Tag Archive | machine routes

Wind in the sails

When Ghrepower, a Shanghai-based manufacturer of small and medium-size wind turbines, decided to set up a subsidiary in Swansea, Wales, in 2011 to tap into the British wind turbine market, it did not realize how much of an impact it would make on the local community.

Joseph Deng, director of Ghrepower UK Ltd, says that though the overall investment environment in Britain is satisfactory, it is the help that his team received from the Welsh government that has greatly helped the company grow.

“They have been very supportive of our development and in turn we create more jobs for the local people and bring growth to the local economy,” Deng says.

The initial choice of location was made to minimize cost, he says. “Wales was not doing particularly well after the financial crisis and its government was keen to support businesses growing through favorable policy measures.”

One such scheme that helped the company was the Local Investment Fund scheme, which funds up to 40 percent of the capital equipment cost for small and medium-size firms in the manufacturing and manufacturing services sectors.

Another scheme of great help to Ghrepower was the GO Wales Work Placements scheme, created to help Welsh graduates find work.

Graduates participating in the scheme work at companies located in Wales for between six to 10 weeks, during which time the Welsh government contributes up to 100 pounds ($150; 115 euros) per week to their wages. When the placement period ends, the employers can offer the workers long-term jobs if they wish to.

“This scheme has been very helpful for us because it creates a period of time for us to understand if the new worker fits in well with our team before we make a commitment to hire them,” Deng says. So far, three Welsh graduates have completed their placements at Ghrepower, and all three of them continued on to more permanent roles.

“Labor laws in Wales are very different from that of China. As it is much harder to fire a worker in Wales, we take great care to select the most suitable workers in the first place. And the placement period of the scheme helps us with that a lot,” he says.

In Wales, workers have the right to take their employers to employment tribunals, if they feel their dismissal is unfair.

Differences in labor laws between China and many Western countries often surprise Chinese managers when they start to work overseas.

Despite the complexity of Welsh employment laws, Deng greatly supports the idea of employing local workers. He is currently the only Chinese within his team of eight.

“Local employees can contribute a lot to our business, they speak the local language, they know the local market very well, and they can visit our customers as they have local driving licenses,” he says.

Last year, Ghrepower was selected by the Welsh government as one of 50 businesses to participate in its High Potential Starts project, a scheme designed to help young SMEs grow by providing them with financial, legal and technical consultancy services.

Launched in January 2012, the three-year scheme would cost the Welsh government 2 million pounds, but is forecast to generate an extra 36 million pounds of turnover for participating businesses and at least 480 well-paid jobs for the local economy.

“The scheme has helped us a lot, especially in terms of widening our business connections,” Deng says. He regularly attended seminars, talks and conferences that the government organized to introduce SMEs to expert advisers.

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Smoking Machines

One of the new John Boehner sequestration talking points is that Republicans couldn’t possibly accept any new revenue, even the revenue he was publicly offering two months ago, because there are still wasteful government programs. As Boehner wrote yesterday, “no one should be talking about raising taxes when the government is still paying people to play videogames, giving folks free cellphones, and buying $47,000 cigarette-smoking machines.” Republicans today are repeating the cell-phone-video-game-smoking-machine line today. (“As long as wasteful programs like this exist, it’s going to be hard to convince people I represent that we have a revenue problem,” said Representative Martha Roby.)

Since Republicans actually seem to have decided to go with this argument, let’s give it some thought.

Does the existence of wasteful government programs mean that we can’t raise any new revenue, even by reducing the wasteful tax loopholes Boehner has been promising to eliminate? Does that prove that the long-term deficit must be closed entirely through expenditure cuts? After all, merely identifying a handful of wasteful programs hardly proves that there is enough waste to cover all the deficit reduction you want.

Second, in point of fact, even the handful of wasteful programs that supposedly justify the no-taxes line aren’t actually wasteful. Take the $47,000 smoking machine. Sound outrageous — government bureaucrats buying themselves an expensive piece of machinery to smoke cigarettes while regular folks like John Boehner have to light up by hand, like a sucker! In fact, it turns out to be a piece of medical research equipment used by the Veteran Administration:

“VA Researchers are using the smoking machine to cause chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in mice by the same mechanisms by which the disease occurs in Veterans and others who smoke cigarettes,” a VA official told HuffPost in an email.

“The cessation of smoking does not curtail the progression of the disease and there is currently no effective therapy for the treatment of the condition,” the official said. “Using this mouse model of COPD, VA researchers will test potential new treatments for the disease.”

You see, Mr. Speaker, if you want to study the effects of smoking, you could kidnap some unsuspecting person and force-feed him Marlboros. But the scientific community finds this approach unethical, so machines to test the effects of smoking on mice are considered a standard work-around.

Likewise, “paying people to play video games” is not some federal grant to mail checks to good-for-nothing slackers to lounge around playing their newfangled machines while honest God-fearing Americans go to work. It’s a grant from the National Science Foundation to test the hypothesis that some cognitive loss owing to old age can be slowed through certain video games. (“The theory is that the strategy, memory and problem-solving skills necessary for mastering certain games may translate to benefits in the real world, beyond a glowing computer screen.”)

The “giving folks free cell phones” program is real, pretty much. Free phone service for the poor has existed since 1984, and obviously moved from landlines to cell phones, on the theory that a phone is vital for things like being able to contact police or fire departments, get a job, and so on. Recipients get 250 free minutes a month — which, at less than ten minutes a day, doesn’t leave room for lots of chatting about Justin Bieber. The program did have loose eligibility criteria, but they have been tightened.

You could debate the merits of subsidized phone ownership, but this program, and the two others, actually disprove Boehner’s point. If this is the worst thing he can dig up in the federal budget, it proves not that Washington is brimming with waste but that it isn’t.

The Jersey Shore’s Arcades And Boardwalks Are Lost

Sandy has delivered a blow that will keep many businesses in the Northeast down for weeks, and will likely have a longer-lasting impact on the overall U.S economy. Sandy was a large storm, cutting a wide swath affecting an estimated 20% of the U.S. population. Even more, it impacted a possible larger percentage of vending and office coffee service operations serving business and industry, and coin machine routes providing music and games to public venues. Vending, OCS and coin-op industry revenue losses will be in the millions this week alone, and tens of millions in the months to come.

The reach of the storm was overwhelming, with devastation along the East Coast, snow in Appalachia, power failures in Maine and high winds at the Great Lakes. In West Virginia, two feet of snow fell in Terra Alta.

Pam Gilbert, senior manager of government affairs at the National Automatic Merchandising Association, told Vending Times today: “I have heard from a few members in the mid-Atlantic region about their experiences: working from a motorhome parked in the driveway (PA); snowed in with no power (VA); no power, sleeping in winter clothes to stay warm (PA); and lots of reports of trees down, no power, etc.”

Gilbert, who is based in Arlington, VA, is trying to establish communication with the region’s operators. “I’m sure that those with the most damage have not had the time or ability to communicate with us yet,” she said.

More than 8.1 million homes and businesses on the East Coast were without power on Tuesday after the storm tore down power lines, flooded networks and sparked an explosion at a power station on Manhattan’s East River. That compares with 8.4 million outages at the peak of Hurricane Irene last year.

The outages spread from New Jersey, which was hardest hit, to 19 other states from North Carolina to as far inland as Indiana. Power companies estimate parts of New York City could be without power for more than a week, including lower Manhattan, where the 5th annual Big Buck World Championships are scheduled to take place Nov. 9-10. An additional 145,000 people lost power in the Canadian province of Ontario. The storm disrupted landlines and wireless communications in at least eight states in the Northeast.

Betson Enterprises, the nation’s largest vending equipment distributor, this week had to close its flagship office in Carlstadt, NJ, where there is an ongoing power outage. Beyond a few vehicles in the parking lot, none of the facility’s assets was damaged, a Betson spokesperson said.

Sandy appears to have caused more losses than last year’s Hurricane Irene, but final totals will be hard to come by for some time because of the scale of the disaster. One disaster-forecasting company predicted economic losses could ultimately reach $20 billion, only half insured. If that estimate holds, and it might even grow, Sandy will rank in the Top 10 most costly storms, exceeding Irene’s estimated damages of $15 billion. IHS Global Insight, a consultancy firm, estimated that the storm could shave 0.6 percentage points off the nation’s annualized gross domestic product in the fourth quarter. In the amusement sector, nowhere will Sandy’s destructive results be more apparent than on the Jersey Shore.