Sam Anderson, CEO of 500-truck Bay & Bay Transportation of Rosemount, has placed his initial bet on natural gas-fueled tractors.
Anderson, 40, said the cost of compressed natural gas (CNG) is about $2 per gallon equivalent, while diesel fuel is about $4. So, it's a no-brainer on a fuel-cost basis for rigs that run 2,500 miles a week, sometimes seven days a week.
However, the two new Freightliner tractors from Cummins Westport cost $250,000 apiece, nearly double that of diesel-fueled trucks, and the mileage is not quite as good, and the servicing tends to be a little more expensive and route planning must be exact to ensure the CNG-fueled transport is always within range of a Kwik Trip, Clean Energy Fuels or other fueling station.
"We'll know the economics by the end of the first year," said Anderson, who indicated that he may gradually move up to 20 percent of his fleet to natural gas vehicles. "We know the 'green' aspects of the truck, reducing our carbon footprint, and that's a component of our decision. If the return-on-investment payback is within three years, it will prove a good deal, but if it's more than four, it may not be such a smart economic decision. But some of our clients, who are concerned, want the environmental component because it meets their sustainability values.''
Anderson said business is so brisk, now back to 2005-06 demand levels, that Bay & Bay has had to turn some away. The company hauls for a number of Minnesota retailers, manufacturers and food companies.
Minnesota Trucking Association CEO John Hausladen has predicted fast growth of natural-gas rigs because of fuel costs and the build out of the fueling network.
Wisconsin-based Kwik Trip, which is gradually converting its fleet of 350 light-duty and semitrailer trucks to CNG and liquefied natural gas (LNG), has about 25 natural gas fueling stations and expects to open about 10 more this year in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa.
A YOUNG Cyber Ace at your service
Christopher Blake, 20, a student at Inver Hills Community College, probably is going to end up protecting his company or his country from hackers.
Blake, of Farmington, Joseph Kenney of Minneapolis and Jason Lachowsky of St. Paul were the winners of this month's Minnesota Cyber Aces State Championship at Inver Hills Community College. Students, veterans and job seekers demonstrated their digital prowess in a defense simulation called SANS NetWars: the same hands-on simulation used by the U.S. military to train its officers in network warfare. The young Minnesota cyber top guns earned their share of $10,000 in scholarships and opportunities for further training.
This state championship was organized by Cyber Aces, a national nonprofit that aims to discover and develop talent and build career pathways to critical cybersecurity jobs.
"I want to get into system administration and security is big in all aspects of technology," Blake said. "I participated in the competition to challenge myself and expand my knowledge. Security threats are expanding. And this competition dealt with what hackers can do to us. It gave us a good grasp of what to watch out for and what to protect. Each of was given a virtual machine with lots of little exploits and holes and information, and we were given an image of a person who's trying to gain access to other users on the systems.
"We were the good guys. It's preparation for penetration-testing jobs. At large companies, if they want to stay compliant, they need to have penetration testers come in and test to make sure they are compliant and secure. I hope to graduate in 2015 and get a job in systems or network administration in the Twin Cities."
And there is a growing need for qualified candidates. Government agencies and popular businesses are experiencing large-scale cyberattacks at an increasing rate; the Task Force on CyberSkills reported an increase of 200 percent in 2012. Big recent breaches include the U.S. Army, Department of Energy, Snapchat and Target.
Small-Company Philanthropy on the rise
As corporate America consolidates during the economic recovery, small, entrepreneurial companies have boomed. And their owners and employees put their own imprimatur on community engagement. A couple of recent examples:
• Navigate Forward, a growing management-transition and consulting firm, holds a client party with a purpose every spring. This month founders Teresa Daly and Mary Kloehn designated Volunteers of America as their yearlong "charity of choice." They introduced the record crowd of more than 200 to VOA and its president, Paula Hart, and raised more than $3,000 on the spot, and are matching dollars from Daly and Kloehn.
"We find this more meaningful … than just celebrating another anniversary of our firm," Daly said. It also leads to relationships between clients, friends and worthy charities.
VOA was the choice this year of Susan McGrath Flagler, the third Navigate Forward founder, who subsequently retired for health reasons. Good health, Susan.
• Atomic Data CEO Jim Wolford's life was changed on a visit with Minneapolis-based American Refugee Committee to Uganda a couple of years ago, including refugee camps for folks who had fled violence in South Sudan and Congo. The IT and globe-spanning data center firm, in its latest ARC endeavor, will match all donations up to $50,000 by March 31. More information on ARC's grass-roots health, education and enterprise developments at: www.arcrelief.org.