is a sideshow to the larger decision facing the court over the best path forward for the PES complex, the largest refinery on the East Coast.

PES is shopping the 1,300-acre refinery to potential buyers, but reserves the right to reject a sale and transfer the company’s ownership to the creditors if it receives no suitable offers.

Two potential bidders have publicly declared an interest in the property, include a group led by former Chief Executive Officer Philip Rinaldi, which has proposed restarting the refinery and adding renewable natural gas production, and S.G. Preston, a Philadelphia biofuels marketer that wants to convert the refinery into a producer of renewable diesel and jet fuel.

Several other energy logistics companies have proposed turning the site into a fuel terminal, but it’s unclear if those plans include fuel production. Some real estate developers have also expressed interest in building warehouse or distribution centers that would tie into the site’s proximity to sea, rail, highway and airport access.


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Lordstown workers push for contract rejection if factory is to remain closed [Detroit Free Press :: BC-UAW-STRIKE-LORDSTOWN:DE]

DETROIT _ The future of the Lordstown Assembly Plant in Ohio has been a friction point between General Motors and the UAW even before negotiations began this summer for a new contract and could have bearing on whether GM autoworkers are willing to ratify the proposed deal.

About 40 to 50 UAW members gathered outside Detroit’s Renaissance Center ahead of the UAW National GM Council meeting as well as inside the Marriott hotel where the meeting was held chanting “no product no vote.”

As UAW leaders Gary Jones and Terry Dittes descended the escalator to enter the ballroom ahead of the meeting, the protesters again shouted: “No product, no vote” and “Stop giving our jobs to Mexico!”

Reports on Lordstown’s fate conflicted after the union and GM reached a proposed tentative agreement, with the Wall Street Journal saying the automaker would invest, with partners, $1.3 billion near the idled factory and other accounts saying Lordstown was left out of the pact. The Journal report squares with Free Press reporting on a battery plant planned near the factory while GM works to sell the plant to an enterprise linked to electric truck maker Workhorse Group of suburban Cincinnati.

Justin Brown drove from Wentzville, Mo., to Detroit to participate in the protest. He worked 11 years at Lordstown before transferring to GM’s plan in Wentzville five months ago.

“I left my home and everything there in Lordstown,” said Brown. “If there’s nothing in this contract for Lordstown, my vote is no. If they won’t give it to us now then I don’t think we should settle the contract.”

Likewise, Tommy Wolikow said, “if they just throw Lordstown away, it’ll be a no for me.”

Wolikow works at Flint assembly, but he spent years working at Lordstown. He said if the 46,000 members are “true union brothers and sisters and know the meaning of solidarity, they’ll stick with us” and reject the proposed tentative contract.

“If there’s no product for Lordstown, my vote is no,” said William Goodchild, a laid-off Lordstown worker who came to GM’s headquarters to make sure UAW leaders know the Lordstown issue matters.

Goodchild, Wolikow, Brown and others at the rally said they are ready to stay on strike longer if need be to get a product for Lordstown. But Wolikow worries that some union members will see “the big carrot” GM has offered in the form of a ratification bonus of at least $9,000 and “be bought out” to ratify a tentative contract if the National GM Council recommends ratification.

Lordstown Mayor Arno Hill, who retired as a tool and die maker from Delphi Packard Electric Systems in 2004, said he had not been briefed by General Motors as of 10 a.m. Thursday.

“I haven’t had a heads up on anything,” Hill said. “I’m sure with GM their priority now is to get an agreement with the UAW.”

Right now, he said, much of the speculation is focusing on a scenario where the Workhorse buys the factory. The belief, he said, is that no product has been allocated by GM to Lordstown but nothing has been confirmed.

GM in November 2018 angered the UAW when it announced plans to idle four U.S. plants, including Lordstown, which shut down earlier this year when production of the small Chevrolet Cruze ended.

Known provisions of the proposed tentative agreement include:

_ UAW-represented GM workers will get a bonus of more than $9,000 upon ratification of the deal.

_ GM will invest in U.S. facilities to create and retain 9,000 jobs.

_ 3-4% wage and lump sum increases in alternating years.

_ As part of that investment, Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant will be retooled to build an electric pickup.

_ Temporary workers, who have been paid $15-19 an hour with inferior benefits to permanent autoworkers, get a path to a permanent role.

_ Newer union workers with two weeks’ vacation a year will get to take one of those weeks at their choosing. In the previous contract, these employees were required to take both paid vacation weeks during scheduled plant shutdowns. The second week of a plant shutdown would be considered a layoff, qualifying workers for unemployment.


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Record Gulf oil output to average 2 million barrels daily in 2020 [Houston Chronicle]

Oil and gas industry Production platform.Oct. 17–The Gulf of Mexico is churning out oil at record highs each year and will average 2 million barrels per day in 2020 for the first time, the federal government said.

As new projects come online, the Gulf already has averaged record highs in 2018 and now in 2019 — even with temporary outages from hurricanes and tropical storms — and despite dwindling exploration and drilling activity in the deepwater Gulf.

The U.S. Energy Department said Gulf crude output was 1.8 million barrels daily in 2018 — a new record — and that production entered this year at 1.91 million barrels daily as Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron and others brought new platforms into production.

Current production is estimated at or just a shade below 2 million barrels daily. But the 2019 average will be closer to 1.9 million barrels because of storm outages that dipped production volumes at times, the Energy Department said.

However, even with the offshore growth, the Gulf will account for a smaller percentage of total U.S. oil output than before because onshore shale oil growth has risen at a faster pace.

In 2011, the Gulf made up 23 percent of total U.S. crude production. Next year, even at 2 million barrels a day, the Gulf will only account for 15 percent, according to the Energy Department.

After all, West Texas’ booming Permian Basin alone is currently churning out 4.6 million barrels of oil daily as the world’s largest oilfield.

Apart from Shell and Chevron, other companies are bringing on new Gulf projects this year and next, including BP, Occidental Petroleum of Houston, Talos Energy of Houston, Fieldwood Energy of Houston, W&T Offshore of Houston, LLOG Exploration of Louisiana and Murphy Oil of Arkansas.

Eight projects were slated for completion this year with four more in 2020.

However, drilling and exploration activities in the Gulf are at some of their lowest levels since the 2010 Deepwater Horizon tragedy triggered a temporary moratorium. Instead, many companies have focused on cheaper expansion projects in the Gulf rather than push forward with multibillion-dollar new platform projects.


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As Mack Trucks strike hits fifth day, keeping production in the Lehigh Valley emerges as key issue [The Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.)]

Oct. 17–This week, Mack Trucks’ 1 million-square-foot assembly plant in Lower Macungie Township sits quietly — a place that has been a truck manufacturing hub for nearly 44 years suddenly idled. The usually jam-packed parking lot is as dead as a vacant Kmart.

But many of the plant’s more than 2,000 workers are still filtering in nearby — not for work, but for four-hour shifts at high-trafficked outposts around the plant as part of the first strike to hit Mack in 35 years. There, United Auto Workers Local 677 members are equipped with signs, red shirts reading “We Are One” and boxes of doughnuts or pizza stacked upon folding tables or opened tailgates.

The workers revel in the occasional morale-boosting honk from a passing vehicle, including one at 2 p.m. Tuesday from a truck they surely built: a white Mack Anthem day cab.

From the picket line to the union hall: The UAW has listed more than 15 issues that remain unsettled in its discussions with Mack, negotiations that won’t continue until Monday. While a lengthy list of topics remain open, local union officials on Tuesday said their top concern is ensuring the proper commitments are in place to make sure the Lower Macungie plant — and the Lehigh Valley, in general — remains the place where all heavy-duty Macks for the North American market are assembled.

“There was a letter in our contract that says you can’t take our Class 8 truck out of Macungie, and that’s the letter we’re looking to keep,” Kevin Fronheiser, the local’s shop chairman and a 20-year Mack employee, told The Morning Call. “Again, we want to make sure we’re building the truck here in the Lehigh Valley.”

Fronheiser said Mack has not said anything about moving production out of the Lehigh Valley, but the union is looking for protections that were included in previous contracts.

“We just want to cover it, though,” said Dave Durgin, a 31-year Mack employee and the local’s chairman of the office and engineering units. “We just want to make sure.”

In a statement over the weekend about the strike, which began at 11:59 p.m. Saturday and involves about 3,500 Mack employees across Pennsylvania, Maryland and Florida, Mack President Martin Weissburg said the company has no plans to shutter any U.S. manufacturing operations even as it competes against products made in lower-cost countries.

“On the contrary, we’ve invested more than $400 million in our plants and logistics network over the last ten years, and since 2015 have insourced work that has created more than 500 jobs in our U.S. factories,” Weissburg said. “We have significant new investments in both facilities and products on the way.”

While the previous investments Weissburg mentioned include about $84 million that went into the Lower Macungie plant, it could be those projects “on the way” that are causing some of the concern. While Weissburg’s statement said Mack has no plans to close any U.S. plants, Fronheiser noted that he didn’t explicitly say that all heavy-duty truck production would stay in the Lehigh Valley.

And Mack’s parent company, the Sweden-based Volvo Group, has a history of shifting operations between its U.S. facilities.

For example, about two years after acquiring Mack, Volvo in 2002 closed the manufacturer’s Winnsboro, South Carolina plant, an operation that opened in 1987 and replaced the 60-year-old 5C plant in Allentown just a couple years after Mack’s last strike in 1984. With the South Carolina plant closed, Volvo moved Mack production that was done in South Carolina to its New River Valley plant in Dublin, Virginia.

That highway model production continued at the New River Valley plant until 2009, when Volvo moved the work to the Lower Macungie plant. That move also corresponded with the relocation of Mack’s corporate headquarters from Allentown to the Greensboro, N.C., Volvo campus, which cost the Lehigh Valley hundreds of white-collar jobs but helped streamline certain functions between Mack and Volvo Trucks North America. Durgin mentioned Tuesday that his job was once in the Mack Boulevard headquarters before it was moved to the Mack Customer Center in Allentown and now the Lower Macungie plant.

A similar issue appears to have been raised during negotiations ahead of a three-year contract that was reached in October 2016, a deal that expired Oct. 1.

A Jan. 3, 2017, article on the UAW’s website stated that Mack wanted to delete a provision in the contract that required the company to get the union’s approval before it could open a new plant. An information request, the union says, revealed Mack was looking to eventually build a West Coast plant, something the union believed could threaten job security in Lower Macungie. In regards to this provision, Mack spokesman Christopher Heffner said the company prefers “not to discuss any provisions of our contract at this time.”

During a question-and-answer session in Allentown in August 2018, Weissburg said the Lower Macungie plant had been making impressive improvements and that Mack would continue to invest in the site as needed. When asked specifically about whether Mack could need another plant down the road, he responded, “It’s hard to forecast the future, but there’s ample room in the (Lehigh Valley Operations) factory right now.”

Another Mack facility does appear, however, to be in the works, though not necessarily one that will shift production from Lower Macungie.

Earlier this year, The Morning Call reported that Mack was advertising engineering positions in the Salem, Virginia, area, believed to be the spot where Mack will author its re-entrance into the medium-duty truck market. Volvo Group North America spokesman John Mies in February declined to talk about the project but noted it would not result in any shifting of production from Mack’s Lower Macungie plant, which focuses on Class 8 highway, construction and garbage trucks.

Still, Durgin said, the Virginia project did come up during negotiations.

“We know about it,” he said. “We’re not against it. We understand the company needs to keep making products and keep making money. We just want to have a part in that. But we know about it. We don’t have too many details on it yet.”

Also of note is an announcement in late June that Volvo will invest nearly $400 million over six years to upgrade its 1.6-million-square-foot New River Valley plant, a facility that employs more than 3,000 workers and produces all Volvo trucks sold in North America. The project, in which Volvo has said it will create 777 new jobs over the next six years, includes a new 350,000-square-foot building that will house truck cab welding operations and an expansion of the existing structure to improve the facility’s paint operations and production flow.

“NRV is painting some Mack cabs, so the enhancements to the plant’s paint operations will also benefit Mack,” Mies said in an email Tuesday.

More specifically, Mack purchases its sleeper cab from a third-party firm before the cab makes it way to Volvo’s New River Valley plant to be painted.

The cab is then shipped more than 400 miles from New River Valley — a plant where Mack highway models were once produced — to the Lower Macungie plant, where assembly occurs.

Morning Call reporter Jon Harris can be reached at 610-820-6779 or at


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Improving Your Odds of Getting a Small Business Loan and Identifying Your Alternatives

Small Business Loan Application

For a bettor or a gambler, few things are as revered as a “sure thing.” That’s because few things are ever truly assured. OK, in horse racing, seeing Secretariat’s, Seattle Slew’s or Seabiscuit’s name in the lineup is never a bad sign. The same can be said for holding a royal flush in a high-stakes poker game. But how many times do these happen? In most endeavors success is never a sure thing, which is why so many people want to stack the odds as much in their favor as possible before taking a chance. And even then, there’s still the possibility of walking away empty handed.

A small business owner faces that dilemma each and every time they apply for a loan. Getting a small business loan is far from a sure thing. In fact, the odds are often greater of failure than success.

An estimated 30 percent of all business fail not because they had a bad idea or they lacked customers, but because they ran out of money to keep the operation afloat. So access to capital, be it to launch a small business or to grow it, is vital.

Small businesses can be capital hungry ventures. They borrow approximately $600 billion a year, a Small Business Administration study has found. About 40 percent of small business owners applied for a loan in 2017, according to the Federal Reserve. The average loan size was $633,000. However, more than half of borrowers applied for loans of $100,000 or less.

Banks and other traditional financial institutions typically reject far more small business loan applications than they approve. Alternative lenders are a slightly better bet with a little more than half approved.  But even then, it’s not much more than a 50-50 proposition. Not the best of odds. Is there anything you can do before you apply for a loan to improve your chances? Can you swing the odds more in your favor? The answer is yes, and there are alternatives too.

Have a solid business plan: Lenders are not gamblers. They are risk averse. It’s simply their nature. Your job is to convince them you’re a sure thing. How? By having a complete, thorough and well-presented business plan, accompanied by a concise executive summary. Demonstrate your knowledge, foresight and planning skills. Show you’ve thought of every conceivable contingency as well as a way to overcome any potential issues. Let your passion shine through, but also display your sound judgment and fiduciary responsibility.

Have some skin in the game: Don’t walk into the lender’s offices expecting them to finance your business 100 percent. Even with the best business plan in hand, you still represent a risk. The lender is going to want to see you’re willing to share at least some of that bet with your own money. The more equity you have in the business when asking for a loan, the greater your odds of approval. Anything less than a 25 percent stake jeopardizes your chances of success.

Invest first in things that generate income: Lenders want to see a revenue stream that can be put back into the business to grow and expand towards continued success. What they don’t want to see are things that constantly take away from that revenue. One example is your business’s physical location. Do you plan to purchase or construct a building or rent space? If it’s the former, the bank will likely frown on that, considering those costs to be a drain on future revenues and your ability to repay the loan. Rent space in the beginning. You won’t be tied down and if trouble comes, you can easily downsize as needed. Plus, it will show the lender your first interest is generating income not expenses, something they want to see.

Shop around: As we’ve already seen, small business loan approval rates vary greatly among different types of lenders. Generally, the bigger the lender, the less likely you are to get a loan. Focus more on smaller institutions. Not only do they have a higher approval rate, they are more likely to give you greater attention and service. If you’re considering an alternative lender, such as an online loan provider, first check out our previous article on the potential pitfalls of going this route.

There’s another way to get same day funding: Engage a factoring company to fund you the amount of your outstanding accounts receivable invoices upfront, giving you the cash you need today to run your business today, and eliminating the worry and hassle of waiting to collect payments from your customer accounts. You’re left free to run your business. Invoice factoring is a convenient alternative to a traditional bank loan or fee-laden online loans.

Factoring gives you the money you need when you need it with no long-term obligations. You can also get cash quicker through invoice factoring – usually within a day or two. To learn more, simply call toll-free 1-855-219-6008 or email

The Streets are Paved with Gold for Gear Jammers as America Celebrates National Truck Driver Appreciation Week

Truck driver shortage overblown

America’s transportation infrastructure is crumbling, with traffic-clogged freeways, pothole-strewn side streets and aging bridges making travel as much an aggravation as an adventure. But for the nation’s 3.5 million truckers, these troubled byways have lately proven to also be yellow brick roads leading to prosperity.

In fact, according to the American Trucking Associations (ATA), there’s no better time to be a trucker or to own a trucking firm in the U.S. The industry enjoyed a robust $796.7 million in revenues in 2018, up nearly $100 million from the previous year. Truckers moved almost 11.5 billion tons of freight in 2018, representing 71.4 percent of all U.S. tonnage freight. That number could be surpassed this year, as the ATA’s July 2019 truck tonnage index surged up 6.6 percent  over June. The association is projecting the growth will continue over the next decade, forecasting a healthy 25 percent jump by 2030.

To celebrate, the ATA has declared Sep. 8-14, 2019, as National Truck Driver Appreciation Week. The week will honor truckers for the jobs they do in delivering tons of products and goods safely, securely and on time throughout the country. The ATA estimates more than 80 percent of U.S. communities rely exclusively on truck drivers for deliveries.

“Truck drivers are an integral part of the nation’s growing economy and deserve to be celebrated by their companies, customers, neighbors, families and friends,” ATA President and CEO Chris Spear said in an association press release. “Everything that we consume – groceries, school supplies, clothes, medicine – gets delivered by a truck driver whether it’s to your front door, your local market, or your workplace. These drivers improve our quality of life by dedicating themselves to safety and making every effort to deliver the things we need efficiently, professionally and responsibly.”

There are an estimated 1.2 million trucking companies across the nation. Combined, these firms operate 15.5 million trucks, two million of which are tractor trailers. The ATA says most carriers are small companies – 91 percent run six or fewer trucks and more than 97 percent operate 20 or fewer. About one in nine of the country’s 3.5 million drivers are independent owner-operators.

However, despite these numbers, there is a tremendous shortage of drivers, with more and more work available and not enough men and women behind the wheel to do it. The ATA estimates that an additional 60,800 drivers were needed at the end of 2018, and that number could be higher at the end of this year. Experienced drivers are retiring (the U.S. Census Bureau indicates the median age for a truck driver is 46 years of age versus 41 for all workers). Freight service demand is rising, due in no small part to a surge in e-commerce, which relies almost exclusively on deliveries. So, for younger workers looking for jobs in demand with plenty of income potential and growth, the trucking industry should be an appealing career choice.

Two issues facing many small carriers and independent owner-operators are cash flow and timely payments on invoices. Having slow-paying customers can put the brakes on a trucking company’s operations and growth. One easy way to improve cash flow and overcome slow pay (or no pay) clients is to sell your invoices to a third party, also called a factoring company. The factoring company can fund you the amount of your outstanding accounts receivable invoices upfront, giving you the cash you need today to run your business today, and eliminating the worry and hassle of slow pay collections. You’re left free to run your business. Invoice factoring is a convenient alternative to a traditional bank loan or fee-laden online loans. Factoring gives you the money you need when you need it with no long-term obligations. You can also get cash quicker through invoice factoring – usually within a day or two. To learn more, simply call toll-free 1-855-219-6008 or email

EDITORIAL: Find Alternative To Trans Mountain Pipeline [The Columbian, Vancouver, Wash.]

Sep. 9–If one of the goals of a public protest is to raise awareness, kayakers on the Columbia River last week were successful.

About 30 members of the Mosquito Fleet, a water-borne group that protests fossil-fuel infrastructure, paddled an hour from Kelley Point Park in Portland to the Port of Vancouver. There they decried the presence of a cargo ship they say was carrying pipes for the expansion of a Canadian pipeline.

All of which reminds us of the need for Washington to stand in opposition to the proposed Trans Mountain Pipeline project. The Canadian government has approved a plan to expand the pipeline and increase the transfer of oil from Alberta to ports near Vancouver, British Columbia.

That is where Washington gets involved. The oil would be loaded onto ships for transport through the Salish Sea, the shared waters between our state and Canada. As Gov. Jay Inslee has said: “This is deeply irresponsible. While they may think this is in Canada’s best interests, this is not in the best interests of the people of Washington or of the world.”

It is estimated that the pipeline would increase tanker traffic from about 60 vessels a year to more than 400. That would impact the habitat of orcas, with studies suggesting that noise and pollution from shipping negatively affect the animals, who are listed as endangered. It also would add to fossil-fuel infrastructure at a time when the burning of such fuels and its role in climate change must be a concern of responsible governments across the globe.

Notably, leaders in British Columbia also are opposed to the plan from their federal government. And earlier this year, Inslee said: “We have a good working relationship with Canada and the province of British Columbia, where we recently reiterated our support for shifting our region to a clean-energy economy. Now is the time to protect our orcas and combat climate change, not invest in long-term fossil fuel infrastructure that would increase our emissions.”

Washington is on the right side of this issue. Adding fossil-fuel infrastructure is an ill-considered act at a time when the impact of climate change is becoming increasingly clear.

The benefits for Canada of expanding the pipeline are easily understood. The nation has vast reserves of oil in northern Alberta but has had difficulty finding cost-effective transport methods. It would be arrogant of American interests to suggest that Canada should limit its economic potential because of our environmental concerns.

But the United States does wield some leverage in the dispute. One factor could be completion of the Keystone XL Pipeline through the middle of the United States. This would bring the crude to a region of the United States that already has extensive infrastructure for refining and transporting oil, rather than creating new problems in the waters off Washington.

Another factor could be ongoing negotiations regarding the Columbia River Treaty, a compact in which Canada provides flood control at the headwaters of the river in exchange for a share of the hydroelectricity generated downstream. A compromise over the Trans Mountain Pipeline could be a mutually beneficial part of those negotiations.

The protesters who rowed from Portland to the Port of Vancouver last week hope to prevent oil from being transported out of northern Canada. That is a laudable but unrealistic goal. Yet they deserve credit for bringing renewed attention to the issue.


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Refinery employees honored for heroism during fire by Philly firefighters union [The Philadelphia Inquirer]

Sep. 9–Four employees of the Philadelphia Energy Solutions oil refinery in South Philadelphia, which was badly damaged by fire in June, were among dozens honored Sunday as part of the annual “Recognition Day” by the Philadelphia Firefighters & Paramedics Union Local 22.

The ceremony recognizes firefighters, paramedics and citizens for heroic acts in the last year.

By taking swift, critical actions, Barbara McHugh, Sal Diberardo, Dave Farrell and Sean McElhinney were credited with preventing the massive fire on June 21 at the largest East Coast refinery from becoming deadly. Five people were injured in the predawn blaze.

The damage, however, has led to the refinery, which employed 1,100 people, shutting down and filing for bankruptcy protection. Just a caretaker staff of 83 remains.

According to Inquirer reports and information provided at Sunday’s banquet, held in the Southampton Room of the Painters & Glaziers Union Hall in Northeast Philadelphia:

McHugh was a console operator in the central control room who hit a button that transferred highly dangerous hydrofluoric acid away from the blast area in Unit 433 and into a separate holding tank, averting a potential catastrophe. Diberardo, Farrell, and McElhinney climbed refinery pipes under fiery conditions and shut down the valves to stop the fuel to the fire.

Also recognized Sunday were nearly two dozen firefighters and medic unit operators who responded to a house fire on July 7 at Locust and Chew Avenues in East Germantown, rescuing three people from the building, including a woman who initially had no pulse or respiration but eventually was revived.

The awards event originated from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and is scheduled each year as close to that date as possible.


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CAPS students making impact on community, businesses [Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, Iowa]

Sep. 8CEDAR FALLS — Finding new talent is important to companies as they plan for future workforce needs. But even as Kevin Watje was hiring one such prospect this summer, the chief executive officer of Curbtender worried that he might have found someone too new.

Nathan Hoffman’s task was to design a lifting device for the garbage trucks Curbtender manufactures. The recent graduate of Cedar Falls High School only had a brief window in which to work, though. He was heading to college this fall.

Hoffman had been referred to Watje by Cedar Falls Community Schools’ Center for Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS) after going through its engineering program. He came with high recommendations on his abilities to do computer-aided design work.

Still, Watje admitted that he was skeptical. Then Hoffman started working.

“He picked it up right away and we were so impressed with that,” said Watje, professing amazement at how quickly the teenager became proficient. “In the six weeks he was here, he literally designed a product for us.”

The company needs to build a prototype yet, but the CEO has high hopes for the product and how it will position them in the market. “If that is successful, we’ll have a heck of a competitive advantage,” he said, over other garbage truck manufacturers.

Now Curbtender has two more students who’ve gone through CAPS, senior Frank Zhang and junior Jacob Smothers, designing an arm for a garbage truck. They are reverse engineering the arm based on an older product. Watje likes what he is seeing from the pair.

“It’s been a great experience for us,” he said.

While the students’ work at Curbtender is similar to what’s done in the CAPS program, in these cases they are directly paid employees of the company and not earning dual high school-college credit. But the company got interested in the students after it became a business partner with CAPS.

Ethan Wiechmann, director of the high school program, said those connections to the business community are what matter.

“The program gets a lot of people at the table,” he said. “The key to the success is everyone finding value.”

CAPS is touting some other recent successes, as well.

Students in last spring’s CAPS session designed a set of large banners for Cedar Falls Community Main Street that can now be seen hanging on posts by the library and between Second and Third streets. The program held its first summer CAPS session, from which Zhang and Smothers were recruited to work at Curbtender. And its officials are working with Jesup and Waterloo Columbus high schools to start their own Center for Advanced Professional Studies programs.

Teenage engineers

Curbtender’s hiring of students is “a great CAPS story,” said Wiechmann. “We’ve got a 16-year-old and a 17-year-old that are working as engineers on this project.”

Wiechmann said the district decided to hold the summer CAPS program, which enrolled five students, because of the difficulty some kids had in finding time in their schedule to take it.

Cedar Falls is part of a Center for Advanced Professional Studies network that includes 52 programs involving 106 school districts in 15 states and two countries. But the district was a pioneer with its summer offering. Aside from Cedar Falls Schools, “none of them have run an actual for-credit CAPS program in the summer,” he noted.

Both Zhang and Smothers are interested in studying engineering in college. They learned computer-aided design skills through the CAPS program and earlier Project Lead the Way classes.

“As we were going through CAPS, I was thinking these skills would help me get a job one day,” said Smothers. “I just didn’t realize how soon.”

Watje’s wife was at an event where the summer CAPS students were making presentations about their projects and alerted her husband that there were two more students with an interest in engineering that he may want to consider hiring. They started working for Curbtender about two weeks before school started and are continuing this fall after classes each day.

When they were offered the positions, “that was pretty surprising,” said Zhang. The boys are learning a lot about engineering and picking up some new skills related to the design program used by Curbtender.


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“It’s just a lot of new experiences here that we didn’t have to deal with in the classroom,” said Zhang. “So we’re learning here every day.”

Along the way, they’ve also made quite a bit of progress on the project. Once the design is done, a prototype will be made.

“We’ll start probably cutting steel for that in two weeks,” said Watje. “They’re going to see it to completion, is my hope.”

Afterward, “if they want to stay with us, we have another project for them,” he noted. “By the end of their school year, I’m hoping both of those projects are complete and in production.”

Main Street banners

The Community Main Street banner design, which includes the CAPS logo, was offered by the organization as a project for the program. It was chosen for the “design sprint” done by the full group over three days at the beginning of spring semester. CAPS students are otherwise divided between the Cedar Falls’ programs four “strands”: Robotics and engineering, solutions (which is business-focused), education, and medical and health services.

“This just happened to be a project that was on our list,” said Carol Lilly, executive director of Community Main Street. “This is kind of that basic set (of banners) that will go up that aren’t seasonal.”

Community Main Street officials gave the students design guidelines and received many proposals that a committee narrowed down before picking the winner. “It was really hard for our committee to pick from,” said Lilly. “There were so many good ideas.”

The design they chose includes a blue line through the center of the banner based on a satellite image of the Cedar River. Blocks of red, green and orange spread across it horizontally. Lilly said the ability to transfer the design to a banner and how colors matched the downtown area’s branding gave it an edge.

Participating in the CAPS can give businesses and organizations “an option for some of those projects you can’t get to,” she said. In addition, the program “helps foster the next generation of community leaders.”

Interest growing

Cedar Falls CAPS leaders are working across school lines to help their brand of career education proliferate. Teachers with Jesup and Columbus high schools are being trained so each can set up their own programs, which could begin second semester. Like the Cedar Falls program, the two schools will partner with businesses at off-campus locations to provide real-world career experiences.

“We think this model has some legs to it and a lot of potential,” said Wiechmann. “We just need to figure out all the bugs.”

Jesup’s program will be located in a building being renovated by its partners, Farmers State Bank and Heartland Technology.

“We’re pretty excited about it. From the sound of it, it will be a co-working space that will house CAPS,” said Paul Rea, Jesup High School principal. “I know that we had a lot of support from our businesses in Jesup.”

Daniel Thole, Columbus principal, said Cedar Valley Catholic Schools’ administrators were looking for career education with a variety of components including experiential learning and opportunities to give back to the community.

“The CAPS program really allows us to do that pretty easily,” he noted. “We’re very excited for the Cedar Valley to benefit from this as much as our students.”

Details are not yet worked out concerning partner businesses or the program’s location.

“We’re still in the planning stages of all those logistics,” said Thole. “The first step was to inform the (school) board of this. Now that is passed, we’re going to begin the rest of it.”

Rea said his school is piloting CAPS on behalf of Cedar Valley Northeast, a consortium of districts that work to provide common professional development opportunities to their staffs. Others in the group include the Denver, Dunkerton, Wapsie Valley, Tripoli, SumnerFredericksburg and Clarksville school districts. Some or all of them may be interested in implementing the program during future years.

“I feel like we’re doing everything to get prepared to give our kids a great learning experience,” said Rea.


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