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aps - recognized business partners

APS Recognizes Outstanding Business Partners

Providing safe, reliable and affordable electricity to 1.1 million customers across more than 34,000 square miles takes considerable resources. APS cannot do it alone. It requires business partners who can supply equipment, deliver and produce materials and share expertise across a variety of industries.

In 2011, APS spent $1.7 billion with more than 7,000 different business partners. Today, APS is recognizing six suppliers for going above and beyond what is expected as a business partner. Their actions were instrumental in helping APS meet the energy needs of customers.

APS’s 2012 Suppliers of the Year are Rohrer Corporation; Southwest Ground Control LLC; URS Corporation; Levi, Ray and Shoup Inc.; Konecranes Nuclear Equipment & Services LLC and General Cable.

“Through their actions, these companies have demonstrated a dedication to customer service and a commitment to providing additional value to their relationship with APS,” said Barbara Gomez, APS Vice President of Supply Chain Management. “We would like to see our other business partners emulate the actions taken by our six award winners. Our customers directly benefit from the great relationships we have with these suppliers and the value they provide.”

Companies were nominated for the award by APS employees. Along with providing outstanding customer service, nominees were evaluated on their support of APS’s values including showing a commitment to sustainability; being actively involved in the community; and focusing on health, safety and environmental concerns.

One company was selected for each of the supply chain categories: Corporate Services, Energy Delivery and Facilities Services, Generation Services, Information Technology, Major Equipment and Materials.

Rohrer Corporation (Corporate Services) is a print, marketing and communications technology company. When APS’s annual customer account summary mailing – an important tool to help customers manage their monthly energy bills – fell behind schedule, Rohrer stepped up. They added extra work hours, including weekends, to help APS get all 800,000 summaries printed accurately and mailed on time.

Southwest Ground Control LLC (Energy Delivery and Facility Services), a vegetation management company, helps APS reduce the risk of forest fires in Arizona by removing vegetation around power lines and poles and in substations. Several tribal governments made a special effort to contact APS to praise Southwest Ground Control for its safe, professional and respectful approach to working on sensitive tribal lands.

URS Corporation (Generation Services) is an engineering and construction company. URS’s efforts at the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station, the Four Corners Power Plant and the Cholla Power Plant exhibited many of the values APS seeks in a business partner. For example, despite putting in 32,000 man-hours and meeting challenging deadlines, URS completed the design and engineering work on several water impoundments at Palo Verde without injury or damage to any individual or property.

Levi, Ray and Shoup Inc. (Information Technology) is an information technology solutions provider. The company helped APS achieve significant cost savings by passing on favorable pricing for software and hardware. While doing so, they were able to lessen the time it takes to prepare for the purchase, reducing it from 60 days to less than 14 days.

Konecranes Nuclear Equipment & Services LLC (Major Equipment) designs, installs and services a full range of nuclear lifting equipment. The company used timely and innovative solutions to design, engineer, purchase materials and safely replace a polar crane trolley at the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station. The work was done on schedule and on budget despite short notice and a small time window to complete the job.

General Cable (Materials) is a manufacturer and distributor of wire cable. APS continued to build and repair critical infrastructure in a timely manner in part because General Cable not only maintained appropriate inventory levels of contracted products throughout the year, but was also able to provide additional non-contracted materials when other manufacturers could not meet supply needs.

APS, Arizona’s largest and longest-serving electricity utility, serves more than 1.1 million customers in 11 of the state’s 15 counties. With headquarters in Phoenix, APS is the principal subsidiary of Pinnacle West Capital Corp.

For more information on APS, visit APS’ website at aps.com.

Patent

Failing To File Patent For New Technology Could Cost Company More Than Money

It is arguably one of the most exciting moments for a technology entrepreneur — seeing that invention for the first time. Whether it’s a new software program, mechanical device or a breakthrough biotech discovery, the feeling is always the same, pure elation. If you’re a technology entrepreneur you know the feeling. You spend months, possibly years, working toward this moment. Now that you’re here, you’re ready to turn this exciting innovation into a business. But before you take that costly leap of putting together a company and going to market, consider one very important step that can save you, and your company, everything you’ve worked for — the elusive patent.

Who needs it?
Many technology companies and entrepreneurs initially think they don’t need, or just can’t afford, patent protection at the very initial stages of their business development. “No one else could develop this right now in the exact same way we have,” or “It’s already protected by trade secret laws,” or “It’s going to cost a lot of money right now, so we’ll wait until the product is making us a profit.” The truth is, not filing a patent to protect your proprietary technology could cost a great, great deal more in the end, and might even make your company less attractive to investors and business partners.

What kind of companies should file for patent protection?
Companies in a wide variety of technology fields increasingly rely on patents as a key tool to protect their technology. For example, companies in the high-tech industry (software, semiconductors, etc.), the low-tech industry (consumer gadgets, etc.) and the life sciences/biotechnology industry (pharmaceuticals, medical devices, etc.) are spending more and more money on research and development and, thus, are increasingly looking to patents as a mechanism for protecting this expensive investment.

If you’re a typical technology startup, you will likely need to find early-stage, mid-stage and, eventually, late-stage investors for capital to continue to fund your research and development, and pay the tremendous costs associated with commercializing your products and services. Every kind of investor, from angels to venture capitalists, will scrutinize the adequacy and strength of a company’s intellectual property assets as a part of the investor’s decision to invest in that company. More than ever, investors are expecting a company to have either filed for patent protection or already have some patents. Another significant ramification of failing to obtain adequate patent protection is that investors may place a significantly lower valuation on your company. Thus, taking steps to file for patents, and then eventually obtaining patents, is often a critical and significant step in proving credibility to any kind of investor.

Another major benefit of patent protection is using your patents as a legal mechanism to protect your company’s most critical proprietary technology from infringement by competitors and others. Competition is fierce in the technology and biotech/life sciences industries and your competition may knowingly, or inadvertently, use your technology to gain market share. Your patent is often the most valuable tool to combat these serious situations and could be a key factor that differentiates your company from your competition.

How patents pave the way to new markets?
Many technology companies, particularly startups, are not in a position to commercialize their technology in every country in the world and in every “field of use.” A solution to this problem is to find business partners who can be given a license to use these technologies in other markets, both here in the U.S., and globally. Taking steps to file for patent protection can increase your company’s ability to find proper licensees who will scrutinize the technology and opportunity as much as any investor. Patent protection can also increase your negotiating leverage when entering into contracts with licensees and could have a significant impact on the level of royalties and other compensation that licensees agree to pay you for the use of your technology. Indeed, potential licensees who still want rights to your technology very often negotiate significantly lower royalty payments if you have failed to obtain proper patent protection because the licensee deems your technology to simply be unprotected “trade secrets.” As a bottom line, taking steps to obtain proper patent protection can potentially increase the revenue stream to your company from others who want to use your technology.

Bad business partners

What To Do When Bad Business Partners Happen To Good People

“He is robbing you blind.” Business owners are never emotionally prepared to hear these five words, but they should be poised for action to protect their own interests and those of their companies’ when business relationships turn hostile.

Recently in Arizona, the owner of a residential property rental company found this out the hard way when she was told by a former employee that the manager of her company’s 150 properties was stealing from the company. A widow nearing retirement, she had made a series of business mistakes, including giving the manager stock in the company without proper legal documentation, as both a reward for past service and to motivate and compensate him for future work. The once loyal employee began to take control of the owner’s $25 million investment under the guise of “handling the details” of the business. He took control of the accounting software program, the company credit cards and kept details from the owner by misinforming her of the time for meetings with the company accountant. She was dumbstruck when she received the phone call from the former employee, but, on reflection, it all made sense. Her business acumen for finding deals on distressed properties and turning them into rentals had not prepared her for the complexities of dealing with a business divorce. As a business owner you need to protect yourself. The following provides some tips you should keep in mind if you believe a business divorce is imminent.

Gain Control
When there is a shift in the business relationship, as owner your first step should be to get back your position of power. You will need to separate yourself immediately from the person causing the conflict in your business. In this case, the property owner fired the manager, changed the locks on the doors, cancelled credit cards and changed passwords to all the computer systems. You will need to take this even further to protect your intellectual property and files. Talk to your IT and file room staff about securing access and tracking of information and control of passwords.

If you are fortunate enough to have your company running well today, this is the perfect time to make sure confidentiality policies are in place and have a lawyer review your company documents. It makes more sense to manage risk and resolve conflicts before they start to touch your bottom line.

Stop Talking
It is tempting to unload your frustrations on your accountant, your tax advisor, other employees and even your next door neighbor. But the truth is those comments could come back to cost you money, leverage and possibly your business reputation. While there are some exceptions, as a general rule, conversations you have with someone, other than your lawyer, can be used in court. Make your attorney your sounding board, confidant, champion and warrior. What you tell your attorney is protected by attorney-client privilege. It is the bedrock of your right to have effective counsel; without it, lawyers could not effectively represent their clients.

Keep Original Documents
This property owner had a bad habit of giving away original documents. When it came time to organize her case, this made the task even more challenging for attorneys, expert witnesses and even business advisers. Making a copy of a document is fine, but make sure you keep the original. Be sure to maintain the integrity of original documents by keeping them free of extraneous handwritten notes. If you write on these documents, you may make your case more difficult. If you want to make a note about a business matter, grab a Post It note.

Hire a Lawyer
You may know your business, but your expertise is in the company, not the law. A good lawyer needs to be the captain of your ship as you navigate a business divorce. Your lawyer may recommend a business adviser to get your company back on track. While this is a “divorce” of sorts, it isn’t the job for a family law attorney; you need an experienced business attorney who has dealt with breakups in the business arena. Get referrals through people you know in the business community, professional organizations or your local bar association. Do not be afraid to ask a lawyer if he/she has ever done this type of work. In some cases, a team of lawyers may be necessary. You may need experience in several different areas to get the matter resolved.

Turning the Tide
How did the widowed property owner fare with her business on shaky ground and her future retirement threatened? Through a mediation process, she was able to regain control of her company and tocarve her co-owner out of the business. The woman is now back in a take-charge position, buying and managing properties. Most importantly, her future is in a more secure place.

Like a marital divorce, a business divorce is never easy but, once resolved, you’ll be able to run the company instead of letting bad employees or unsuitable business partners run you.

Leon Silver and Dan Garrison are shareholders at the law firm of Shughart Thomson & Kilroy. They lead the firm’s Business Divorce team. They can be reached at 602-650-2000.