For much of the pandemic, Amazon has offered free on-site Covid testing for employees. It incorporated a variety of design features into warehouses to promote social distancing. But a worker at an Amazon warehouse in Oregon, who did not want to be named for fear of retribution, said there had been a gradual reduction in safety features, like the removal of physical barriers to enforce social distancing.
Kelly Nantel, an Amazon spokeswoman, said that the company had removed barriers in some parts of warehouses where workers don’t spend much time in proximity, but that it had kept up distancing measures in other areas, like break rooms.
“We’re continuously evaluating the temporary measures we implemented in response to Covid-19 and making adjustments in alignment with public health authority guidance,” Ms. Nantel said. She added that the company would “begin ramping down our U.S. testing operations by July 30, 2021.”
At REI, the outdoor equipment and apparel retailer, four workers in different parts of the country, who asked not to be named for fear of workplace repercussions, complained that the company had recently enacted a potentially more punitive attendance policy it had planned to put in place just before the pandemic. Under the policy, part-time workers who use more than their allotted sick days are subject to discipline up to termination if the absences are unexcused. The workers also said they were concerned that many stores — after restricting capacity until this spring — had become more and more crowded.
Halley Knigge, a spokeswoman for REI, said that under its new policies the company allowed part-time workers to accrue sick leave for the first time and that the disciplinary policy was not substantively new but merely reworded. The stores, she added, continue to restrict occupancy to no more than 50 percent capacity, as they have since June 2020.
Workers elsewhere in the retail industry also complained about the growing crowds and difficulty of distancing inside stores like supermarkets. Karyn Johnson-Dorsey, a personal shopper from Riverside, Calif., who finds work on Instacart but also has her own roster of clients, said it had been increasingly difficult to maintain a safe distance from unmasked customers since the state eased masking and capacity restrictions in mid-June.
DALLAS–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Invitation Homes Inc. (NYSE: INVH)(“Invitation Homes” or the “Company”) , the nation’s premier single-family home leasing company, and PulteGroup, Inc. (NYSE: PHM), the nation’s third largest homebuilder, announced today the formation of an innovative strategic relationship. As part of this relationship, Invitation Homes expects to purchase approximately 7,500 new homes over the next five years that PulteGroup will design and build expressly for this purpose.
The companies have already reached agreement on the construction and sale of over 1,000 homes across seven communities over the next several years, with the first sales expected to close in 2022. Initial projects are scheduled for delivery in Florida, Georgia, Southern California, North Carolina and Texas.
“At Invitation Homes, we’re committed to serving the growing share of Americans who are opting not to buy a house by providing high-quality homes with valued features such as close proximity to jobs and access to good schools,” said Dallas Tanner, President and CEO of Invitation Homes. “We’re thrilled that this strategic relationship with PulteGroup further strengthens that commitment while also enhancing our multichannel acquisition approach to growth.”
“We have been evaluating potential structures for participating in the single-family rental market that would seek to capitalize on our strengths in community development and new-home construction while delivering high returns,” said Ryan Marshall, PulteGroup President and CEO. “We are excited to be working with an industry leader in Invitation Homes, and believe this relationship will allow us to increase our scale in our existing markets, make investing in larger land parcels more practical, and generate attractive risk adjusted returns.”
About Invitation Homes
Invitation Homes is the nation’s premier single-family home leasing company, meeting changing lifestyle demands by providing access to high-quality, updated homes with valued features such as close proximity to jobs and access to good schools. The company’s mission, “Together with you, we make a house a home,” reflects its commitment to providing homes where individuals and families can thrive and high-touch service that continuously enhances residents’ living experiences.
PulteGroup, Inc. (NYSE: PHM), based in Atlanta, Georgia, is one of America’s largest homebuilding companies with operations in more than 40 markets throughout the country. Through its brand portfolio that includes Centex, Pulte Homes, Del Webb, DiVosta Homes, American West and John Wieland Homes and Neighborhoods, the company is one of the industry’s most versatile homebuilders able to meet the needs of multiple buyer groups and respond to changing consumer demand. PulteGroup’s purpose is building incredible places where people can live their dreams.
For more information about PulteGroup, Inc. and PulteGroup brands, go to pultegroup.com; www.pulte.com; www.centex.com; www.delwebb.com; www.divosta.com; www.jwhomes.com; and www.americanwesthomes.com. Follow PulteGroup, Inc. on Twitter: @PulteGroupNews.
This press release contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (the “Exchange Act”), which include, but are not limited to, statements related to the Company’s expectations regarding the performance of the Company’s business, its financial results, its liquidity and capital resources, and other non-historical statements. In some cases, you can identify these forward-looking statements by the use of words such as “outlook,” “guidance,” “believes,” “expects,” “potential,” “continues,” “may,” “will,” “should,” “could,” “seeks,” “projects,” “predicts,” “intends,” “plans,” “estimates,” “anticipates,” or the negative version of these words or other comparable words. Such forward-looking statements are subject to various risks and uncertainties, including, among others, risks inherent to the single-family rental industry and the Company’s business model, macroeconomic factors beyond the Company’s control, competition in identifying and acquiring properties, competition in the leasing market for quality residents, increasing property taxes, homeowners’ association (“HOA”) fees, and insurance costs, the Company’s dependence on third parties for key services, risks related to the evaluation of properties, poor resident selection and defaults and non-renewals by the Company’s residents, performance of the Company’s information technology systems, risks related to the Company’s indebtedness, and risks related to the potential negative impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic on the Company’s financial condition, results of operations, cash flows, business, associates, and residents. Accordingly, there are or will be important factors that could cause actual outcomes or results to differ materially from those indicated in these statements. Moreover, many of these factors have been heightened as a result of the ongoing and numerous adverse impacts of COVID-19. The Company believes these factors include, but are not limited to, those described under Part I. Item 1A. “Risk Factors” of the Annual Report on Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2020, and in the Company’s Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q for the quarterly period ended March 31, 2021, filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”), as such factors may be updated from time to time in the Company’s periodic filings with the SEC, which are accessible on the SEC’s website at www.sec.gov. These factors should not be construed as exhaustive and should be read in conjunction with the other cautionary statements that are included in this release and in the Company’s other periodic filings. The forward-looking statements speak only as of the date of this press release, and the Company expressly disclaims any obligation or undertaking to publicly update or review any forward-looking statement, whether as a result of new information, future developments or otherwise, except to the extent otherwise required by law.
AUSTIN, Texas–(BUSINESS WIRE)–American Campus Communities (NYSE: ACC), the nation’s largest student housing company, has once again been recognized in multiple award categories of Student Housing Business Magazine’s InterFace Conference Innovator Awards.
The Innovator Awards are given to student housing owners, developers, operators, architecture firms and universities for excellence in student housing development, marketing and operations. More than 100 industry experts judged on more than 140 entries in this year’s contest. This was the largest number of submissions to date.
ACC has been honored with the following on-campus awards for 2021:
On-Campus Best Public-Private Financing Solution: Manzanita Square at San Francisco State University – ACC recognized an enormous opportunity to provide development and financial expertise and support to a dedicated project team in the California State University System’s first equity-financed public-private partnership. After a 22-month construction duration, Manzanita Square opened its doors in August 2020. The 584-bed, academically oriented community represents a true win-win-win for the project team, the University and its students.
On-Campus Best Implementation of Mixed-Use/Live-Learn: UIC Academic and Residential Complex – The ARC is home to more than 550 UIC students, providing a purpose-built, academically oriented student living environment and classrooms in the heart of campus. The facility provides modern spaces for residents to live, learn and thrive, including 50,000 square feet of academic space including learning halls, classrooms, study spaces and tutoring centers.
On-Campus Best New Development: University of Illinois Chicago Academic and Residential Complex – In the spring of 2017, UIC engaged ACC to deliver the Academic and Residential Complex (ARC), which represents the first phase of the University’s revitalization initiative. Developed as a public-private partnership among UIC and ACC, the ARC was delivered in Fall 2019 after a 20-month construction process.
On-Campus Best Architecture: UIC Academic and Residential Complex – Campus-wide connection is reinforced through transparency between interior program spaces and the outdoor environment. Amenity spaces are highly visible and concentrated on the ground floor to promote and extend the community’s learning environment. The community’s facade and interiors echo the geometric architecture seen throughout campus, celebrating the university’s urban context while simultaneously maintaining a residential collegiate aesthetic.
“It’s an honor to be recognized alongside our innovative university partners for two communities, Manzanita Square and the UIC Academic and Residential Complex, that go above and beyond to create environments conducive to academic success and personal well-being for our students,” said Bill Bayless, CEO at ACC. “Our ACC team members across the country have remained focused on fulfilling our mission of putting students first and creating a place where they love living.”
Bayless gave the keynote address at the conference on Wednesday, July 14th at the JW Marriott in Austin, Texas. In total, ACC has been awarded 43 SHB Innovator Awards since 2013.
About American Campus Communities
American Campus Communities, Inc. is the largest owner, manager and developer of high-quality student housing communities in the United States. The company is a fully integrated, self-managed and self-administered equity real estate investment trust (REIT) with expertise in the design, finance, development, construction management and operational management of student housing properties. As of March 31, 2021, American Campus Communities owned 166 student housing properties containing approximately 111,900 beds. Including its owned and third-party managed properties, ACC’s total managed portfolio consisted of 207 properties with approximately 142,400 beds. Visit www.americancampus.com.
In addition to historical information, this press release contains forward-looking statements under the applicable federal securities law. These statements are based on management’s current expectations and assumptions regarding markets in which American Campus Communities, Inc. (the “company”) operates, operational strategies, anticipated events and trends, the economy, and other future conditions. Forward-looking statements are not guarantees of future performance and involve certain risks and uncertainties, which are difficult to predict. These risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed or implied in the forward looking-statements include those related to the COVID-19 pandemic, about which there are still many unknowns, including the duration of the pandemic and the extent of its impact, and those discussed in our filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including our Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2020 under the heading “Risk Factors” and under the heading “Business – Forward-looking Statements” and subsequent quarterly reports on Form 10-Q. We undertake no obligation to publicly update any forward-looking statements, including our preleasing activity or expected full year 2021 operating results, whether as a result of new information, future events, or otherwise.
YEKATERINBURG, Russia — Patients with unexplained pneumonias started showing up at hospitals; within days, dozens were dead. The secret police seized doctors’ records and ordered them to keep silent. American spies picked up clues about a lab leak, but the local authorities had a more mundane explanation: contaminated meat.
It took more than a decade for the truth to come out.
In April and May 1979, at least 66 people died after airborne anthrax bacteria emerged from a military lab in the Soviet Union. But leading American scientists voiced confidence in the Soviets’ claim that the pathogen had jumped from animals to humans. Only after a full-fledged investigation in the 1990s did one of those scientists confirm the earlier suspicions: The accident in what is now the Russian Urals city of Yekaterinburg was a lab leak, one of the deadliest ever documented.
Nowadays, some of the victims’ graves appear abandoned, their names worn off their metal plates in the back of a cemetery on the outskirts of town, where they were buried in coffins with an agricultural disinfectant. But the story of the accident that took their lives, and the cover-up that hid it, has renewed relevance as scientists search for the origins of Covid-19.
Joshua Lederberg, the Nobel-winning American biologist, wrote in a memo after a fact-finding trip to Moscow in 1986. “The current Soviet account is very likely to be true.”
Many scientists believe that the virus that caused the Covid-19 pandemic evolved in animals and jumped at some point to humans. But scientists are also calling for deeper investigation of the possibility of an accident at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
There is also widespread concern that the Chinese government — which, like the Soviet government decades before it, dismisses the possibility of a lab leak — is not providing international investigators with access and data that could shed light on the pandemic’s origins.
“We all have a common interest in finding out if it was due to a laboratory accident,” Matthew Meselson, a Harvard biologist, said in an interview this month from Cambridge, Mass., referring to the coronavirus pandemic. “Maybe it was a kind of accident that our present guidelines don’t protect against adequately.”
could have been linked to a military facility nearby. Six years later, he wrote that the Soviet explanation of the epidemic’s natural origins was “plausible.” The evidence the Soviets provided was consistent, he said, with the theory that people had been stricken by intestinal anthrax that originated in contaminated bone meal used as animal feed.
Then, in 1992, after the Soviet Union collapsed, President Boris N. Yeltsin of Russia acknowledged “our military development was the cause” of the anthrax outbreak.
Dr. Meselson and his wife, the medical anthropologist Jeanne Guillemin, came to Yekaterinburg with other American experts for a painstaking study. They documented how a northeasterly wind on April 2, 1979, must have scattered as little as a few milligrams of anthrax spores accidentally released from the factory across a narrow zone extending at least 30 miles downwind.
“You can concoct a completely crazy story and make it plausible by the way you design it,” Dr. Meselson said, explaining why the Soviets had succeeded in dispelling suspicions about a lab leak.
In Sverdlovsk, as Yekaterinburg was known in Soviet times, those suspicions appeared as soon as people started falling mysteriously ill, according to interviews this month with residents who remember those days.
Raisa Smirnova, then a 32-year-old worker at a ceramics factory nearby, says she had friends at the mysterious compound who used their special privileges to help her procure otherwise hard-to-find oranges and canned meat. She also heard that there was some sort of secret work on germs being done there, and local rumors would attribute occasional disease outbreaks to the lab.
symptoms of low blood oxygen levels.
She was rushed to the hospital with a high fever and, she says, spent a week there unconscious. By May, some 18 of her co-workers had died. Before she was allowed to go home, K.G.B. agents took her a document to sign, prohibiting her from talking about the events for 25 years.
At Sverdlovsk’s epidemiological service, the epidemiologist Viktor Romanenko was a foot soldier in the cover-up. He says he knew immediately that the disease outbreak striking the city could not be intestinal, food-borne anthrax as the senior health authorities claimed. The pattern and timing of the cases’ distribution showed that the source was airborne and a one-time event.
“We all understood that this was utter nonsense,” said Dr. Romanenko, who went on to become a senior regional health official in post-Soviet times.
But in a Communist state, he had no choice but to go along with the charade, and he and his colleagues spent months seizing and testing meat. K.G.B. agents descended on his office and took away medical records. The Soviet Union had signed a treaty banning biological weapons, and national interests were at stake.
“There was an understanding that we had to get as far away as possible from the biological-weapons theory,” Dr. Romanenko recalled. “The task was to defend the honor of the country.”
There were even jitters at the Evening Sverdlovsk, a local newspaper. A correspondent from The New York Times called the newsroom as the outbreak unfolded, recalls a journalist there at the time, Aleksandr Pashkov. The editor in chief told the staff to stop answering long-distance calls, lest anyone go off-message if the correspondent called again.
“He who can keep a secret comes out on top,” Mr. Pashkov said.
As the Soviet Union crumbled, so did its ability to keep secrets. For a 1992 documentary, Mr. Pashkov tracked down a retired counterintelligence officer in Ukraine — now a different country — who had worked in Sverdlovsk at the time. Telephone intercepts at the military lab, the officer said, revealed that a technician had forgotten to replace a safety filter.
Soon, Mr. Yeltsin — who himself was part of the cover-up as the top Communist official in the region in 1979 — admitted that the military was to blame.
“You need to understand one simple thing,” Mr. Pashkov said. “Why did all this become known? The collapse of the Union.”
The husband-and-wife team of Dr. Meselson and Dr. Guillemin visited Yekaterinburg several times in the 1990s to document the leak. Interviewing survivors, they plotted the victims’ whereabouts and investigated weather records, finding that Dr. Meselson and others had been wrong to give credence to the Soviet narrative.
Dr. Meselson said that when he contacted a Russian official in the early 1990s about reinvestigating the outbreak, the response was, “Why take skeletons out of the closet?”
But he said that determining the origins of epidemics becomes more critical when geopolitics are involved. Had he and his colleagues not proved the cause of the outbreak back then, he said, the matter might still be an irritant in the relationship between Russia and the West.
The same goes for the investigation into the source of Covid-19, Dr. Meselson said. As long as the pandemic’s source remains a matter of suspicion, he said, the question will continue to raise tensions with China, more so than if the truth were known.
“There’s a huge difference between people who are still trying to prove a point against emotional opposition and people who can look back and say, ‘Yeah, yeah, I was right,’” Dr. Meselson said. “One of them fuels wars. The other is history. We need to get all these things solved. We need history, we don’t need all this emotion.”
Unlike Covid-19, anthrax does not easily pass from human to human, which is why the Sverdlovsk lab leak did not cause a broader epidemic. Even the Sverdlovsk case, however, has not been fully solved. It remains unclear whether the secret activity at the factory was illegal biological weapons development — which the Soviet Union is known to have performed — or vaccine research.
Under President Vladimir V. Putin, revealing Russian historical shortcomings has increasingly been deemed unpatriotic. With the government mum on what exactly happened, a different theory has gained currency: Perhaps it was Western agents who deliberately released anthrax spores to undermine the Communist regime.
“The concept of truth, in fact, is very complicated,” said Lev Grinberg, a Yekaterinburg pathologist who secretly preserved evidence of the true nature of the outbreak in 1979. “Those who don’t want to accept the truth will always find ways not to accept it.”
John Cena, the professional wrestler and a star of “F9,” the latest installment in the “Fast and Furious” franchise, apologized to fans in China on Tuesday after he referred to Taiwan as a country while giving a promotional interview.
Joining a long list of celebrities and companies that have profusely apologized after taking an errant step through China’s political minefields, Mr. Cena posted a video apology in Mandarin on Weibo, a Chinese social network.
Beijing considers Taiwan, a self-ruled democratic island, to be a breakaway province and claims it as part of China. Referring to it as a country is often an offensive assertion in China, where matters of sovereignty and territory are passionate issues driven by a strong sense of nationalism.
Mr. Cena apologized for a statement he made in an interview with the Taiwanese broadcaster TVBS. In it, he told the reporter in Mandarin, “Taiwan is the first country that can watch” the film.
Xinjiang, pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong or the status of Taiwan and Tibet.
a fierce backlash when Daryl Morey, then the general manager of the Houston Rockets, tweeted in support of the Hong Kong protests in 2019. (LeBron James, one of basketball’s biggest stars, offered a China-friendly response, saying Mr. Morey “wasn’t educated on the situation at hand” by supporting the protesters.)
Movie studios often preemptively ensure their content won’t run afoul of Chinese censors, a practice once mocked by “South Park.”
But quite often, the political problems arise in cases where a company appeared to have no idea it was accidentally crossing a line.
That list would include Gap, which in 2018 created a T-shirt that omitted Taiwan, parts of Tibet and islands in the South China Sea from a map of China on the shirt’s design. The luxury brands Versace, Givenchy and Coach said in 2019 they all made mistakes when they produced T-shirts that identified Hong Kong and Macau as countries.
“Versace reiterates that we love China deeply, and resolutely respect China’s territory and national sovereignty,” the company said in a statement at the time.
China ordered 36 airlines to remove references to Taiwan, Macau and Hong Kong as separate countries on their websites in 2018, a step the Trump administration dismissed as “Orwellian nonsense.”
That year, Marriott clarified on its Weibo account that it “will absolutely not support any separatist organization that will undermine China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity” after a customer survey listed the territories as separate countries.
Mercedes-Benz Instagram account quoted the Dalai Lama, whom many in China view as a dangerous separatist advocating Tibetan independence.
The release of “F9” was delayed for a year during the coronavirus pandemic. It drew an estimated $162 million in tickets in eight international markets, including China and South Korea, over the weekend. As the newest film in a hugely successful series, “F9” is seen by Hollywood as the kind of blockbuster needed to draw people back to theaters.
Amy Chang Chien contributed reporting from Taipei, and Claire Fu from Beijing.
More than 12.6 million United States households adopted animals from March to December of last year, according to the American Pet Products Association, helping to propel an increase in visits and revenue to veterinary offices.
That heightened demand has drawn investors and others to the market for veterinary services. Landlords who might have spurned tenants associated with unpleasant odors and noise are more amenable to leasing to the clinics after a year when the vets paid their rent while other businesses fell behind. And architecture firms that specialize in the design of vet space are busier than ever.
Tech-savvy start-ups are promising a reinvention of the experience, with phone apps, round-the-clock telemedicine and boutique storefronts with refreshments (for pet owners).
The pet care business is riding a growth spurt: Morgan Stanley projected that it would be a $275 billion industry in 2030, up from $100 billion in 2019, with vet care the fastest-growing segment over the next decade.
“Ten years ago, there was a baby boom,” Arash Danialifar, the chief executive of GD Realty Group, a California company that has leased space to a veterinary start-up, said about the proliferation of shops selling children’s fashion. “Now, it’s all about pets.”
When Allegra Brochin and her boyfriend adopted Sprinkles, a feisty white Maltese, last year, they set about finding pet care.
“I immediately started looking,” said Ms. Brochin, 23, who works as a communications coordinator for Michael Kors in New York.
She saw ads for Bond Vet pop up on her Instagram feed, and when she took in Sprinkles for her shots, she was won over by the look and feel of the clinic, “especially when it’s for a pet you care about and feel responsible for,” she said.
Ms. Brochin is not alone in her devotion to her pandemic pet. More than 12.6 million households adopted animals from March to December of last year, according to the American Pet Products Association, helping to propel an increase in visits and revenue to veterinary offices, as new owners took pets in for their first checkup.
pet care business is riding a growth spurt: Morgan Stanley projected that it would be a $275 billion industry in 2030, up from $100 billion in 2019, with vet care the fastest-growing segment over the next decade.
“Ten years ago, there was a baby boom,” Arash Danialifar, chief executive of GD Realty Group, a California company that has leased space to a veterinary start-up, said about the proliferation of shops selling children’s fashion. “Now it’s all about pets.”
Small Door Veterinary recently announced it had raised $20 million and planned to go from a single location to 25 by 2025. The firm operates on a membership model, with 24/7 telemedicine and waiting areas with arched, white oak-paneled alcoves that give owners and their pets an intimate place to chill before appointments. Designed by Alda Ly Architecture, the clinics are rented storefronts of 2,000 to 3,000 square feet and cost about $1 million to kit out, said Josh Guttman, Small Door’s co-founder and chief executive.
Bond Vet, another New York start-up, models itself on CityMD clinics; it recently raised $17 million and now has six offices, including its first suburban location, in Garden City on Long Island.
Modern Animal, has an office in a high-end shopping district in West Hollywood, with three more to come in the city by year’s end and a dozen clinics in California by 2022, said the company’s founder and chief executive, Steven Eidelman.
new pet owners during the pandemic. Seventy-six percent of millennials own pets, according to a recent survey, and they are spending generously on their charges.
Terravet Real Estate Solutions, founded in 2016, now owns more than 100 buildings in 30 states, many of them housing practices owned by consolidators. For instance, Terravet owns the building housing CountryChase Veterinary Hospital in Tampa, Fla., and the American Veterinary Group, which operates practices across the South, owns the business.
Hound Properties, founded two years ago, has been buying buildings with an investor-backed fund. And Vetley Capital, started this year, has a portfolio of 20 buildings in nine states, most of them on the small side, ranging from 2,500 to 4,000 square feet and costing around $1 million, said Zach Goldman, the company’s founder and president.
The price of real estate has risen, but the returns are generally modest. “It’s the ultimate slow and steady income,” said Tripp Stewart, co-founder and chief executive of Hound Properties, who is also a practicing vet.
Despite the interest, there are obstacles to opening pet hospitals. Zoning sometimes limits their locations. In Pasadena, Calif., GD Realty had to request a zoning change for Modern Animal.
Because such businesses revolve around animal doctors, who are in demand as veterinary companies expand, there are shortages of vets in some parts of the country, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.
The improvements in vet facilities are thus aimed not only at pets and their owners, but also at the doctors themselves, who can choose where they want to work.
“It used to be that when you went to a vet, it was a family vet who worked out of a kitchen in an old house,” said Dr. Stewart. “Today, you’re not going to attract new young vets to an old house.”
Before the widespread availability of this kind of computing, organizations built expensive prototypes to test their designs. “We actually went and built a full-scale prototype, and ran it to the end of life before we deployed it in the field,” said Brandon Haugh, a core-design engineer, referring to a nuclear reactor he worked on with the U.S. Navy. “That was a 20-year, multibillion dollar test.”
Today, Mr. Haugh is the director of modeling and simulation at the California-based nuclear engineering start-up Kairos Power, where he hones the design for affordable and safe reactors that Kairos hopes will help speed the world’s transition to clean energy.
Nuclear energy has long been regarded as one of the best options for zero-carbon electricity production — except for its prohibitive cost. But Kairos Power’s advanced reactors are being designed to produce power at costs that are competitive with natural gas.
“The democratization of high-performance computing has now come all the way down to the start-up, enabling companies like ours to rapidly iterate and move from concept to field deployment in record time,” Mr. Haugh said.
But high-performance computing in the cloud also has created new challenges.
In the last few years, there has been a proliferation of custom computer chips purposely built for specific types of mathematical problems. Similarly, there are now different types of memory and networking configurations within high-performance computing. And the different cloud providers have different specializations; one may be better at computational fluid dynamics while another is better at structural analysis.
The challenge, then, is picking the right configuration and getting the capacity when you need it — because demand has risen sharply. And while scientists and engineers are experts in their domains, they aren’t necessarily in server configurations, processors and the like.
This has given rise to a new kind of specialization — experts in high-performance cloud computing — and new cross-cloud platforms that act as one-stop shops where companies can pick the right combination of software and hardware. Rescale, which works closely with all the major cloud providers, is the dominant company in this field. It matches computing problems for businesses, like Firefly and Kairos, with the right cloud provider to deliver computing that scientists and engineers can use to solve problems faster or at lowest possible cost.
This article is part of Owning the Future, a series on how small businesses across the country have been effected by the pandemic.
The Covid pandemic hit California hard. It has seen well over 3.5 million cases and over 60,000 deaths. Scores of businesses have closed. But for Ana Jimenez the owner of Tacos El Jerry, a small fleet of food trucks in Santa Cruz County, it provided an opportunity to bring her business into the 21st century.
Ms. Jimenez’s four trucks began taking orders through an app and a website, delivering directly to customers, and cultivating a customer base through a new social media presence. All of that added up to a significant increase in sales.
Facebook and Instagram pages for the food trucks, a social media advertising campaign and began accepting credit card purchases. “Each truck is now serving around 300 people per day, which translates to roughly $5,000 in sales daily,” Ms. Jimenez said.
Food trucks — kitchens on wheels, essentially — are flexible by design and quickly became a substitute during the pandemic for customers who couldn’t dine indoors and coveted something different than their mainstream carryout options. That, in turn, has delivered a new client base to add on to an existing cadre of loyal followers. In a very real sense, food trucks are vehicles for equality in the post-pandemic world.
“While the pandemic has certainly hurt the majority of small businesses, it has also pushed many to be more innovative by looking for new revenue streams and ways to reach customers,” said Kimberly A. Eddleston, a professor of entrepreneurship and innovation at Northeastern University.
Like Ms. Jimenez, some businesses have “focused on ways to maintain their customer base by, for example, delivering products directly to customers,” Prof. Eddleston said. “While others have created products and services that attract new customers.”
Blue Sparrow food trucks in Pittsburgh, adding pizza, four-packs of local beer, gift cards and five-ounce bottles of housemade hot sauce.
Mr. Cypher’s main fare since he hit the streets in 2016 has been global street food. His menu carries a heavy Asian inspiration. There’s made-from-scratch kimchi on the menu daily. Dishes can include rice bowls, Vietnamese banh mi, falafel burritos, and a burger made with a ramen bun.
During the pandemic, Mr. Cypher’s business took a hit when 24 festivals and over a dozen weddings where he was booked were canceled. “I switched gears to keep things as lean as possible,” Mr. Cypher said.
He temporarily shut down a second food truck — a retrofitted 35-foot, 1956 Greyhound bus that he used for the big parties — and introduced a website to interact with his customers and an online ordering system for his smaller truck, which he usually parked at a neighborhood brewery.
“I switched the menu to focus on soups, noodles, burritos and pressed sandwiches, so that the things that we were handing our customers would make it home and still be a good experience after they opened up the bag and took it out,” he said.
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And he began to make and sell pizza one day a week at the kitchen where he used to do his prep work for the trucks before the pandemic. (The pizza, too, has an international flair: a banh mi pie, for example, made with pork or tofu, miso garlic sauce, mozzarella, pickled carrots, cucumbers, and cilantro.)
Accion Opportunity Fund, a nonprofit organization providing small-business owners with access to capital, networks and coaching. “Many food truck owners stepped forward to seize opportunity during a time of great uncertainty,” she said.
As Pittsburgh emerges from the pandemic, Mr. Cypher is adding a twist at his kitchen location. “We have licensing to offer beer on draft from our local breweries, so we’re going to have a small beer garden,” he said. “And that’s a revenue stream that we’re going to kind of lean into that we probably never would have done if not for Covid.”
In 2020, Mr. Cypher’s food trucks had $200,000 in gross sales, down about 40 percent from the previous year, he said. “But with the new offerings, more efficiency and only running one rig, we were actually able to net enough to keep the business moving forward,” he said. “This year we’re already up about 30 percent from where we were at last year at this time.”
Shiso Crispy, timing was much tricker: she opened her first truck in November 2019, just a few months before the pandemic. And yet Ms. Whaley, 35, who offers handmade gyozas, bao buns and their signature dish, dirty rice, now has two trucks because of a strategy of regularly parking in certain neighborhoods and offering discounted and free meals outside a nearby Ronald McDonald House. (She added the second truck in January.)
One challenge: “The internet here is shoddy. And cellphone service in different areas out here just doesn’t work,” she said. “During the height of the pandemic, I was consistently losing two or more transactions at my point of sale every shift.”
Clover Flex point of sale program for touchless transactions. “It has digitally transformed my business,” Ms. Whaley said.
She also signed on to an app, called Best Food Trucks, that allows customers near her to pre-order once they know her location for the day.
“The inextricably connected stories of food trucks and Covid are a perfect microcosm of the undeniable reality that women, immigrants and people of color, historically relegated to the edges of the economy, are actually the foundation upon which the next economy must be built,” said Nathalie Molina Niño, author of “Leapfrog: The New Revolution for Women Entrepreneurs.”
But the silver lining from the pandemic for some operators is more personal — including bringing families together. “I have a ton of wisdom about how to operate food trucks and cooking,” Ms. Jimenez said. “It’s the coming together of the generations that made the business stronger now and for the future.”
Carmakers have been promising to scrap the internal combustion engine, and now it’s the truckmakers’ turn. But the makers of giant 18-wheelers are taking a different route.
Daimler, the world’s largest maker of heavy trucks, whose Freightliners are a familiar sight on American interstates, said last week that it would convert to zero-emission vehicles within 15 years at the latest, providing another example of how the shift to electric power is reshaping vehicle manufacturing with significant implications for the climate, economic growth and jobs.
The journey away from fossil fuels will play out differently and take longer in the trucking industry than it will for passenger cars. For one thing, zero emission long-haul trucks are not yet available in large numbers.
And different technology may be needed to power the electric motors. Batteries work well for delivery vehicles and other short-haul trucks, which are already on the roads in significant numbers. But Daimler argues that battery power is not ideal for long-haul 18-wheelers, at least with current technology. The weight of the batteries alone subtracts too much from payload, an important consideration for cost-conscious trucking companies.
online presentation Thursday, Daimler executives announced a partnership with Shell to build a “hydrogen corridor” of fueling stations spanning northern Europe. For shorter-haul trucks, Daimler announced a partnership with the Chinese company CATL to develop batteries, and partnerships with Siemens and other companies to install high-voltage charging stations in Europe and the United States.
Trevor Milton, resigned last year facing accusations he had made numerous false assertions about the company’s hydrogen fuel-cell technology.
Nikola at least demonstrated how eager investors are to put their money into hydrogen trucks. Another example is Hyzon, a maker of fuel cells based in Rochester, N.Y., that has begun offering complete trucks and buses. In February, Hyzon was acquired by Decarbonization Plus Acquisition Corporation, a so-called SPAC that raises money before it has any assets.
Tesla unveiled a design for a battery-powered semi truck in 2017, which the company has said it will begin delivering this year. Tesla, Scania and some other truckmakers are skeptical of hydrogen technology, which they regard as too expensive and less energy-efficient.
The traditional truckmakers like Daimler and Volvo have some advantages over the start-ups. Truck buyers tend to be practical hauling firms or drivers who carefully calculate the costs of maintenance and fuel consumption before they make a decision. Managers of big fleets may also be reluctant to take a chance on a manufacturer without a long track record.
President Biden has been promoting electric vehicles, but has not yet defined what that means for the trucking industry.
Trucking companies, which have depended on diesel for most of the last century, will have to revamp their maintenance departments, install their own charging or hydrogen fueling stations in some cases, retrain drivers and learn to plan their routes around hydrogen or electric charging points.
But Mr. Kedzie said that emission-free trucks also had some advantages. Fuel costs for battery-powered vehicles are much lower than for diesel trucks. Maintenance costs may be lower because electric vehicles have fewer moving parts. Drivers like the way electric trucks perform — an important factor at the moment when there is a driver shortage in America.
Many companies that ship a lot of goods, like Walmart or Target, are trying to reduce their carbon footprints and taking an interest in zero-emission trucks. “There are a lot of potential benefits” Mr. Kedzie said.
Daimler says its aim is to make battery-powered short-haul trucks that can compete on cost with diesel by 2025, and long-haul fuel-cell trucks that achieve diesel parity by 2027.
“In that very moment when the customer starts benefiting more from a zero-emission truck than a diesel truck, well, there’s no reason to buy a diesel truck anymore,” Andreas Gorbach, chief technology officer for Daimler’s trucks and buses division, said during the presentation Thursday. “This is the tipping point.”