All posts by kaitlinschuler

Chicago company makes batteries cool again

By Kaitlin Schuler

A battery production line and warehouse lives in a small building on Chicago’s Southwest Side. It features a main production floor with individual work stations dedicated to creating each product, with storage for shipments and a laboratory where new design ideas and compositions are tested and created. Workers in each area are focused intently on their part of the process, looking up only briefly to see the stranger in their workspace.

This is where AllCell Technologies LLC produces, packages and ships its novel battery cell cooling products.

AllCell received early funding from Skokie-based Heartland Angels Inc. and Townsend Capital LLC, an energy-focused company, but now makes steady profits from its customer base. Revenues have quintupled from $900,000 in 2012 to $4.7 million in 2014. AllCell’s numbers for 2015 have not yet been finalized, but Sales Director Scott  Novack predicted continued increase.

“We’re growing our revenue, our orders and our customer base each year,” Novack said, “as more and more customers are expecting quality lithium battery packs and are willing to pay a premium to get the battery life and safety we focus on.”
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Want to store more gasoline in your tank? Startup hopes to help

By Kaitlin Schuler

What if there was a way to make vehicles’ gas tanks more efficient and safer for the environment? A way to make portable oxygen tanks more practical and manageable for those who need them?

NuMat Technologies Inc., a startup in Skokie, is engineering a way to make both a reality.

The company aims to use high-performance materials known as MOFs, or metal-organic frameworks, to store gases and enhance a number of industries, including car fuel storage and oxygen storage. Its technology aims to design storage for gases that obviates high compression storage. When MOFs are stored inside a cylinder or other structure, they provide much more surface area for the stored gas to cling to and significantly increase efficiency of the space used.

“It used to be thought impossible to scale up the production of MOFs,” said NuMat business development associate Michael Wolfenson. “But now we’re trying to commercialize MOFs to use in real world applications.”
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US producer prices dip as energy and food continue to slide

By Kaitlin Schuler

United States wholesale prices fell slightly in February, pulled down by lower energy and food costs, in a performance that suggests inflationary pressures remain under control.

The producer price index dipped a seasonally adjusted 0.2 percent in February, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Tuesday report, matching economist expectations. The PPI increased just 0.1 percent in January after declining 0.2 percent in December, and prices remain unchanged from a year ago.

“Core” PPI—which excludes the volatile items of food, energy and trade services—grew 0.1 percent in February after increasing 0.2 percent in January and December.

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Vera Bradley shares climb on firming growth prospects

By Kaitlin Schuler

Vera Bradley Inc. shares jumped Wednesday after the handbag and accessories retailer offered an upbeat forecast in its fourth quarter report.

In the latest quarter, the Fort Wayne, Indiana-based company posted net income of $15.7 million or 41 cents per diluted share, down 9.4 percent from $17.3 million or 43 cents per share in the year ago quarter. The earnings matched the forecast of analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research.

Earnings slumped even despite a modest 1 percent increase in revenues to $154.1 million from $152.6 million a year ago.
Vera Bradley and other companies in the industry have been struggling over the past several quarters with changing consumer tastes, and a resulting slowdown in growth. In response, the company has devoted part of its efforts to modernizing its marketing and introducing new fabrics and products, including fragrances and jewelry.

“Our top priority continues to be to make Vera Bradley more relevant in order to attract even more new customers to the brand,” said Chief Executive Officer Robert Wallstrom. “We are continuing to execute our long-term strategic plan laid out in March 2014, focusing on the key planks of product, distribution, and marketing.”
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Millennials’ sustainability attitudes contrast with actions

By Kaitlin Schuler

Although millennials grew up surrounded by conversations of sustainability and conservation, do their actions now reflect what they have learned?

Jenni Corcoran, 22, grew up in Evergreen Park, Illinois, but now lives in a Bridgeport apartment with two roommates and works for AmeriCorps. Growing up, her parents pushed the habits of turning off lights and televisions when leaving the room, which has grown into a daily habit that she appreciates. However, she knows she’s lacking in some other conservation areas.

“I know the effects of so many cars on the road,” Corcoran said, “but sometimes I’m just lazy or in a rush and drive instead of walking or using public transit. I reuse and recycle but could be better.”

Energy and environment research firm Shelton Group conducted a study in 2013 focused partly on millennials and their attitudes toward energy conservation. What they found is that millennials (those born between 1980 and 2000) are more likely to be “attitudinally” green but not practically green. So, while millennials would like things to change to sustain the environment for their decades ahead, many of their day-to-day practices do not align with their beliefs.

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Construction spending rise tops expectations

By Kaitlin Schuler

Spending on construction in the United States rose by the largest amount in eight months in January, with growth in nonresidential projects counteracting a slight drop in residential construction spending.

According to a report issued Tuesday by the Department of Commerce, construction spending increased 1.5 percent from December to a seasonally adjusted $1.14 trillion for January 2016. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast total construction spending rising only 0.4 percent in January.

“This increase was above expectations for a more modest gain,” noted J.P. Morgan economist Daniel Silver in an online note, “and there were also upward revisions to the changes reported for December (from 0.1% to 0.6%) and November (from -0.6% to -0.5%).”

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Franklin Electric reports record Q4 earnings

By Kaitlin Schuler

Franklin Electric Co. Inc. said fourth-quarter earnings strengthened despite falling revenues and soft prices for oil and other commodities.

In the latest quarter, Fort Wayne-based Franklin Electric posted net income of $16.2 million or 33 cents per diluted share, up from $3.1 million or 6 cents per share in the year ago quarter.

Excluding unusual items in both quarters, adjusted earnings per share increased 13 percent to 35 cents from 31 cents a year ago. The latest quarter’s earnings met the analysts’ consensus forecast of 35 cents per share, as reported by Yahoo! Finance.

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DTE Energy profits down, but top forecasts

By Kaitlin Schuler

DTE Energy Holding Co., hurt by weakness in its non-utility operations, reported fourth quarter earnings which, while down from last year, nonetheless slightly topped analyst forecasts.

In the latest quarter, Detroit-based DTE Energy posted net income of $80 million or 45 cents per diluted share, down from $299 million or $1.68 per share in the year ago quarter.

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Exelon turns in lower than expected profit, plans to increase dividend

By Kaitlin Schuler

Exelon Corp., hurt by weak energy prices and unfavorable weather in its service areas, reported fourth quarter profits that fell short of forecasts Wednesday.

But the company’s shares nonetheless moved higher, after Exelon hinted that it is planning to begin boosting its quarterly dividend payout. In New York Stock Exchange trading, Exelon shares closed up $1.47, or 4.9 percent, at $31.61 on Wednesday.

In the latest quarter, the Chicago-based utility posted net income of $309 million or 33 cents per diluted share, up from $18 million or 2 cents per share in the year ago quarter.

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U.S. jobless claims down, trend expected to continue

By Kaitlin Schuler

The number of initial jobless claims made by Americans declined last week, indicating continued stability in the country’s labor market as unemployment remains at 5 percent.

According to a report Thursday by the Department of Labor, initial claims decreased by 16,000 to a seasonally adjusted 278,000 in the week ended Jan. 23. Illinois saw a decrease of 3,362 initial claims in the week ended Jan. 16. The state’s current initial claims sit at 16,070, following the national trend of decreasing initial claims.
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