Gas Pos of North Little Rock has an opportunity to highlight its fuel-support technology on a national level.
Four years ago, company founders decided to make Central Arkansas the company's home after participating in the Little Rock Venture Center's fintech accelerator program. Shortly thereafter, the technology company, which developed a full-service payment platform for the fuel business, raised $1 million to finance rollout of its product.
The company is now partnering with a New York operator to do just that -- open portable above-ground gas stations (PAGS) across the U.S. The initiative allows the stations to open quicker and at a lower cost than more-traditional operators with underground fuel-storage tanks.
Gas Pos and AMS Technologies are seeking approval to open their gas stations in 22 states, including five in Bryant, Hot Springs, Little Rock and Searcy. Officials said there is only one PAGS operating today in the nation.
AMS owns the exclusive U.S. retail rights to portable, above-ground fueling stations that are approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Fire Protection Association and UL, a global safety certification company. Gas Pos would provide the point-of-sale technology and fuel dispensers for the sites.
Joshua Smith, chief executive officer of Gas Pos, says the company also has an agreement to roll out the product to another 400 stores across Arkansas over the next few years. The partnership with AMS Technologies is a platform for a national product launch.
"This is an opportunity for us to increase our exposure and we get greater visibility because of the number of stores we're putting into our network," Smith said.
PAGS are environmentally friendlier than traditional underground tanks, which could leak and contaminate local communities. "The benefit of these is they're significantly easier to manage and maintain and, because they're above ground, they can't leak into the ground," Smith said.
Smith said up to 90% of the nearly 180,000 fueling systems in North America may violate underground tank storage regulations. In 1999, a regulatory change required all underground tanks for petroleum products or other hazardous waste to have two walls to prevent leaking.
The average cost to replace pumps, tanks and accessories is estimated at up to $300,000 and updates can take months to complete, putting a financial burden on site operators. "Our product is better, faster and cheaper," Smith said, noting that the aboveground tanks also are double-walled and strong enough to resist penetration by rifle rounds.
Gas Post and AMS contend their product can be installed for 80% less than the cost of digging up underground tanks and installing new ones and are a bargain for station operators.
"Both gas station owners and consumers are suffering right now," Smith said. "Store owners often can't afford to upgrade, leading the state to red tag the station or outright shut them down. In a world where fuel supplies are already limited and gas prices are skyrocketing, taking supply off the market only exacerbates our problems. We're here to help both owners and consumers."
Gas Pos has about 50 employees.
PITCH 'N PINT
The Little Rock Venture Center's Pitch 'N Pint competition, a Shark Tank-style event for entrepreneurs, is set for Thursday at the Ron Robinson Theater in Little Rock's River Market district.
Early-bird tickets are available for $5, doubling to $10 at the door. The event is scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m.
Entrepreneurs from the center's Spark! small business accelerator will compete for cash prizes, including awards for an audience favorite. The 10-week accelerator, now in its fourth year, provides mentoring and technical support for small businesses in Central Arkansas.
The accelerator is also co-sponsored by the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce. For more information go to venturecenter.co/spark.
Early-stage technology companies and entrepreneurs are being offered the opportunity to open new doors in doing business with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center is inviting the business operators to participate in an eight-week accelerator program that will prepare them to tap into funding from the Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer programs affiliated with USDA.
Commonly known as America's Fund, the initiative awards more than $4 million in grants each year to small companies with the potential to develop commercial uses for technologies.
The local Lab2Launch cohort starts July 11 and will be conducted virtually, allowing companies located anywhere in Arkansas to participate.
USDA has broad research topics that can be applied by a diverse group of technology-oriented companies in Arkansas, according to Rebecca Todd of the technology development center. "So, many companies who may have a non-agricultural customer type in mind may find that their technology is relevant to USDA's interests," Todd said.
Participation is free but spots are limited. For more information or to apply go to asbtdc.org/l2l-accel.
INPUT ON EVS
With electric vehicles all the rage these days, the Arkansas Department of Transportation is holding a virtual hearing at 4 p.m. Tuesday to gather public input on the state's electric vehicle infrastructure deployment strategy.
Arkansans are invited to offer ideas on how the state can best use the $54.1 million in federal funding it is slated to receive to build charging stations and other infrastructure to support electric vehicles.
As of now, the state has said it plans to install 171 publicly available charging stations across Arkansas with a 50-mile maximum distance between the locations. Funding is slated to be disbursed later next year to begin construction of the charging sites.
The live meeting can be accessed at ardot.gov/evplan.
Column ideas or recommendations? Thoughts or musings that need pursuing? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 501-378-3567.