BNSF Proposes Idaho Bridge Project

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BNSF Railway is looking to build a second rail line over Lake Pend Oreille in Sandpoint, Idaho to reduce congestion on the current one-lane bridge.

The bridge would be adjacent to the existing rail bridge, and the project also includes new bridges over Sand Creek and Bridge Street in Sandpoint.

In Sandpoint, BNSF’s mainline track merges with Montana Rail Link, creating a bottleneck of multiple tracks merging into a single track across Lake Pend Oreille.

Since only one train can cross at a time, trains are often staged, leaving them idling and blocking local roadways while waiting to cross.

The upgrade will reduce congestion, and help move current freight traffic and future volumes more efficiently.

The bridge will also benefit passenger trains that run on BNSF’s main line.

When the second bridge is completed, trains will run in both directions, reducing the need to idle while waiting to cross the existing single track. As a result, local drivers could see shorter wait times on nearby roads that cross BNSF tracks, and the flow of freight and passenger trains will be improved throughout the region.

© 2018 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

TE Wire & Cable Partners With Plataine

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Berkshire Hathaway’s TE Wire & Cable, the world’s largest manufacturer of thermocouple wire, and Plataine, a leading provider of Industrial IoT and AI-based optimization software for advanced manufacturing, have announced a partnership for Smart Thermocouple solutions. Plataine’s IoT-based AI software tracks and analyzes the location, status and duty cycles of TE Wire & Cable’s thermocouples, enabling thermocouple users to view analytics, receive actionable alerts, insights and optimized recommendations.

TE Wire thermocouples are connected to Plataine’s software via a simple hardware infrastructure based on RFID tags and engraved barcodes. Plataine’s software monitors TE Wire’s thermocouples’ location, status and duty-cycles to provide automated real-time alerts & recommendations to optimize thermocouple calibration, refurbishment or replacement. The Plataine/TE Wire joint solution improves quality compliance, reduces the risk of using thermocouples that are no longer fit for purpose and eliminates manual tracking processes and production delays. A dedicated webpage allows users to plan ahead for efficient thermocouple utilization.

Plataine’s solution is scalable, helping manufacturers go further in their Digital Journey, track and optimize all assets including raw materials, tools, work-in-progress and finished parts. Plataine weaves a web of Digital Threads from raw-material to end-product, allowing thermocouples to be paired to molds and parts for full traceability in the event of quality issues or audits.

Combining Complementary Technologies

Bob Canny, President at TE Wire & Cable says: “Combining TE Wire & Cable and Plataine’s technologies enables our customers to extract additional value from their thermocouples and enter the era of Industry 4.0. For our customers, this will result in increased efficiencies and cost savings in their autoclave manufacturing operations.”

Avner Ben-Bassat, President & CEO at Plataine adds: “We are proud and excited to partner with TE Wire & Cable, jointly bringing to market the ‘Smart Thermocouple’ concept and revolutionizing a critical area of production, previously subject to manual data entry, lack of visibility and quality risks.”

TE Wire & Cable is a Marmon Wire & Cable/Berkshire Hathaway Company.

© 2018 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

NV Energy to Get into EV Charging Station Business

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Nevada, a state with lots of wide-open spaces, is looking to reduce range anxiety for electric vehicle owners.

Nevada’s Public Utility Commission has given the go ahead to NV Energy to own and operate EV charging stations.

The move is part of Nevada’s Strategic Planning Framework, which has the objective of completing an “electric highway” system serving the entire state by 2020.

NV Energy will commit $15 million to develop the charging stations.

The Nevada Governor’s Office of Energy (GOE), Nevada Department of Transportation (NDO) and Nevada’s electric utilities are expanding the state’s charging infrastructure to support EV deployment by internally connecting the state’s urban centers and providing corridor connectivity to the surrounding region.

Phase I will build charging stations on U.S. Highway 95. This first phase connects Reno and Las Vegas and eliminates range anxiety for EV owners while also bringing business to local communities.

The first two operational charging stations on U.S. 95 are located in Valley Electric Association’s service territory, at Eddie World in Beatty and in NV Energy’s service territory, at Fox Peak Gas Station in Fallon.

Charging stations are currently under development with NDOT in Hawthorne and Tonopah.

Phase II will include U.S. Interstate 15, U.S. Interstate 80, U.S. Highway 93, and U.S. Highway 50.

Electric Vehicle Charging Stations are placed at cost-effective and strategic locations along the Nevada’s major transportation corridors.

Each station is comprised of a minimum of one Direct Current Fast Charger and two Level 2 Chargers. Direct Current (DC) Fast Chargers can charge a vehicle in less than an hour; Level 2 chargers typically require several hours for a full charge.

© 2018 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

PacifiCorp Looks to Wind to Power Expanded Capacity

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PacifiCorp is looking to wind power and solar to meet future power needs, and will not be adding any new natural gas resources through the 20-year planning horizon.

This is the first time an Integrated Resource Plan has not included new fossil-fueled generation as a least-cost, least-risk resource for PacifiCorp.

The plan provides a framework for future actions that PacifiCorp will take to provide reliable and reasonably priced service for its customers through the least-cost, least-risk resource portfolio.

The plan includes 1,311 MW of new wind power, repowering just over 999 MW of existing wind capacity, and the new 140-mile, 500 kilovolt (kV) Aeolus-to-Bridger/Anticline transmission line in Wyoming.

Collectively, these resources contribute to meeting the capacity need identified in PacifiCorp’s updated load-and-resource balance and are on track to be in service by the end of 2020.

Through the end of 2036, the updated preferred portfolio includes over 2,700 MW of new wind resources, 1,860 MW of new solar resources, 1,877 MW of incremental energy efficiency resources, and approximately 268 MW of direct-load control resources.

© 2018 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Warren Buffett Realistic on Autonomous Cars Negative Impact on Auto Insurers

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With GEICO Insurance one of Berkshire Hathaway’s biggest assets and moneymakers, the impact of autonomous vehicles on insurance rates will play a big role on future profitability in the auto insurance sector.

Clearly, Warren Buffett is realistic that a world with safer cars will mean declining rates.

While noting that replacement parts of cars are far more expensive than years ago, ultimately Buffett sees a decline in rates due to fewer collisions.

“…A safer car is going to bring lower insurance rates,” Buffett said while appearing on CNBC’s Squawk Box the Monday after Berkshire’s annual meeting. “There’s one some– there’s– modest offset to that in that, in terms of collision activity– the damage is done to a car by in terms of a bumper or a side rearview mirror something. Costs far more now, it’s a much more complex product. So the damage per accident, not human damage, but physical damage to the car, that will probably go up substantially. But the number of accidents won’t– you won’t see widespread adoption unless they’re safer. And we want a safer car. So it’s net, it will be bad for the auto insurance industry over time if autonomous cars become a big part of the fleet.”

Buffett also noted that the exact timeframe that autonomous vehicles will have a big impact on rates is hard to know, as there will still be a lot of nonautonomous vehicles on the road for years to come.

“Well, it– we don’t know, I mean, what it’ll be. And you’ve got 260 million cars on the road. Let’s just say that 10% of the people took up– autonomous cars in a year. Now you’re talking about– a million eight outta the 18 million. And– there’s– a big life cycle to it and all that. But what does best for the consumer and is safer over time really will prevail– over time,” Buffett said.

Currently, GEICO insures more than 24 million vehicles in the United States.

© 2018 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Berkshire Hathaway Acquires WGC Crane Group

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Berkshire Hathaway has acquired WGC Crane Group. The acquisition becomes a newly-created subsidiary, Marmon Crane Australia, which is under Berkshire’s Marmon Group.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

Based in Wollongong, the hitherto family-owned WGC Crane Group provides mobile crane rentals, crane operators, and related services from three depots in News South Wales to clients throughout NSW and other parts of eastern Australia. The company’s fleet includes a variety of mobile cranes used for industrial maintenance, construction, and other projects.

Berkshire’s Marmon Group is an international association of more than 125 autonomous manufacturing and service businesses with collective revenues of approximately US $7bn.

Marmon’s crane business originated with Sterling Crane in western Canada in 1954, which is headquartered in Edmonton, Alberta, and now has branch operations in twenty-four locations throughout Canada and the U.S.A. It is now one of the largest crane fleet operators in the world.

Other members of the Marmon group include Canada-based Procrane Sales, and Astha Sterling Crane in India.

In early 2012, Marmon acquired Freo Group, a leading provider of crane hire services in Australia. This latest acquisition, WGC Crane Group, will continue to operate under the WGC name, and former managers Marc Sergi and Rob McInnes will continue to lead the company with oversight by management of Freo Group.

“We are excited to welcome WGC and its employees to Marmon’s global portfolio of crane businesses,” said Marmon Crane Services president John Roberts. “WGC is a strong, successful company and we look forward to its continued growth.”

Freo Group CEO Tony Canci added: “With Freo’s strong presence in western Australia and now WGC in the east, our organization is well positioned to provide comprehensive, flexible, safe, and dependable lift services to clients in key growth areas throughout Australia.”

© 2018 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results

Advanced Energy Signs Distribution Agreement with Mouser Electronics

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Advanced Energy Industries, Inc., a global leader in precision power conversion, has signed a global distribution agreement with Berkshire Hathaway’s Mouser Electronics, Inc., the industry’s leading New Product Introduction (NPI) distributor with the widest selection of semiconductors and electronic components.

Advanced Energy (AE) will partner with Mouser to connect global customers with AE’s power portfolio, including high-voltage and thermal products.

Mouser Electronics is an award-winning, authorized semiconductor and electronic component distributor focused on rapid New Product Introductions from its manufacturing partners for electronic design engineers and buyers.

“This agreement will enhance the customer NPI experience and enable customers to access and source our power technology solutions 24/7,” said Greg Provenzano, senior vice president of sales and corporate marketing at Advanced Energy. “Mouser’s specialization in rapid introduction of new products to engineers and support for the design community in all stages of their design makes them a great partner for Advanced Energy as we expand our footprint in industrial applications worldwide.”

“This partnership with Advanced Energy bolsters our commitment to providing the latest products and technologies to our customers worldwide,” said Jeff Newell, Mouser Electronics’ senior vice president of products. “We look forward to providing engineers and buyers worldwide with AE’s innovative power solutions, backed by Mouser’s unsurpassed customer service and best-in-class logistics.”

Customers that require precision high voltage or temperature measurement and control solutions can now quickly and easily identify, select and order Advanced Energy specialty power products — including HiTek Power®, UltraVolt®, Onyx®, and Thyro product lines — to satisfy proof-of-concept testing and final production designs.

AE’s HiTek Power products offer a portfolio of high voltage and custom-built power conversion products ranging from 100V to 500kV designed to meet the demanding requirements of OEMs worldwide.

The high voltage UltraVolt line includes power supplies and modules ranging from benchtop and rack mount systems to microsize PCB-mount modules. Its standard DC-to-DC product line consists of over 1,500 models, which can be combined with accessories and options to create thousands of product configurations.

As part of AE’s thermal portfolio, the Onyx series of pyrometers, built specifically for the most demanding industrial applications, provide high accuracy, repeatability and reliability in optical temperature measurement. The series is ideally suited for a wide variety of industrial materials, such as steel, non-ferrous metals, graphites, silicon carbon (SiC), carbon fiber and ceramics during critical thermal processing.

AE’s thermal portfolio also includes digital SCR power control modules for electrical heating applications. The Thyro-Family of power controllers offer remarkable flexibility, exacting control accuracy and advanced automation capabilities for thermal processes across a broad range of industries worldwide. The complete series includes options from 8 to 2900 A, up to 690 V, single-, dual-, and three-phase, with a wide selection of communication interfaces.

© 2018 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Kraft Heinz’s Springboard Unveils Its First Incubator Class of Disruptive Brands

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Kraft Heinz’s Springboard, a recently launched platform to nurture, scale, and accelerate growth of disruptive brands, announced its inaugural Incubator Program class.

The program was created to help nurture and develop the next generation of food & beverage brands, nurturing and being close to entrepreneurs, new ideas and consumer trends.

“Hundreds of applications were carefully reviewed to select authentic propositions and inspired founders within one of the four pillars shaping the future of food: Natural & Organic, Specialty & Craft, Health & Performance, and Experiential brands,” said Sergio Eleuterio, General Manager, Springboard Brands. “We are excited to kick off our program with a group of great founders, amazing and purposeful products, that we wholeheartedly believe will succeed in the marketplace.”

Over the course of the next 16 weeks, the selected startups will participate in a dynamic program composed of learning, funding, infrastructure access, and mentorship in Chicago, Illinois.

The inaugural Springboard brands are:

Ayoba-Yo introduces a high quality, nutritious, and delicious alternative to traditional beef jerky and meat sticks, known as Biltong & Droewors. Founders and South-African native brothers, Wian and Emile van Blommestein, introduced their 400-year-old family recipe to the market in 2017. Their 14-day air-drying process, combined with high quality meat cuts and spices deliver incredibly tender, savory, and sugar-free products with no shortage of flavor.

Cleveland Kraut is perfectly positioned to grow within the fermented foods market. A bold brand, grounded in and proud of its Cleveland heritage, dedicated to serving the great tasting healthy fermented foods at a fair price. The team is led by Drew Anderson who, along with his brother Mac and brother-in-law Luke, aim to be the kings of fermented foods by expanding from their kraut roots.

Kumana, best known for its signature Venezuelan-inspired Avocado Sauce, is a Los Angeles-based company creating original sauces representing the diverse and delicious flavors from different regions of the worlds. Venezuelan native, Francisco Pavan, and his partner Todd Vine channeled their passion for pure discovery into the core values of this brand.

Poppilu, a Chicago-based antioxidant lemonade brand, gives consumers permission to love lemonade again. Melanie Kahn, Poppilu’s founder, has developed a truly irresistible, mouth puckering, high-antioxidant citrus refreshment. It features Midwest-grown aronia berries, one of the highest antioxidant fruits in the world, and is one of the many reasons this brand will soar.

Quevos, believes the days of sinful snacking are over– it’s time to munch on snacks made from real food that taste great and are even greater for you. Quevos are salty and crunchy egg-white chips that are low in carbs and fat, and packed with protein. The disruptive brand was founded by young, ambitious University of Chicago students-Nick Hamburger and Zach Schreier.

© 2018 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

BYD to Build Hydrogen Buses for Hawaii

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BYD (Build Your Dreams), the largest electric bus manufacturer in North America and the largest electric vehicle company in the world, has teamed with US Hybrid Corporation, a 20 year industry leader, to develop a hydrogen fuel cell battery-electric bus. This bus, the first of its kind, will serve Honolulu’s Daniel K. Inouye International Airport, one of the busiest airports in the United States with more than 21 million passengers per year.

The new bus is being developed as part of Hawaii’s Clean Energy Initiative (HCEI) to meet sustainable energy objectives of decreasing dependency on imported oil and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The initiative is a central component of the state’s goal to be powered 100% by renewable energy by 2045.

Robert’s Hawaii, the state’s largest employee-owned tour and transportation company, will serve as the bus operator, shuttling passengers between the airport’s terminal and car rental facility. The bus will utilize BYD’s battery-electric platform, integrating hydrogen fuel cell technology to eliminate operational dependency on charging.

“We are ecstatic to partner with US Hybrid. Together, we can bring innovative ideas to the state of Hawaii and deliver clean, renewable transportation solutions,” stated Macy Neshati, Senior Vice President of BYD Heavy Industries.

Hawaii is positioned as a global powerhouse for the advancement of hydrogen and other alternative fuels. The Federal Highway Administration has designated multiple alternative fuel corridors with electric vehicle chargers or hydrogen fuel stations. Additionally, as part of an agreement between the Air Force Research Laboratory and the Hawaii Center for Advanced Transportation Technologies, the U.S. Air Force has been demonstrating hydrogen as an alternative fuel at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

“With the state aggressively pursuing clean power, we have an ideal backdrop to showcase the most efficient zero emission technology in the industry. The fusion of US Hybrid’s fuel cell technology and BYD’s electric bus platform will shape the future of Hawaii and ultimately, change the world,” said US Hybrid founder, Dr. Abas Goodarzi, Ph.D., P.E.

The bus is manufactured in Lancaster, California and fuel cell made in South Windsor, Connecticut.

BYD and Berkshire Hathaway

In 2008, Berkshire Hathaway bet on BYD’s potential, purchasing 225 million shares. It’s an investment that has paid off handsomely. Berkshire’s original investment of $230 million has grown in value almost ten-fold, and is now worth roughly $1.96 billion.

For More on BYD, read the Special Report: BYD, Berkshire’s Tesla.

© 2018 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Dave Meleski Promoted to CEO of Richline Group

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Richline Group is announcing the retirement of Dennis Ulrich after almost 11 years as CEO of the Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary.

Dave Meleski, current President of the Richline Group, will assume the role of CEO.

From Dennis’s letter to employees and friends, “It is with both pride and excitement, I wanted to let you know that I will be retiring this year. It has been a wonderful 45 years for me in the jewelry industry, sharing all the experiences, with my wife Liz, both my kids and all my associates. I am leaving Richline in the very capable hands of Dave Meleski. Dave and I have worked very closely, in all aspects of the business, and I am confident his leadership will bring Richline to many new and exciting successes in the future.”

In 2007, Ulrich’s Bel-Oro and Meleski’s Aurafin, were sold to Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway. Under the leadership of Dennis (CEO) and Dave Meleski (President), the company expanded the Richline brand from gold jewelry business into the diamond, gemstone, and pearl categories. Richline has also grown to include business units that manufacture raw materials, findings, and supply packaging, and tools to over 150,000 customers. This also includes patented products used to pierce over 250 million earlobes around the world.

All Richline business units are supported by vertical, global sourcing, manufacturing and sales facilities, each fully compliant to the highest world standards. The Richline family today is over 3,000 valued associates around the globe.

Dave Meleski stated, “I have enjoyed the past 11 years working in partnership with Dennis to create a business that we, our employees, and Berkshire shareholders can be proud of every day. The path that Dennis has forged will be one that I look forward to continue.”

© 2018 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.