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Mid-summer opening planned for truck dealership [The Herald Bulletin, Anderson, Ind.]

Dec. 11–INGALLS — Work is moving forward on the new General Truck Sales dealership, and executives at the Muncie-based company project it will open in July.

The 71,000-square-foot dealership is under construction in the Ingalls Interpark area at the southwest corner of Interstate 69 and Indiana 13. The dealership is expected to create 40 to 50 jobs.

“This facility will allow the company to provide better service to new and existing customers in the Indianapolis metropolitan area and central Indiana,” said Tina Rodgers, chief operating officer of the company.

Located on a 19-acre site, the dealership will sell new Volvo and Hino trucks, and all makes of used trucks. There will be an indoor sales showroom, 30 service bays for repairs, as well as unspecified driver and employee amenities.

Collision repairs will still be performed at the company’s facility in Muncie, which will continue to serve as corporate headquarters.

The new facility in Ingalls is the company’s second expansion in two years, Rodgers said. In October 2017, the company opened a new 93,000-square-foot store in Toledo to serve customers in Ohio and Michigan.

The Ingalls Planning Commission granted the company final approval to build the dealership July. The company first approached Ingalls with plans to build a new dealership at the interstate’s Exit 214 nearly a decade ago. Because of the onset of the Great Recession, however, those expansion plans were shelved.

“It just didn’t work out,” said former Ingalls Town Manager Tim Millikan. “And all these years later, they came back around and they presented their plan and it was accepted.”

Like Stu Hirsch on Facebook and follow him @stuhirsch on Twitter, or call 765-640-4861.


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Entrepreneur opens El Paso call center for Toyota Financial Services; craft beer bar opens [El Paso Times, Texas]

Dec. 10–Rosa Santana’s Oveana opens East Side call center to take Toyota auto loan calls

El Paso entrepreneur Rosa Santana opened an El Paso call center Dec. 4 to take customer calls for Toyota Financial Services, which provides vehicle loans. Her Santana Group of five companies is largely tied to Toyota, including at Toyota’s truck factory in San Antonio. Santana’s Oveana business process outsourcing company opened the call center at 10950 Pellicano Drive in East El Paso. Its bilingual workforce mostly takes calls from Toyota Financial’s Spanish-speaking customers, Santana said. It currently employs about 40 people, and Santana hopes the center can expand in the future.

“There’s a lot of opportunity for us with Toyota and other clients,” Santana said. “If the center demonstrates capacity, we will get more work.”

In 2015, Santana’s Forma Automotive began assembling truck beds at Toyota’sSan Antonio truck factory. The group’s other companies are staffing agencies: Integrated Human Capital and Diversa are based in El Paso, and Workforce Management is based in Mexico. The agencies do staffing for Toyota and other clients. The Santana Group is now based in San Antonio, but Santana said she keeps homes in El Paso and San Antonio and commutes frequently between the cities.

Friends partner to open Undisputed Craft House

Chris Madrid. former owner of the now-closed And Still Craft House on Joe Battle in East El Paso, has opened a new craft beer bar and restaurant, Undisputed Craft House, with three partners — Sergio Lopez, Darrell Daughtry and Jerome Issac. Madrid, Lopez and Daughtry have been friends since being on the Montwood High School football team together years ago. Issac was a good customer at Madrid’s former bar. They opened the new business in late October at 1881 Saul Kleinfeld Drive, also in East El Paso, and had the grand opening Nov. 16, reported the El Paso Small Business Development Center, which provided startup guidance for the new bar.

Architecture student wins Sundt Construction’sEl Paso design contest

Guadalupe Chao Zambrano won Sundt Construction’sEl Paso building design competition with her hanging art piece depicting the Franklin Mountains and Scenic Drive. Zambrano, a student at Texas Tech University’s architecture program in El Paso, won a $5,000 scholarship to help with her spring tuition.

Zambrano’s piece, titled “Cultural Symbiosis,” uses volcanic rocks hanging from wires. It will be mounted to a steel beam in Sundt’s El Paso office at 909 Texas Ave., in Downtown El Paso. The four other finalists were: Marysol Chavira, a Texas Tech architecture student, who won $3,000 for her “Integration” piece; recent Texas Tech architecture graduate Cynthia Escalante won $2,000 for her “Nuestra Frontera” piece; and Jesus Martinez and Armando Garcia, from El Paso Community College’s architecture program, each won $1,000 for their work. Sundt is a large general contractor based in Tucson.

Kemp Smith law firm names two new partners

El Paso law firm Kemp Smith has named Rachel Moreno and Gregory Martin as its newest partners. Both lawyers have worked at the firm for six years.

Moreno is in the Trial Department. She handles commercial litigation and personal injury and wrongful death cases. Martin is in the Business Department. He handles estate planning, nonprofits, probate and tax cases in Texas and New Mexico.

Texas Tech El Paso hires fundraising director, promotes media manager

Craig Holden has been hired as managing director of development at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso. He will oversee fundraising, alumni and donor relations, special events and the new department of Corporate and Foundation Relations. Holden previously was director of corporate and foundation relations at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces.

Veronique Masterson has been promoted to Texas Tech El Paso’s managing director for marketing and communications. She’ll manage the Office of Institutional Advancement’s marketing and creative services and communications teams. Masterson has been with Texas Tech for more than three years. She managed the school’s external communications team, which focuses on media relations, social media engagement, alumni relations and maintaining the school’s website.

Street names honor businessmen at Texas Tech campus

Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso and the city of El Paso held a ceremony Dec. 7 to mark the earlier naming of two streets on the Central El Paso campus for El Paso businessmen Rick Francis and Robert Brown. Both have been chairman of the Texas Tech University System board of regents, and both were instrumental in the development of the El Paso medical school and Texas Tech campus. Francis is chairman and CEO of WestStar Bank in El Paso. And Brown is an investor who operates Brownco Capital LLC.

SBNG auditor is Texas CPA ‘rising star’

Tello Cabrera, audit manager for El Paso accounting firm SBNG, recently was selected as one of 15 Texas Society of Certified Public Accountant’s 2018 Rising Stars. Cabrera has worked at SBNG for seven years, including the past three years as audit manager.

SBNG also recently added two accountants to its audit department: Anna Baumgardner, who worked three years as an auditor for an accounting firm in Weatherford, Texas; and Roy Padilla, who worked three years as an auditor at another El Paso accounting firm.

Fort Davis entrepreneur added to Workforce Solutions Borderplex board

Randall Kinzie has been added to the Workforce Solutions Borderplex board of directors. It oversees El Paso’s public employment agency. Kinzie is managing partner for Mayor Clay Productions, a video production and content development firm in Fort Davis, Texas. He also owns and operates Stone Village Tourist Camp and Stone Village Market in Fort Davis. The board also announced its new officers for 2019: Grace Muñoz, senior vice president of talent management at First Light Federal Union, will be chairman; Mica Short, vice president of development for the Paso del Norte Foundation, will be vice chairman.

Vic Kolenc may be reached at 546-6421;; @vickolenc on Twitter.

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Ooltewah, Red Bank boast cheapest gas in Tennessee [Chattanooga Times Free Press, Tenn.]

Dec. 10–The average price of gasoline in Chattanooga fell below $2 a gallon last week for the first time this year as cheaper global oil prices continued to push prices down at the pump.

Gasoline prices in Chattanooga fell an average of 7.6 cents per in the past week, dropping to $1.97 a gallon on Sunday, according to GasBuddy’s daily survey of 170 stations in Chattanooga. Fuel prices have plunged by 41.5 cents per gallon in the past month and are now at their lowest average level in Chattanooga since the summer of 2017, figures show.

The three cheapest gas stations for regular gas anywhere in Tennessee, Georgia or Alabama today are in Hamilton County. The cheapest gas is in Ooltewah at the Mapco station on Lee Highway, where regular gas is priced at $1.82 per gallon. Mapco and BP stations in Red Bank are selling regular gas today at $1.83 a gallon.

Nationwide, the average price of regular gas dropped by 2.7 cents per gallon in the past week to $2.41 per gallon. Tennessee is among 27 states with gas priced below $2 a gallon.

“Average gas prices have continued to move lower in most states in the last week as retail prices continue to catch up to the low price of oil,” said Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy. “While the going has been good at most gas pumps, OPEC countries did agree to curb oil production, but the cut was smaller than we had expected, and for a shorter duration than anticipated, resulting in a small upward move in oil, one that may not immediately curb the declines. We appear poised to see the national average drop perhaps at least one more week.”

A separate survey by AAA Auto Club South said average gas prices in Tennessee have declined for 59 consecutive days, dropping by 52 cents per gallon from where they were in late October.

“Gas prices in Tennessee could drop another 5-8 cents this week, but should level off soon,” Mark Jenkins, spokesman, AAA — The Auto Club Group, said in a report today. “Pump prices are close to catching up with the recent crude price plunge. However, oil prices are beginning to increase, after OPEC announced a production cut agreement on Friday. Regardless, drivers should continue to enjoy low gas prices through the end of the year, unless oil prices suddenly spike.”


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Atlantic Coast Pipeline construction halts as court reviews 4 endangered species [The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)]

Dec. 10–Construction on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline could be delayed for months after a federal court in Richmond ordered the 600-mile interstate natural gas project to stop all work on Friday.

The U.S. Court of Appeals suspended the federal permits from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which in September had cleared the way for pipeline construction in sensitive habitats. The habitats are home to four endangered species: a bee, a bat, a mussel and a crustacean.

Lawyers for the pipeline, which would run through eight counties in North Carolina, asked the court late Friday to reconsider the ban, saying it was too far-reaching. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s lawyers said, for example, that none of the four endangered species have sensitive habitats in North Carolina, suggesting that pipeline construction work could continue in the state.

“Due to the scope of the court’s order, Atlantic will be unable to proceed with any construction in the ‘action areas’ despite the lack of potential harm,” the pipeline’s lawyers wrote in a court filing.

A court hearing on the validity of the federal permit is not scheduled until March. The permit allows pipeline construction to accidentally harm wildlife protected by the federal Endangered Species Act.

But in the meantime the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and environmental groups who oppose the project are locked in a legal battle on whether the temporary construction ban should apply to the entire pipeline or just the areas with the endangered species.

DJ Gerken, a lawyer for the Southern Environmental Law Center, said Saturday in a phone interview that the sensitive habitat of the Indiana bat, one of the endangered species, covers most of the pipeline’s projected path in West Virginia and Virginia. Gerken said his clients, which include the Sierra Club and the Virginia Wilderness Committee, oppose any construction work under an invalid federal permit.

According to the environmental group’s legal briefs, pipeline construction could harm endangered species in a variety of ways. The clubshell mussel would be buried alive by dredging and grading. Digging and blasting could crush or trap the Madison cave isopod, a type of crustacean. The rusty-patched bumble bee could be injured or killed by tree felling. And tree clearing would force pregnant female bats to change their flight routes, exposing the bats to predators.

Pipeline spokesman Aaron Ruby could not be reached for comment. Just about every state and federal permit issued to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline has faced legal challenges, occasionally resulting in temporary stoppages on sections of the project. The environmentalist challenge to the federal permit that allows incidental harm to endangered species presents the most comprehensive legal challenge and potentially the longest delay to the project.

The pipeline is being built by an energy consortium led by Charlotte-based Duke Energy and Richmond-based Dominion Energy to bring natural gas to power plants, industries, homes and businesses in North Carolina. The natural gas would come from fracking operations in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

The energy companies say supplying the region with cheap, abundant natural gas would lower costs for homes and businesses and help replace dirty coal with cleaner-burning natural gas. The environmental groups contend that fracking is environmentally destructive and that natural gas, a form of methane, is a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming.

While the Indiana bat’s habitat covers the greatest area, the endangered bumble bee is in the most precarious position of the affected species.

“RPBB is on the brink of extinction,” the environmental legal brief states. “Its populations have have plummeted 88 percent since the 1990s.”

According to the environmental groups, 96 percent of known populations of this bumble bee have just five bees or fewer.

“The ACP will crush RBBBs — up to one nest and eight overwintering queens,” the brief states. “Because one nest represents thirty potential foundress queens, the ACP will cause the loss of up to thirty-eight nests the following year.”

The organizations say that 38 individual rusty-patched bumble bees — much less colonies — have not been documented in one place in decades.


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Speedway buys Express Mart stations, stores in upstate New York [The Buffalo News, N.Y.]

Dec. 09–Ten area Express Mart gas stations and convenience stores are now part of the Speedway network, after the parent companies of the two brands completed a larger transaction involving 78 stores across Upstate New York.

Marathon Petroleum Corp. of Findlay, Ohio, did not say how much it paid to acquire the stores in the Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse markets from Petr-All Petroleum Consulting Corp., based in Syracuse. The deal, which had been announced in April, was completed last month, but the real estate transactions totaling $9.8 million in Erie County closed last week. The stores, some of which include Tim Hortons Cafe & Bake Shop locations, have been rebranded under the Speedway moniker.

“This acquisition is a great strategic fit for Speedway, and consistent with our growth plan,” Speedway President Tony Kenney said in a press release. “These stores will enhance our existing network and expand our brand presence in a key growth market for Speedway.”

Marathon is the nation’s largest oil refiner, with a capacity of 3 million barrels per day across 16 refineries. It operates a network of 7,800 branded gas stations nationwide, including 5,600 under the Marathon name. Speedway is the second-largest convenience store chain, owning and operating over 4,000 locations in 21 states

The local stores are located in Amherst, Cheektowaga, East Aurora, Elma, the Town of Tonawanda and West Seneca. Specifically, they are at:

* 56 Hamburg St., East Aurora

* 2700 Union Road, Cheektowaga

* 3105 William St., Cheektowaga

* 2633 Genesee St., Cheektowaga

* 661 Jamison Road, Elma

* 1235 Colvin Blvd., Tonawanda

* 697 Orchard Park Road, West Seneca

* 5300 Main St., Amherst

* 5115 Genesee St., Cheektowaga

* 6640 Clinton St., Elma

In other recent transactions:

An Elma couple has acquired a child care center in Cheektowaga from the couple that previously owned it. Christopher G. and Maryanne L. Hanley paid $2.065 million to buy the Watch Me Grow Daycare Center at 2550 Union Road from Eric W. and Sharon R. Jaszka.

Founded in 1998, Watch Me Grow offers day care and prekindergarten education for infants, toddlers and children from six weeks to five years of age, and also offers summer camp, before- and after-care and vacation programs for school-age children in the Cheektowaga Central School District. It also offers Spanish and a computer lab program to its pre-K and “kinder-readiness” students.

The day care is housed in a 7,859-square-foot single-story building on 3.1 acres.

According to their LinkedIn profiles, Maryanne Hanley is a registered nurse in the neonatal intensive care unit at Mercy Hospital of Buffalo, while Christopher Hanley has worked for the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo and two individual Catholic churches over the last 18 years, most recently as minister of lifelong faith formation at St. Benedict Church in Amherst.

And businessman Barry M. Snyder, through Lindrew Properties LLC, has sold the former Tuxedo Junction warehouse at 120 Earhart Drive in Amherst to Wynstream Holdings Ltd. That’s a Markham, Ont.-based investment group that is linked to Inc., a 13-year-old distributor of retail and recertified technology hardware and software products for computers and electronics.

Constructed in 1985, the 46,285-square-foot building sits on four acres of land, with five grade-level overhead doors and 10,000 square feet of office space.


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Quick truck sales eyed to reduce Public Works costs [The Post-Star, Glens Falls, N.Y.]

Dec. 09–QUEENSBURY — The town of Queensbury is following Washington County’s lead on truck purchases.

The wealthy town may start selling its highway department trucks after a few years, rather than keeping them until they fall apart.

That’s what Washington County has decided to do, under the advice of the new Public Works superintendent. She advised keeping trucks for seven years.

Queensbury Highway Superintendent Dave Duell likes the idea.

“You can’t run ’em into the ground until they’re worth nothing,” he said.

He also thinks older trucks cost too much.

“With the downtime, the cost of repairs,” he said. “It’s running throughout the summer in the heat, running throughout the winter, things get tired. The maintenance when they break down, it causes tremendous issues.”

Supervisor John Strough would like to keep trucks for a much shorter period of time than Washington County’s proposed seven years.

“In western New York, this is standard procedure … use it for three years and then sell,” he said.

Strough speculated that the town could sell trucks for about what they cost to buy, if they were sold after three years. That’s because municipalities buy trucks for less than the general public.

“It tends to be a whole lot cheaper on bid,” Strough said.

Trucks are expensive, costing about $200,000 each. But if they are only a couple years old, some appear to sell for nearly the same amount. The town bought a 2016 International plow truck in November for $184,971.

But older trucks do not sell for much. On, where Queensbury sells its surplus equipment, a 2001 International truck went for $3,700 on Friday.

Duell agreed with Strough’s calculation of nearly breaking even by selling trucks after a few years.

“I want to get that program going in town,” he said.

He plans to submit a formal recommendation to the Town Board.

Strough plans to support the recommendation.

“We need that policy,” he said. “The traditional way of thinking is you buy a truck and run it into the ground. Maybe the traditional way of thinking isn’t the best for the taxpayers.”


(c)2018 The Post Star (Glens Falls, N.Y.)

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Permian Basin could see more infrastructure funds [Midland Reporter-Telegram, Texas]

Dec. 09–Communities across the country are seeking funding for infrastructure needs.

The good news for communities in the Permian Basin, and rural communities in general, is that funds may be easier to come by under the Trump administration.

“The administration is waking up to the impact of the Permian Basin” on the nation, Brigham McCown said after he addressed the Permian Basin Coalition Legislative Outlook and 2018 MOTRAN annual meeting.

“There’s a recognition the Permian Basin needs more infrastructure, not just for local communities but because what you’re doing here positively impacts the rest of the country,” said McCown, who served on the Trump presidential transition team and is chief executive officer of the Alliance for Innovation and Infrastructure.

Texas Transportation Commissioner Alvin New told the audience that Permian Basin traffic fatalities seem to rise along with the oil price. He said the three leading causes of fatalities in the Permian Basin from 2010 to 2017 were: faulty evasive action, driving under the influence and unsafe speed.

“We need to do a better job of communicating to people they need to think through their actions” behind the wheel, he said.

The Brownfield native and former mayor of San Angelo and former oilfield worker said he’s driven “these roads my whole life.” Because of that experience, he said that he better understands what’s happening in the Permian Basin.

“I am able to open a dialogue and communicate to the transportation commission what’s happening in the Permian Basin, the number of new trucks on the road, the number of new people in the area,” he said.

McCown said the administration is trying to make funding decisions based on needs and has flipped its focus to rural areas.

“Urban areas are doing OK, economically and with prosperity,” he said. “Other areas are not seeing as much prosperity or economic benefit and need a little more care.”

Both Democratic and Republican legislators agree on the nation’s need to improve, repair and expand its infrastructure, he said, but the question remains how to pay for those projects.

He said the Trump administration is hoping to leverage government spending into more investment in infrastructure. The administration has earmarked $100 billion in spending and $100 billion in loan guarantees with the idea of leveraging those funds with private sector funding, which could translate into almost $1 trillion in funds.

McCown said the administration is also looking at asking each state what their needs are and what projects they want to see accomplished.

Despite the change in control of Congress to the Democrats, John Stoody, vice president of the Association of Oil Pipe Lines, said his organization remains focused on advocating for pipelines.

“Our big priority in 2019 will be reauthorization of the pipeline safety laws,” Stoody told the gathering.

He said the more than 50 members of the association hope to harness new technologies and know-how to improve pipeline safety, protect pipeline infrastructure from attacks, improve safety information sharing and modernize regulations.

Stoody said that pipeline operators already conduct proactive inspections with high-tech tools such as MRIs and smart pigs and perform preventive maintenance. They also have 24/7 monitoring to catch problems early to minimize impact and maintain rapid emergency response plans and training.

These details need to be stressed to the public, he said, and community engagement should be a priority.

“We help our members see the benefits of engagement,” Stoody said. “We emphasize reaching out to the community proactively, (with) transparency and sharing information and being available to answer questions.”

He concluded by quoting retiring Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, who said even if the Democrats took control of the House, years of deregulation and lifting the ban on exporting domestic crude have left the energy industry in a strong position.

“The future is bright for the country,” Barton said. “We are in a good situation in terms of energy vis-a-vis the rest of the world.”


(c)2018 the Midland Reporter-Telegram (Midland, Texas)

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Gauging the gas prices: Breaking down why northern Minnesota has prices above the state average [The Bemidji Pioneer, Minn.]

Dec. 09–BEMIDJI — Northern Minnesota gas prices are holding steady with the national average lately rather than the state average.

According to AAA, Beltrami County has an average price of $2.43 per gallon, slightly in front of Itasca at $2.42, Koochiching at $2.40 and Clearwater at $2.39. The national average, according to AAA, matches Beltrami at $2.43 per gallon while the state average sits at $2.32.

In comparison, averages are lower in southern and western Minnesota. For example, the price is $2.26 in Pennington County, $2.25 in Cass, $2.22 in Becker and $2.09 in Mahnomen. One of the factors resulting in variations in prices is the distance the gasoline has to travel.

“In this case, it’s likely the distance,” said Jerry Zhao, an associate professor for the University of Minnesota Center for Transportation Studies. “The distance to the refinery and the distance to the distribution centers. Both refineries are located in the Twin Cities, so, you tend to see lower fuel prices.”

The two refineries producing petroleum products including gasoline are the Flint Hills Resources facility in Rosemount and Marathon Petroleum’sSt. Paul Park refinery. According to a state petroleum infrastructure report for the Minnesota House of Representatives, gasoline also comes from refineries in North Dakota, Wisconsin and Indiana.

From the refineries, gasoline is sent to terminals via pipelines, both from the facilities in the metro area and from those outside the state. Some of the cities with terminals include Moorhead, Sauk Centre, Wrenshall, Alexandria, Roseville and Spring Valley. Some areas of Minnesota receive petroleum products from nearly a dozen terminals near its borders in adjacent states and Canada, the House report states.

Those terminals are the suppliers for gas stations, including the nearly dozen located in Bemidji. Delivery from the terminals is often done by truck and the prices tend to be higher the farther the gasoline must travel to the pump, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Additionally, prices can be lower when the owners of the refineries also own the gas stations selling the product.

When looking at gasoline prices, other factors involved range from population density to the amount of taxes. Regarding the latter, the federal excise tax on gasoline has remained at 18.4 cents per gallon since 1993, while the Minnesota gas tax is at 28.5 cents per gallon. The state of Minnesota also has a requirement for gasoline to have 10 percent ethanol.

Aside from those, U of M Center for Transportation Studies Professor Alfred Marcus said supply, demand and competition all play a part.

“It’s a function of competition and it’s also a function of the desire and willingness of the individual owners,” Marcus said. “A lot of times, they’re not making much on selling gasoline, they want you to come in, because they’re making the most through their convenience stores. If you have a garage attached, you’ll make money off that, and they’ll make money with the convenience store. It’s not as easy to make a lot of money selling gasoline.”

Attempts to reach a handful of local gas stations for comment were unsuccessful.


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Melton Truck Lines reclaims No. 1 spot among midsize employers [The Oklahoman, Oklahoma City]

Dec. 09–TULSA — When Bradley Bournes moved from Tennessee to take a job with Melton Truck Lines, he knew no Melton workers or anyone who lived in or remotely near Tulsa.

But ask Bournes, 28, why he hired on with Melton, and he’s quick to answer “the people.”

While he was waiting for his interview, three employees — whom he later learned were vice presidents — walked by him, and all three stopped to ask if he needed anything, he said. Melton CEO Bob Peterson also stopped to introduce himself and say “hey,” he said.

Bournes was more than impressed. He’d never met the president of the trucking company where he worked two and half years back home in Cookeville. And the three other companies with which he’d interviewed, in Fayetteville and Tulsa, weren’t nearly as welcoming as Melton, he said.

Fast forward five years and Bournes is quick to tout his company’s benefits — from quarterly bonuses, and raises and promotions (His salary has increased $15,000 since he started.) to Melton’s no-fee, on-site health clinic and dental office and free on-site gym. But it’s still the people who keep him there, he said.

“It feels like a big family,” said Bournes, now a warranty and outside repair supervisor, “especially, mostly, for me (as a native Tennessean). The majority of my friends are here,” he said.

Bournes met his fiance at Melton when he, four years ago, inadvertently sent an email, meant for the Kenworth truck manufacturer, to another “kw” address: inside sales rep Katy Walden. The couple met face-to-face not long afterward, when they joined co-workers for happy hour after work.

There are some eight other couples at Melton who met on the job, Bournes said.

“I think it’s part of what makes us, and speaks to our culture,” he said.

Bournes and Walden now have lunch dates about twice a week in Melton’s on-site cafeteria, where entrees average $6. (His favorite is the turkey burger.) Bournes said his sweetie also is happy he gets regular haircuts; clips are offered on-site every Monday.

Melton this year reclaimed the No. 1 spot among midsize employers on The Oklahoman’s Top Workplaces lists. The company was runner-up last year, but champion the first two years it entered — 2015 and 2016.

Employee services manager Marilyn Surber said a key initiative the company adopted this past summer was a year-found casual dress code, including jeans and shorts, unless employees are hosting outside customers or holding special meetings.

“We’re hiring more millennials,” Surber said, “but everyone is really excited about the casual dress code; it’s a big deal.”

Surber said Melton takes seriously feedback from the Top Workplaces surveys it receives. As a response, Melton soon will sweeten the paid time off benefit for employees with five or more years service and introduce a new recognition program for employees with 10 years’ service, she said.

Surber said Melton also is considering adding an on-site day care, and provided an ad hoc day care for employees’ children during the state’s two-week teacher walkout last spring.

Former human resources intern and new hire Lizzy Olstroem, 23, is expecting great things.

In her new position as safety specialist, she will oversee technology on Melton trucks including analyzing data to assess drivers who may need to be coached.

“In my past jobs, including as catering director for a fast food company, I had to follow a lot of rules and regulations,” Olstroem said. “But at Melton, they say, ‘Here’s what needs to be done, do it in the way you feel is best, and if it turns out wrong, we’ll talk about it.

“I love the independence.”


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Formation in NM, Texas called largest oil reserve in U.S. [Albuquerque Journal, N.M.]

Dec. 07–Southeastern New Mexico and West Texas are sitting on a sea of potentially recoverable oil and gas reserves in the Delaware Basin, according to a new report by the U.S. Geological Survey.

The U.S. Department of the Interior said Thursday that two underground layers in the Delaware, known as the Wolfcamp Shale and Bone Spring Formation, together contain 46.3 billion barrels of oil, 281 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, and 20 billion barrels of natural gas liquids.

That’s the largest pool of oil and gas reserves ever announced by the USGS anywhere in the U.S., propelling the Permian Basin in New Mexico and Texas into the nation’s premier zone for energy production with some of the largest recoverable reserves in the world, said New Mexico Oil and Gas Association Executive Director Ryan Flynn.

“Even for someone who understands the resources and potential of the Permian Basin, I can’t help but be surprised by the sheer enormity of what the USGS has reported,” Flynn said. “The Permian resources shared by New Mexico and Texas make this area one of the most important places in the world in terms of oil production.”

And total reserves in the Delaware Basin, an oval-shaped formation within the Permian that stretches from southwestern Texas northward into Lea and Eddy counties, could be far larger than reported. That’s because the USGS looked only at the Wolfcamp and Bone Spring formations, or just two of the many layers of hydrocarbon-filled shale rock zones in the Delaware.

“Those are very important pieces of the basin, but it’s not the whole thing,” Flynn said. “That’s what makes this report so surprising, even for us.”

The USGS said its estimates are for “continuous unconventional oil,” meaning it’s spread throughout the Wolfcamp and Bone Spring formations rather than concentrated in one place. It said the reserves are “undiscovered,” meaning they have yet to be produced, and that they’re “technically recoverable” with current technologies.

The USGS released a separate assessment in 2016 of hydrocarbon potential in the Midland Basin portion of the Permian in West Texas. That report showed 20 billion barrels of unrecovered oil, 16 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 1.6 billion barrels of natural gas liquids.

At the time, it was the largest pool of potentially recoverable hydrocarbons ever reported in the U.S. by the Geological Survey. But the latest report on the Delaware shows more than twice the level of oil and many times more natural gas and liquids.

The USGS did not evaluate the profitability of extracting the Delaware resources outlined in its assessment. But modern technologies of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, into hard rock and then burrowing horizontally into pools of oil and gas trapped in different layers of shale have made production in the Permian, and particularly the Delaware Basin, highly attractive.

Some of the most lucrative gushers in the U.S. spring from the Delaware, converting that zone and other parts of the Permian into the No. 1 oil and gas producing region in the U.S. today.

“The results we’ve released today demonstrate the impact that improved technologies such as hydraulic fracturing and directional drilling have had on increasing the estimates of undiscovered, technically recoverable, continuous resources,” USGS Energy Resources Program Coordinator Walter Guidroz said in a statement.

Given the level of industry activity already underway in the Delaware, the new USGS estimates mean New Mexico will benefit from continued production for many years to come, Flynn said.

The oil boom in southeastern New Mexico has generated $1.2 billion in surplus, or new money, available for state spending in the next fiscal year budget.

“That surplus has the potential to become the norm, not the exception, as we move forward,” Flynn said.

U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said Christmas came a few weeks early.

“Before this assessment came down, I was bullish on oil and gas production in the United States,” Zinke said in a prepared statement. “Now, I know for a fact that American energy dominance is within our grasp as a nation.”


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