A review of economic conditions and the potential to move closer to U.S. energy independence with more use of natural gas are the planned highlights of the 2013 The Compass Conference.
The luncheon conference is set for 11:30 a.m., Friday, April 12, 2013, at the Fort Smith Convention Center. Tickets are $35 each, or $325 for a table of 10. Reservations can be made by calling 242-2800.
“As always, benefit Bank is honored to sponsor the upcoming Compass Conference,” said Rod Coleman, a member of the Benefit Bank Board of Directors. “The bank and stockholders desire to bring to the attention of Fort Smithians the ongoing growth that Fort Smith is experiencing. We are excited about the opportunity to showcase the contribution that the natural gas industry makes to the River Valley and all those who live and work here.”
Jeff Collins, economist for The Compass Report and The City Wire, will review the 2012 economic highs and lows and preview 2013 economic conditions. Collins conducts the data collection and analysis for The Compass Report, which is presented by Fort Smith-based Benefit Bank. The fourth quarter report is set for release prior to the April 12 Compass Conference. (Link here for more information on The Compass Report.)
The Compass Report is the only independent economic analysis of the Fort Smith regional economy. The report measures four leading and four current economic indicators to provide a grade for a regional economy.
“We continue to be pleased each year with the response to The Compass Report and the conference. Information is important in good or bad economic times, and we believe The Compass Report is a great information resource to the thousands of small and large businesses in our market area,” said Patricia Brown, chief operations officer for The City Wire.
NATURAL GAS PANEL
As part of the annual The Compass Conference, there will be a panel discussion on the potential impact natural gas could have on the federal, state and local economies. An obvious impact is the real possibility of moving nearer or reaching energy independence through much broader use of natural gas to power vehicles and generate electricity.
The panelists are:
• Mike Callan, president, Arkansas Oklahoma Gas Corp.;
• Dr. Jeff Collins, partner in Streetsmart Data Services;
• Bill Hanna, president, Hanna Oil & Gas; and,
• Kelly Robbins, executive vice president of the Arkansas Independent Producers & Royalty Owners.
Efforts are being made to include on the panel C. Michael Ming, Oklahoma Secretary of Energy.
BROADER CNG ADOPTION
In Arkansas, one of the first adopters in using and promoting CNG is Fort Smith-based Arkansas Oklahoma Gas Corp., a natural gas utility with roughly 60,000 customers in western Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma. AOG President Mike Callan recently said the more than $2 difference per gallon between gasoline and CNG “certainly accelerates a pay-back” on the upfront costs of conversion.
Nationwide, there is a growing movement to convert private and public fleet vehicles to use CNG.
Truck manufacturers like Navistar, Volvo and Kenworth have greater displacement natural gas engines which will be rolled-out in 2014 and 2015, thereby permitting natural gas carriers to carry heavier and longer loads than is now available. Service and maintenance facilities are also being upgraded to handle natural gas engine operation and repair.
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) were leaders in what became a 22-state “bipartisan” effort to convince major automakers to build more affordable compressed natural gas vehicles. Arkansas joined the effort in late 2012.
Oklahoma officials have also worked with the private sector to encourage construction of CNG stations. The state is expected to have 100 CNG fueling stations by the end of 2013, well ahead of the 31 stations in 2010. According to the industry, 100 stations would allow CNG users to travel anywhere in the state.