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Verschuren joins energy storage venture in Canada

BY Brae Canlen

Annette Verschuren, the former president of Home Depot Canada and Asia, has joined a Toronto-based start-up that will commercialize energy storage technologies. Verschuren will serve as executive chair of NRStor Inc., a new company backed by Northwater Capital Management.

NRStor plans to develop Canada’s first Energy Storage Park that will demonstrate newly developed technologies that store electrical energy for later use. Such storage technologies can make intermittent sources of energy such as wind turbines and solar energy dispatchable by matching up energy generation and demand.

Some market research firms have estimated more than $120 billion will be invested in energy-storage projects between 2011 and 2021, as governments and regulators have recognized the inherent value and need for energy storage in electricity marketplace.

"I have a reputation for building things, but never have I been so excited about the possible outcomes," Verschuren said. "Energy storage is the missing link to creating a more viable renewable energy sector and satisfying the global crisis of rising electricity demand — all the puzzle pieces exist and NRStor is going to put them together."

As the former president of Home Depot Canada between 1996 and 2011, Verschuren oversaw the Atlanta retailer’s expansion in that country from 19 to 180 stores. She was also put in charge of Home Depot’s Asia’s operations when the company entered China in 2007.

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Gutterglove brings China manufacturing back to USA

BY Brae Canlen

Gutterglove Inc., a Rocklin, Calif., maker of gutter guards, will bring its manufacturing from China back to California by the end of the second quarter of 2012, the company announced.

CEO and president Robert Lenney, who founded and invented the multi-patented Gutterglove Gutterguard, started manufacturing his gutter cover in 2003.

"Originally, my plans were to make the gutter guards in California,” Lenney said. “But because the parts used were from high-end, high-quality materials, they were very expensive to make."

The company’s gutter protection systems, Gutterglove and the DIY version Leafblaster, are made from aluminum extrusions and a fine stainless steel micro-mesh. They are installed on roof gutters and designed to keep out leaves, pine needles and roof sand grit.

Due to continued rising costs to manufacture and the pressure to reduce costs in order to remain competitive, Lenney sent out a worldwide bid request in 2006 for aluminum extrusion companies to quote on making his gutter covers. He ended up moving manufacturing to China.

In 2011, the Army Corps of Engineers began to spec the Gutterglove design to be installed on gutters on specific buildings on certain military bases in the United States. However, to qualify for the “Buy American” act passed by the U.S. Congress and signed by President Hoover in 1933, Gutterglove needed to be made in the USA.

In the second quarter of 2011, Lenney sent out bid requests to numerous part manufacturers throughout the United States for extruding, anodizing and fabricating his aluminu- based product.

Unexpectedly, several extrusion companies in the Los Angeles area came back with quotes that were only slightly higher than the Chinese manufacturers, the company said. Evaluating this marginal increase closely, it was determined that it would be more feasible to manufacture and assemble in California rather than China.

"I’ll carefully manage future cost increases in manufacturing so that I can always keep business here, permanently," Lenney added.

Gutterglove sales are increasing more than 40% a year, according to the company, which is currently seeking up to $2.5 million dollars in debt and equity capital to assist with these transitions of growth. 

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More jobs, but no change in unemployment rate

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Data released Friday morning by the Bureau of Labor statistics show the unemployment rate for February holding at 8.3%. 

The Employment Situation Summary shows employers added 227,000 jobs in the month, slightly more than expected, according to analyst forecasts. It was also the third straight month that employers added more than 200,000 jobs. 

The 8.3% unemployment rate was unchanged from January, but down from 8.9% in February 2011, and way down from 9.7% in February 2010.

Construction employment changed little in February, after two consecutive months of job gains. Over the month, employment fell by 14,000 in nonresidential specialty trade contractors.

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