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Mentoring: The Key to Talent Management

By Liz Selzer . . . Mentoring is a powerful tool for developing your staff and ultimately your organization. This is especially true when jobs are tight and people are being asked to take on more tasks and step into more roles than ever. Organizations have seen dramatic improvements in their workforce, such as increased employee engagement, better organizational communication, and the growth in appreciation of people’s strengths that leads to higher organizational performance.
Mentoring

Mentoring does not need to be a complicated process or program. In fact, within certain parameters and given good preparation, it is one of the most basic, organic forms of training available. Through the encouragement mentoring provides, your staff members are more engaged, they see that their efforts matter, and they are happy to be moving forward professionally. They allow their passion for their work to surface in powerful ways, opening up opportunities for creative solutions and innovation.

Mentoring can work in any context where people work together. It can be done across distance, with all generations, genders, and global cultures, and with all skill levels. Mentoring literally creates an exponential knowledge expansion and limitless skill development opportunities, expanding your organization’s reach in critical ways.

The Benefits of Mentoring
In a successful mentoring program, it is important for everyone to be drawn in and buy in whole-heartedly. To do this, everyone involved should understand and believe in the benefits of participating. Many of these benefits are listed below.

For the mentor: Mentoring reinforces accomplishments, expands sphere of influence, enhances communication and people skills, provides a way to reciprocate or “give back,” allows the opportunity to share legacy, learning, and wisdom that you have accrued in your life experiences so far, allows for focused investment in the life of another, and increases the personal satisfaction of making a difference.

For the ‘mentee’: Mentoring expands sphere of influence, enhances communication and decision-making skills, improves time management and career development, reduces burnout by helping people find an integrated work and life balance, helps work through ambiguity and constantly changing environments, increases confidence and faster learning of organizational culture, skills, and attitudes, promotes visibility, and increases the feeling of being valued.

For your organization: Mentoring gives a recruiting edge through exposure to organizations and a sense of community, increases participation and engagement of staff, manages stress and change while promoting higher productivity, aligns the company’s goals with the personal goals of the employees (which may also help garner support for new organizational initiatives and transitions), improves motivation, raises productivity through specific goal setting, reduces turnover, enhances communication, reduces organizational silos, provides a faster and more robust transfer of knowledge and skills, provides for better succession planning, promotes organizational mission identity, and offers inclusion through more positive relationships within a diverse organizational culture.

Research supports the advantages of utilizing a mentoring strategy. A 2008 study by Noble Business Solutions reported that the internal challenges businesses experience have to do with human resources more than corporate systems—motivation, developing the next generation of leaders, the sense of team, and other human capital issues. They also assert that having a great, positive team is a huge competitive advantage since people issues so often get in the way of forward progress.

Additional research shows:
• People are 77% more likely to desire to stay with their current employer and there will be a marked improvement in their performance, if they are engaged in a quality mentoring program (Emerging Workforce Study by Spherion retrieved July 20, 2014 from http://www.spherion.com/about-spherion/emerging-workforce-study/).

• Training dollars were best spent in conjunction with mentoring, because the return on this investment in training was six times the actual dollars spent — well worth the effort because of the potential for impact on personal and professional development (Benavides, L. “The Impact of Executive Coaching on the Organizational Performance of Female Executives.” Doctoral study, University of San Francisco, 2008).

Mentoring is a key strategy for staff development in organizations. It is simple, uses current resources, and most people can be trained in it very easily. Mentoring is a wise way to develop people when funds are tight. Mentoring can make a positive difference in any organization.

What About NPGA?
The National Propane Gas Association (NPGA) is supporting the advantages of mentoring with its new mentoring initiative for all members. After much research it has formed the WIP Knowledge Exchange. This will be an opportunity for any of the members of NPGA to take advantage of the power of mentoring in their personal and professional lives. Participants will be trained at the 2016 NPGA Southeastern Convention & International Propane Expo, Thursday, April 7, 2016, from 1:30 5:30 p,m., where they will experience practical, hands-on training for critical skills and best practices that will prepare them for success. Visit http://www.npga.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=1819 for details.  

Liz Selzer, Ph.D., M.A., M.Div, is founder of The Mentor Leadership Team (mentorleadershipteam.com), which has now combined its personal and professional mentoring and development efforts with The Uncommon Individual Foundation (www.uif.org) for greater impact. She is the author of “3G Mentoring, Real Leaders: The Power of Authentic Leadership and Your Culture at Its Strongest.” She is a sought-after speaker and has trained in mentoring across numerous industries and on six continents. She also enjoys teaching as affiliate faculty for universities.

Planning to Sell the Business? Take Steps to Ensure a Successful Transition

By Thomas E. Knauff . . . You’ve worked hard to build a high-quality propane business. Over the years you have put the right team in place and grown the operation. The business meets your customers’ needs and provides a rewarding career. When you get to the stage of considering a personal exit strategy, one of your top concerns is how to ensure a smooth transition for “your baby”— to effect an ordered hand-off to a new owner who will keep your legacy intact and treat your employees and customers fairly.  
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Networking with industry colleagues, you may hear horror stories from propane marketers who sold their businesses: The new owners came in and laid off employees; customer service declined and the complaints multiplied; workers who stayed saw their benefits cut; entrepreneurial, family-style management was replaced by bureaucratic decrees from headquarters.

From first-hand experience with more than 70 acquisitions over the years, plus untold numbers of conversations, it’s clear that a poorly handled transition sometimes leads to regrets, while a smooth integration can serve as a source of lasting pride for owners and their communities. The difference depends on the partner — and your actions. Here are some ideas for ensuring a successful transition.

Plan Your Own Due Diligence
Just as buyers of a business want to take a thorough look under the hood before writing a big check, you as the seller should also plan a process of due diligence. From the earliest stages, even before seeking a bid or starting negotiations, you can develop a process to help ensure that you find the right buyer.

Begin with a list of questions based on the priorities you hold dear:
• How do you define your legacy — the business name, operating philosophy, location or service area?
• What is most important in your customer relationships? What do you not want to see changed?
• How do you want your employees to be treated after a sale?
• How do you see your personal transition in a transfer of ownership?
• What do you want  to see in future community relations, especially if you continue to live there?

Next you need to consider the universe of prospective buyers. With a list of possible buyers, whether it is a crosstown competitor or a national or regional powerhouse, you should be prepared to look into each one:
• Is the prospect a reputable company? Does it do what it says it is going to do?
• How is its customer service? Does it churn through customers or have long-term relationships?
• How are employees treated in the company’s existing operations? Are there layoffs? Changes in pay or benefits?

Opportunities for advancement?
• Does the company support active involvement in the local communities where it operates?

When you start having even a preliminary conversation with a possible buyer, strategize like it’s a job interview. From the first contact, you are beginning to evaluate the potential buyer’s way of doing business.  

Get First-Hand Perspectives
Reaching out to industry colleagues you trust, and perhaps organizing a road trip or two, will help you gather first-hand perspectives on the experience of propane distributors who have sold their businesses.

Consider calling one or more former propane marketers you know who have sold. Ask them to share their transition experience with you. Are they pleased with their decision and with the company they selected? Have their employees been treated well since the transaction? Are their customers being cared for? Were there any surprises or “lessons learned” in their experiences?

In addition to talking to former business owners, consider taking your due diligence a step further and getting a different — perhaps even better — perspective from employees who have experienced a transaction. Ask them first-hand if their working conditions stayed the same or improved, if they are happy with the new company’s culture, and if they believe that management is treating them fairly.

If uncovering post-sale experiences is important to you, consider getting in your car or hopping on a plane to visit an operation that is now owned by the company that wants to buy your business. Getting real-life, candid feedback from employees who have experienced a transaction can be extremely enlightening. Asking a prospective new owner about site visits may also reveal something else. See if they encourage you to drop by a location and let you hear first-hand how the transition has turned out.

A key goal is to select a buyer that will offer your employees and customers a culture that is the best fit. Whether the new owner is one of the majors, a large regional operator, or a rapidly growing company seeking well-run operations on the lookout for a good home, the business culture of the buyer you select will be instrumental for the ongoing success for your business and your community.

Get Ready to Help Your Employees
Confidentiality is the norm during negotiations, but once you have an agreement in place, you need to plan the best way to help your employees absorb the news and make the most of the change.

It’s only natural that employees will be fearful about what the transaction means for them. The impact is intensely personal: Will they lose their jobs? Will their benefits be cut? Will their roles change? Will the new guys be difficult to work for? And will there be a lot more red tape and bureaucracy?

It’s also natural that employees may be angry with you at first. After all, they joined the company to work for you…they didn’t plan to work for someone else. Plus, you may have caught them by surprise with news of the sale, and change and uncertainty are unsettling.

Thinking ahead to how you will communicate that you sold your business and how the transition will play out will be extremely important. It helps for you to carefully plan your answers to questions like “Why are you selling?” or “What are the new owners like?” You’ll want to plan both customer and employee communications — in close collaboration with the team you chose to buy your business.

One consideration for a smooth transition is to help the acquiring company identify the right person to manage the business going forward. If you’ve assessed the skill sets of your current team and recognize that no one has the leadership skills to take on the general manager position, ask to interview your buyer’s potential candidates for that position. Knowing that the new leader is the right fit will give you enormous peace of mind, which you can pass along to employees and customers.

One Example To Share
To illustrate a successful transition, and how to achieve it, let me share the story of WOC Energy. This is a retail and commercial propane distributor serving north-central Pennsylvania, a well-managed business that EDP acquired from its former owners in February 2015.

From the outset, we worked out a communications plan to reassure employees. We let them know we would retain them. They were the people who had made WOC a success. The change would bring employees the enhanced benefits of a larger company through participation in EDP’s excellent employee benefits program, which includes a 401(k) retirement savings plan with matching contributions. We spelled out when paychecks would be issued and the specifics of vacation and personal days.

And we tried to communicate our culture, an environment that focuses on serving customers, ensuring safety, staying engaged in the community, and just plain enjoying each other’s company as co-workers.

Not quite a year later, WOC Energy is thriving. The business is growing, and the company is reaching out, for example partnering with the American Breast Cancer Foundation (ABCF) to promote cancer research. Not only has WOC painted one of its bobtails pink, the company is also donating a portion of the proceeds from every gallon delivered by the bobtail to ABCF.

“We recently received recognition as The Best Heating Oil Supplier by a local newspaper, and people we do business with have commented on the positive feelings expressed by WOC’s long-time employees. This is the outcome of a well-planned transition, with help from our former owners and support from the EDP team,” said Jeff Brunner, general manager of WOC Energy.

Ask Employees to Give It Time
For employees, the hardest time in the transition to new ownership is the first 30 to 60 days. Emotions run rampant, rumors are inevitable as people go to “the grapevine” for answers, and employees who are most inclined to be negative are often the most vocal.

You may want to share a clear set of talking points with employees on day one, spelling out what you and your buyers know about the effects of the change on customers and employees.

Encourage all of your employees not to rush to judgment or make a major decision affecting their careers — at least for one or two months. In those first few weeks, employees will get to know the new owners and, if there is one, the new general manager. They will get specifics on their jobs, pay, and benefits. And they will get a feel for how the company does business. Having answers will be reassuring.

Seek Counsel on Your Decision
The people you are closest to — and sometimes even new acquaintances with the right experience and values — can offer sound counsel to guide you through the process of approaching an exit from the business you love. Relationships with fellow propane pros that you know from participation in industry associations or activities are an invaluable source of wisdom. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice.

Thomas E. Knauff, CEO of Energy Distribution Partners (EDP), brings 30-plus years of executive, operations, and financial experience in the propane industry.

FuelOil Conversion Opportunities Promise Additional Gallons

The residential fueloil market in the U.S. is larger than the residential propane market, reports ICF International’s “2016 Propane Market Outlook,” with a reported 6.2 million households using the fuel for primary space heating in 2014 while 5.9 million used propane. However, nearly 240,000 homes convert from fueloil space heating each year. The majority switch to natural gas and electricity, but about 30,000 convert to propane. Moreover, in the past few years the propane industry has gained about the same number of customers from fueloil conversions every year as it has from new residential construction.

Drivers affecting the fueloil market vary by state, but the main factors are duplicative: relatively high prices for fueloil compared to other fuels and increasing costs associated with the fuel’s environmental impact. And while future fueloil conversions to propane are expected to gradually decline as the fueloil market continues to contract, conversions should continue to yield a significant number of new propane customers for the foreseeable future, notes ICF. With a significant built-in base of consumers, fueloil presents an attractive target for conversions to propane, “with a good share of the consumers motivated to switch, and the vast majority of the households located in regions where electricity is relegated to a third-tier option for space heating.”
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While the ongoing decline in oil prices has reduced the economic pressure to switch away from fueloil, potentially slowing conversions to propane in the near term, in the longer term ICF expects conversions to provide a continuing source of new propane space heating customers. The vast majority of existing fueloil households are located in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions, and a few areas in the Midwest and Pacific Northwest. Less than 2% of homes outside the Northeast use fueloil as their primary space heating fuel, according to the Energy Information Administration. Further, the fueloil market has been declining rapidly for the last several years. Between 2008 and 2014, the number of such households decreased by more than 1.7 million, or 22%, from 7.9 million.

Another conversion opportunity exists for water heating. ICF reports that about 2.75 million households that already have propane space heating do not use the fuel for water heating, providing an opportunity to increase the number of home propane applications and grow sales. The consultancy estimates that adding water heating to existing propane space heating customers could add as much as 342 million gallons to residential sales each year. While adding propane water heating to all space heating customers is unrealistic, converting only 5% a year would add 17 million gallons annually to residential sales.
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In addition, market conditions are favorable for conversions. The implementation of new water heater efficiency standards has increased the cost and complexity of replacing existing units, particularly in the larger sizes, while the decline in propane prices has improved the economics of using propane instead of electricity. Changes in the marketplace that make propane water heating more attractive to existing propane customers also make propane water heating more attractive to homes that are currently all-electric, particularly in areas of the country with high electricity prices. Larger and higher-value homes that would otherwise need to install new heat pump water heaters under the new efficiency standards are expected to provide a significant market for propane water heater conversions.


Commercial Sales
Meanwhile, in the commercial sector the conversion of fueloil heating customers, similar to the residential sector, provides yet more opportunities. Fueloil dominates the commercial heating market in the Northeast, but market share in new commercial construction has declined substantially because of permitting issues with fueloil storage tanks. While fueloil use is not as dominant in the Midwest and western regions, there remain significant pockets of use that provide potential growth for propane.

ICF observes that the commercial sector is a diverse market with a much wider range of customer types and end-uses than other sectors. The market also differs by region, in a manner similar to the residential sector. Research by the Propane Education & Research Council indicates there is significant opportunity to expand sales. Understanding regional differences in fuel use and the variety of commercial propane market segmentsschools, fast food restaurants, and houses of worshipcan lead to new sales opportunities.

Commercial sales account for about 22% of the overall consumer propane market. The near-term forecast for propane demand shows stable, non-weather-driven consumption, with the impact of modest economic growth offset by the long-term expectation for improvements in building shell and appliance efficiency. Demand declined in 2011 and 2012 due to warmer-than-normal temperatures, but rebounded significantly in 2013 and 2014. Those gains are projected to be followed by steady demand levels through 2025 linked to gradual growth in commercial activity.
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Yet another commercial sector market opportunity seen in the “2016 Propane Market Outlook” is promotion of tankless water heaters in a variety of segments, including the lodging and resort industry and in institutional and educational settings. The report comments that, in the commercial sector, tankless water heating can have both up-front and operating-cost advantages relative to electric water heating when electric-system cost savings and building space savings are fully accounted for.

Challenges, Opportunities
Overall, ICF asserts that achieving sustained propane sales growth depends on the industry’s success in responding to the leading market challenges and opportunities likely to be faced in the next few years. Key challenges and opportunities include ensuring supply reliability, maintaining current markets, understanding and taking advantage of regional market segmentation, capitalizing on the propane price advantage, and participating in the national energy and environmental policy dialogue and regulatory process.

Growth in U.S. propane production is expected to provide significant benefits to American consumerslower annual average prices across all marketsbut changes in production and demand patterns for natural gas, natural gas liquids, and other liquids is nonetheless leading to infrastructure constraints in several regions of the country. The flexibility of the existing storage and transportation system to meet unexpected and peak winter supply requirements has been substantially curtailed, ICF emphasizes. Propane marketers, particularly in the Midwest and Northeast, will be less able to count on the availability of excess pipeline and storage capacity to help meet unheralded changes in propane requirements.

The consultancy adds that while the market is likely to support development of new storage facilities such as the Crestwood Finger Lakes facility in Upstate New York and the Magnum storage in Arizona, public opposition to the Finger Lakes proposal illustrates the difficulty to bring additional infrastructure online. In addition, it is unlikely that new pipeline capacity will be built to support peak-period propane demand. New capacity to meet peak-period demand would only be used a few days each year and would not be needed during warmer-than-normal winters, making it difficult for propane marketers to support the new contract commitments required to build new pipelines.
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As a result, ICF said it believes that propane markets will need to develop new supply practices to ensure reliability in an infrastructure-constrained market. Such recommended practices could include additions to local storage capacity, increases in the percentage of supply purchased on a firm basis, additions of long-haul truck transport capacity, additional commitments for rail transport, increased reliance on price and supply hedging arrangements, and growth in summer load to reduce demand seasonality.


ICF adds that maintaining current market share in the residential and commercial sectors, which represent more than 70% of total consumer propane sales, will remain one of the biggest challenges facing the industry through the end of the decade. While noting that residential and commercial offer growth opportunities, both in increasing market share for existing applicationsconversion of fueloil to propaneand commercialization of new technologies such as residential tankless water heaters, portable and backup generators, commercial propane-fired heat pumps, and combined heat and power (CHP) units—threats to the markets remain formidable.

Namely, propane use per customer has fallen substantially and is expected to continue to decline due to improvements in building and equipment efficiency. Electric heat pump technology is becoming more efficient and economical and is likely to continue to erode the propane heating market in many regions. In addition, ICF points out that, since 2000, the propane industry has lost more than 350,000 manufactured home customers due to the overall collapse of that market and to electricity inroads into the remaining new units being built. This trend is also expected to continue. Finally, natural gas supply is leading to lower natural gas prices and expansions in distribution systems that lead to conversions of propane customers to natural gas.

“Given the expected improvements in electric heating technology, and the expected promotion of electricity as a ‘green’ energy source by the electric power industry, maintaining existing propane customers is likely to remain challenging in many markets,” says ICF. “Preserving the current customer base will require an aggressive and coordinated effort by the propane industry. The major propane applications in these sectors have significant non-cost advantages over competing fuels and technologies: warmer heat output and the convenience of gas add value for customers. The propane industry will need to emphasize this value proposition to capture high-opportunity markets and offset inevitable losses in markets that are driven entirely by cost rather than value.”

However, the recent decline in propane prices provides the industry with a window of opportunity to effectively address these issues and to regain some of the market lost due to higher propane prices in the last five years. At the same time, it is not clear that potential customers will recognize propane’s operating cost advantage. Encouraging fueloil heating customers to invest in new, more efficient propane furnaces will require the propane industry to make a compelling case for long-term consumer benefits. Inducing customers to switch fuels may also require facilitating equipment conversions with up-front financing and other steps to simplify the process.

Finally, to ensure decision-makers in the national energy and environmental policy debate recognize propane’s emissions and supply benefits the propane industry needs to be actively involved in the federal and state policy dialogue. Federal and state policy decisions, along with the resulting tax policies and regulations on energy use, are going to play a significant role in either promoting or inhibiting propane use in a variety of markets. Through the industry’s companies and trade associations, the propane industry must engage policymakers in regulatory discussions to make sure propane is adequately considered when new energy policies are drafted.

Clean Cities: 22 Years of Propane Advocacy

Propane industry members and likely the rest of the U.S. remember the economic crisis of 2008 and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act stimulus program. Dedicated propane projects, which started in 2009 and 2010 under the U.S. Department of Energy’s Clean Cities program, received $33.5 million from the stimulus package, and that money funded more than 3500 propane vehicles in 28 states and more than 250 refueling stations in 18 states. Those programs are just now wrapping up — fueling stations are built and the propane vehicles have been manufactured and delivered.
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“Now the vehicles are just starting their lives of serving the fleets and driving,” national Clean Cities director Dennis Smith told BPN. “We’re doing data collection for several years to see how many miles they drive, how much fuel they use, and what their experiences are like, so we can document what we’ve achieved. It’s completely kicked off now.” A Clean Cities case study of four Texas school districts and one in Virginia showed that some of the districts saved nearly 50% on a cost-per-mile basis for fuel and maintenance relative to diesel.

Propane has been part of Clean Cities since the program was established in 1993 to reduce the country’s dependence on petroleum. Assisting fleets and consumers in switching vehicles to alternatives such as propane and electricity has been a main goal from the beginning. The program has expanded its role through the years, encouraging fleets and the public to buy vehicles that get better fuel economy or to reduce idling of trucks and buses. More recently, Clean Cities has begun analyzing these same efforts to document how they are also helping to lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Education and outreach are the main methods Clean Cities uses to reach those goals, with program representatives informing the public about different vehicles, fuels, and technologies that can help in that area. The approximately 100 Clean Cities coalitions in various communities help local fuel providers and government and local fleets coordinate projects to build fueling stations or to acquire and maintain alternative fuel vehicles. The coalitions assist in connecting fleets with businesses that can provide services they need to operate them.
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“Even though we’re based in Washington, D.C., and our program is national, this group of coalitions nationwide is really the backbone of how we get things done, because we realize [when] it’s happening locally, we can’t direct it all out of Washington,” Smith said.

Clean Cities can provide technical assistance for companies wanting to build on-site fueling stations. To do that, its representatives help the companies understand codes and standards to be followed, such as how close a fuel pump is allowed to another structure. “Or if there is an ancient rule on the books in the local community, we try to educate them and get [them] up to date so someone is not penalized for something that’s out of date.”
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Most recently, Clean Cities has been involved with an $11-million funding opportunity, announced in September, to support development of alternative technologies for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles. One of the areas of interest is a heavy-duty vehicle dual-fuel fleet demonstration that seeks to show the performance and reliability of commercially available dual-fuel heavy-duty vehicles equipped with engines capable of operation using a mixture of diesel fuel and gaseous fuels — natural gas, propane, or natural gas-derived fuels such as dimethyl ether — and the associated emissions control systems.

That program is designed to help reduce U.S. reliance on gasoline, diesel, and oil imports, and although Clean Cities has added new areas of focus over the years, it remains committed to that goal. Reducing about 2.5 billion gallons per year of petroleum equivalent by 2020 is a main goal. But Smith noted that the organization is diversifying its portfolio of which vehicles are included and educating fleet operators and the public on smarter vehicle operation in areas such as choosing more fuel efficient vehicles and not letting a vehicle idle for long periods.

Helping communities prepare for alternative fuels is another goal. The organization is working on training programs for first responders so they know what to expect when responding to an accident involving an alternative fuel vehicle.

 “If there are some outdated rules or regulations that might impact permitting or the ability to build a fueling station for these other fuels, I think we’re more involved in that than we were years ago,” Smith noted. Clean Cities provides educational resources to many different audiences, such as automotive recycling personnel on handling alternative fuel vehicles that have been in an accident. These workers might not know how to safely handle a vehicle with a tank full of propane. Smith added that enthusiasm for propane among Clean Cities participants has mirrored the rest of the country over the years. Gasoline and diesel prices were at less than $1 per gallon when the program first started, so propane was a tough sell at that time. As gasoline and diesel prices increased, alternative fuels became more attractive. In addition, vehicle technology has improved over the years, helping raise the interest level. In the early days, the technology was mainly aftermarket conversion kits that Smith noted weren’t the best-performing products at that time.

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“Nowadays with propane, there’s a large number of vehicle options available from big name manufacturers, right off the assembly line or through special partnerships the manufacturers have with authorized conversion companies. So now there are Ford and Chevy pickups and so forth that you can purchase through your dealer and [are] warranted like a new vehicle so none of those worries are there, and the quality is such that they perform just as well. No more feeling like it was done with ‘shade tree’ mechanics or something that they may have heard a story about from years ago.”
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Areas of the country that see strong use among Clean Cities participants also mirrors what the overall propane industry sees. The Southeast area of the country and rural areas with less access to natural gas pipelines have seen strong propane use. Smith has seen greater propane use on farms and in national parks. More parks are looking at swapping out vehicles and mowing equipment for models that run on propane. In 2013, leaders from the National Park Service, Clean Cities, and the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) unveiled six Exmark zero-turn-radius mowers to be used to cut the grass on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
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Local Clean Cities coalitions have found fleets, golf courses, and other businesses interested in using propane equipment and matched them up with propane mower manufacturers and propane marketers and assisted in finding funding incentives.

Although propane prices are currently low, alternative fuels have been challenged because of low gasoline and diesel prices, Smith noted. But fleets like UPS are seeing enough additional benefits that they are moving to propane. “We’re seeing more large fleets do the math and see what the pricing has been like long-term instead of being distracted by these price fluctuations lately with gasoline and diesel. So they know it’s a good bet long-term that they’ll be saving with the alternative fuels and that they’re making good decisions along those lines.”

He sees good things for propane in the future, and Clean Cities is investing time to improve the mapping tool on its website showing where alternative fuel filling stations are located. “We’re trying to enhance capabilities on that so people can find not only where the stations are but we’re including information such as what hours they are open, what credit cards they take, and what kind of facilities they have so if you have a big truck, you don’t accidentally go to a place that’s too small.”   — Daryl Lubinsky
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