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Transportation : Innovation + Job News

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First Student and Cincinnati Public Schools team up to provide new technology for students, parents

First Student, a Cincinnati-based corporation focused on transportation services for school districts, is partnering with Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) to roll out the ZPass for the 2013–2014 school year. ZPass is a new technology that allows schools, parents and caregivers the ability to “take the guesswork out of the bus stop, and give parents comfort in knowing their child got on or off the bus as scheduled," according to First Student.
With ZPass, each student is issued a unique ID card, which is scanned when they enter and exit the school bus. Each time this happens, the time, date and location is logged and transmitted to a secure database. School administrators, as well as parents, can access the same system to see when and where a child has entered and exited the bus. Parents can also register to have the information sent instantly by text messages or push notifications.
“Cincinnati is one of the first locations to have this technology,” says First Student spokesperson Jen Biddinger. “After a successful pilot program last school year, we are in the process of rolling it out on a wider scale.”
“By the beginning of October we will have grown it to 12 schools,” adds John Davis, Director of Transportation for CPS, “and our outlook is that we will initiate other schools and go district-wide by January of 2014.
“We were looking for something that could better track student ridership and provide information for parents,” continues Davis. “The ZPass allows a parent to estimate when a bus will arrive at a particular bus stop even in adverse weather conditions.”
“As a district, we understand that technology is changing our lives rapidly, and we want to harness the power of that technology across the board, be it in operations, such as in this case, or in the classroom,” explains Janet Walsh, Director of Public Affairs for CPS.
“We’re moving forward rapidly with using various kinds of blended learning models, which use technology in different, more sophisticated ways,” Walsh notes. “It’s an exciting time, and we are embracing it as a district.”

Michael Sarason

Cleveland's HealthLine seen as transportation model

Cleveland's new Regional Transit Authority HealthLine transformed a 46-minute trip along the nine-mile corridor into a route with its own reserved lanes, and through traffic lights that are programmed to give the busses priority. Fares are paid via vending machines at the 40 stops along the route.

The innovative approach to urban transportation has not gone unnoticed in neighboring Pennsylvania.

Writer Jon Schmitz praises Cleveland for its dedicated route that connects downtown with the Cleveland Clinic in a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story, Cleveland’s HealthLine bus route could be a model for Pittsburgh.
“The $197 million project literally remade Euclid Avenue, replacing ancient underground infrastructure and crumbling sidewalks, reconstructing the road surface, adding station kiosks and landscaping medians between the stops.”
Schmitz goes on to detail other aspects that make the line a benefit to both riders and the surrounding community.

"The organization aggressively assembled land, removed blighted buildings and developed stringent zoning in anticipation of improved transit in the corridor," notes Schmitz.

Chillicothe-based development initiative receives $126,000 grant

In an effort to improve the business climate, employment rate and quality of life in the Appalachian region, leaders of various economic development programs in four southern Ohio counties have contributed a $126,000 grant to the Joint Economic Development Initiative of Southern Ohio (JEDISO). The new Chillicothe-based association will use the grant to promote economic development in the area.
“JEDISO came about as a natural progression of the meetings and communications among the four county economic developers during more than a year of working with consultants on a regional strategic plan,” says Christopher Manegold, CEO of the Economic Development Alliance of Southern Ohio. “The Initiative is an unincorporated association of the principal economic development entities in Jackson, Pike, Ross and Scioto counties, governed by a two-and-a-half page partnership agreement.”
As for the $126,000 grant, the first priority for JEDISO is to update and validate detailed information on the region’s buildings and sites with infrastructure, environment and marketability data. The goal is to make this information readily available on a new website such that the region’s brokers, site selectors and other corporations interested in opening or relocating to southern Ohio may easily access it.
“For companies that are transportation sensitive, the region is framed by the Ohio River on the southern edge with the Inland Port at Rickenbacker to the north for air, rail and truck transportation,” notes Manegold. He also highlights the region’s growing market, citing a population growth that is twice as large as the statewide average. These are just some of the attributes Manegold and his colleagues hope to utilize in drawing new economic activity to the region.
“The strategic plan identifies a number of target industries that will be refined and pursued aggressively,” he says. “The ultimate goal is the attraction of high-quality, family-wage jobs to the region.”
Source: Christopher Manegold
Writer: Joe Baur

$15.5 million hangar facility to be built in wilmington, creating 259 new jobs

The Clinton County Port Authority (CCPA) and Airborne Maintenance and Engineering Services (AMES) have announced plans to move forward on financing and construction of a new $15.4 million hangar facility at the Wilmington Air Park.
“As designed, the hangar will be capable of housing up to 767 and 777 class aircraft,” explains Kevin Carver, Executive Director of the CCPA, adding the hangar will be approximately 100,000 square feet once completed.
Carver points to JobsOhio and the Ohio Development Services Agency as vital partners in financing the project. “The total financing package from Ohio for this project was approximately $14.6 million,” he says. “In addition, the state’s willingness to be flexible with the terms of the Ohio Enterprise Bond and the 166 Low Interest Loan were essential in being able to complete this deal.”
The new project gives the small southwest Ohio town of 12,000 hope of economic recovery. On November 10, 2008, DHL announced that their Wilmington hub would be closed as they discontinued shipping operations in the United States. 8,000 employees lost their job, including 3,000 residents of Wilmington or Clinton County.
“The loss of DHL affected not only Wilmington, but a significant portion of southwest Ohio,” notes Carver. “At its peak, DHL was the single largest single site employer in a five county area of southwest Ohio.” The new hangar facility will create 259 new jobs.
“While the 259 jobs that will be created with this new hangar do not make up for the 8,000 or so jobs that were lost in the DHL closure, it is a very welcome addition to the community,” reflects Carver. “And it is a healthy start in the continuing effort to rebuild after the departure of DHL.”

Source: Kevin Carver
Writer: Joe Baur

loopbackroads offers guides to central ohio's quirky, off-the-beaten-path places

Getting away from it all doesn’t have to mean expensive, time-consuming travel. It can be as simple as exploring, discovering and learning new things on a day trip right in your own backyard.
That’s what Robert Denhard discovered while he was driving around Central Ohio, taking back roads and savoring the sights and sounds of local small towns.

Taking notes and photos on one of his sojourns, Denhard realized that others might find what he was doing relaxing and interesting as well. So he launched LoopBackroads in July for those, like himself, looking for escape and adventure  nearby yet off the beaten path.

LoopBackroads offers 10 Central Ohio “loops” that can be downloaded onto a cell phone, tablet or computer for $2.99 each. Each loop includes turn-by-turn directions, historical information, fun tidbits, photos and insights from locals.

With the goal of covering as much of Central Ohio as possible in the 10 loops, Denhard began by drawing 10 circles on a map starting from different points in Columbus and then back again. “I studied maps, plotted out routes and drove an insane amount, documenting everything,” he recalls. “I also did a ton of reading and talked with more local people than I can count.”
Loops contain photos of and information about historic homes, architecturally interesting buildings and monuments, rustic barns and bridges, castles, caverns and even some ghost towns Denhard discovered. They’re also illustrated with graphics and original hand sketches by Drew Miller, area artist and Denhard’s business partner.
Denhard was impressed by the warm welcome he received from folks at the local mom-and-pop businesses he visited while creating the loops. He encourages LoopBackroad travelers to patronize them, recommending bringing cash because not all establishments take credit cards.
In addition to income from downloads of the loops, Denhard anticipates ads from those local businesses to generate future revenue for LoopBackroads.
Source:  Robert Denhard, LoopBackroads
Writer:  Lynne Meyer

advanced battery concepts ready to charge ahead with energy-efficient greenseal

After three years of research and development, Ed Shaffer, CEO of Advanced Battery Concepts, is ready to unveil his new GreenSeal technology for improving battery performance in industrial applications.

“We’re licensing our technology to Crown Battery of Fremont, Ohio, and they will manufacture our first product under the Crown Battery name,” he says. “The product is a battery the size of a golf cart that can be used in variety of industrial applications, including fork lift trucks, tow motors, pallet movers and floor scrubbers.”

Ed Shaffer started Advanced Battery Concepts in 2008 in his Midland, Michigan, garage. In 2009, he established a partnership with Crown Battery in Fremont, Ohio.

“Crown was seeking new technologies to improve battery performance and they were interested in what we were doing,” he explains. “In 2010, they invited us to use space at their Crown Battery Renewable Energy Center (CBREC) in Port Clinton to help us accelerate our technology development.”

The partnership with Crown Battery and their space at CBREC enabled Advanced Batter Concepts to apply for and receive Ohio Third Frontier funding, he notes.

For two years, Advanced Battery Concepts refined and conducted internal tests on its GreenSeal technology at CBREC in Port Clinton and at a facility in Clare, Michigan. 
“GreenSeal technology improves lead-acid batteries,” Shaffer explains. “It reduces their weight and size, increases their cycle life and their power and energy. It also decreases the amount of lead in each battery, reducing their environmental impact while keeping them 100 percent recyclable.”

The technology will also speed up adoption of much-needed energy solutions, such as renewable energy, smart grid and electric vehicles, he says.

“Manufacturing this product will put us in a much stronger position in the changing environment of energy storage,” notes Patrick O’Brien, manager of business development at Crown Battery. Crown Battery has grown from 400 to 600 employees during the past three years. “With production of Advanced Battery Concept’s new product, we anticipate hiring more employees.”

Plans call for early production samples to be in customers’ hands by the fourth quarter of this year.

Advanced Battery Concepts is one of the portfolio companies of Rocket Ventures of Toledo, one of the six nonprofits that form the core of Ohio’s Entrepreneurial Signature Program.

Source:  Ed Shaffer, Patrick O'Brien
Writer: Lynne Meyer

'overwhelming demand' for innovative npower peg soon to be met thanks to new partnership

Someday, perhaps, we'll power our ever-growing number of personal electronic devices with something sustainable like biofuels or sunlight. Until then, the nPower PEG (personal energy device) will do nicely. Tremont Electric's clever gadget converts the motion of walking or running into energy, which it stores in a battery until you're ready to recharge your cell phone or iPod.
Cool, right? The only problem to date has been getting hold of one.
"The last 18 months have been pretty challenging," says vice president Jill LeMieux. The supplier of the custom battery used in the original design proved unable to keep up. At present there are about 2,000 nPower PEG's in use -- and 5,000 on back order. That's an encouraging but precarious situation for a small company.
But things should improve in late March; that's when Delta Systems in Streetsboro begins mass-producing nPower PEGs. Would-be owners' reward for waiting will be greater energy efficiency in the new models -- which Tremont Electric founder and CEO Aaron LeMieux attributes to advances in microprocessors -- and a standardized battery that holds twice the charge of the older ones.
Delta Systems has been "very supportive," Jill adds, fronting the tooling costs until sales ramp up. She expects to sell at least 1,000 units per month. In the near future they'll only be available through the website, but some retailers already are expressing interest. The product is a natural for stores serving runners, hikers and campers.
"What we've seen since the rollout of this product is overwhelming demand for it," says Aaron.
The company hears frequently from users who "love" the PEG, including servicemen in Afghanistan, who report that it has worked "flawlessly." And like the deal with Delta, a military order would be another big, energy-generating step forward for the tiny company. The PEG is also a finalist in the Edison Awards, which will be announced April 26. Tremont Electric also continues to work with universities and others on deploying buoys that would convert the motion of waves into large-scale energy production.
Notes Aaron, "It's going to get interesting around here, I can say that much."
Sources: Jill and Aaron LeMieux
Writer: Frank W. Lewis
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