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Let’s Talk: Picking the best fintech tool for your business

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Let’s Talk: Picking the best fintech tool for your business

There’s no denying that big and small businesses need to employ some technologies for their financial operations, given the difficulties that organisations face today and the requirement for flexibility and efficiency.

But which option is better for your company? What qualities should a fintech tool have?

In this week’s Let’s Talk, we go over the important factors that our experts consider when selecting a financial tool or app for their business.

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Sam Kothari, Head of Growth ANZ, Airwallex

Sam-Kothari
Sam Kothari, Head of Growth ANZ, Airwallex

“Choosing a fintech partner can be overwhelming. The risk of wasting time and money on solutions that aren’t quite right, can mean you stick with the status quo. The secret to finding the right fintech solution for your business is in the prep.

“Start by asking what problem am I looking to solve? Do you need a partner for payments, obtaining capital, regulatory obligations, or managing the books? Clarity upfront will help avoid any overlap or incompatibility, and your team can be a helpful resource to identify priority pain points.

“When selecting a partner, businesses often overlook the time and resource commitment needed to get the service up and running. Factor in that your team may need training, or the solution may need time to integrate into your tech stack. Expecting efficiencies overnight will lead to disappointment. Instead, ensure you know what’s required at the outset, as well as the customer support available.

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“Most importantly, your partner must be able to grow with you. Consider what support you’ll need in the future and whether your chosen fintech partner can meet these needs.”

Michelle Kvello, Founder, Lantern Partners

Michelle Kvello
Michelle Kvello, Founder, Lantern Partners

“The real key to finding the right fintech tools for your business is to start by identifying the key finance processes that you want to automate.  Too often I find businesses start with the tool or app itself, without understanding the processes first and that can lead to even greater inefficiency and frustration that really isn’t the fault of the tool they picked! 

“Once you have clarified the processes then pick the cornerstone fintech tool you need in the business, usually the tool or platform that underpins your general ledger.  It’s the foundation you build your fintech stack on.  Ideally all your other fintech tools should integrate with that primary technology tool and that’s how you get real efficiency. 

“Finally, I think there has to be an understanding that there is always a tradeoff between flexibility and useability.  The more flexible a tool is the more difficult it is to manage and vice versa if it is easy to manage it may not have 100 per cent of the functionality you ideally want.”

Benjamin Yeo, Chairman of the National Corporate Finance Committee, Moore Australia

Benjamin Yeo
Benjamin Yeo, Chairman of the National Corporate Finance Committee, Moore Australia

“With a vast array of fintech companies in the market, it can be overwhelming for business owners to research and then decide which fintech is most suitable for their business. My advice, having just been a judge for the Finnies 2022, the most recognized awards that celebrates the success of the Australian fintech industry, is to log into the FinTech Australia website. The FinTech Australia website provides a wealth of information on Australia (and international) fintech companies, along with Industry Reports and a Services Directory which greatly assist businesses identify the most suitable fintech/app for their requirements.”

Alex Pasminka, Chief Marketing Officer, Shift

Alex-Pasminka
Alex Pasminka, Chief Marketing Officer, Shift

“Always start with research. When running a business and squeezed for time it can seem easy to go with the first option you find. That can end with frustration if it doesn’t fit your business, isn’t flexible or is going to cost you more in time than it’ll save in money.

“If you’re looking for a tech-driven financial provider, make sure it integrates with your systems and cashflow needs. Nothing beats word of mouth, so ask around your circle of business colleagues to get opinions of the tools they use.

“Questions to ask your network, and yourself, include: Is it easy to use? Does it suit my exact business needs? Is it flexible, i.e. if it’s a financial solution can I change my payment schedule or the product I’m using? Will it make my customers’ lives easier? Is there a real person I can contact for support?

“The wrong tools can slow you down. The right tools can become real sales enablers for you and have a flow-on effect for your trade customers and – ultimately – your cashflow.”

Vijay Sundaram, Chief Strategy Officer, Zoho

Vijay Sundaram
Vijay Sundaram, Chief Strategy Officer, Zoho

“Cash and financial health is the lifeblood of any business, and the best way to keep it flowing is not through multiple disparate tools and apps, but a single platform that integrates everything from invoices, accounts and inventory, to subscriptions, expenses and point of sale. It’s easy to think that the more platforms you use the better, but the opposite is true. If you use half a dozen different apps or tools for your financial operations, your business will operate in silos; whereby crucial data and insights don’t flow throughout your business. As a result, you’ll be forced to manually complete tasks that could be automated, which wastes precious time.

“Not only that, using multiple tools is more expensive and takes longer to integrate, understand and master. The benefits of an integrated finance suite is that it streamlines your back-office finance operations, is more affordable and accessible, easier to administer and enables you to make real-time, data-driven business decisions. The best integrated finance tools, like Zoho Finance Plus, don’t only integrate with one another, they integrate seamlessly with your entire business, from your CRM to your marketing and data analytics tools.”

Daniel West, Chief Sales and Support Officer, MYOB

Daniel West
Daniel West, Chief Sales and Support Officer, MYOB

“In an increasingly data-driven business landscape, using the right digital apps is crucial for sustainability, growth and ongoing success. Business management tools should not only support your existing operational tasks, but be scalable to make sure you’re covered for future technology needs aligned to your long-term goals. Look for tools that can truly support your needs and provide you with real-time insight into your business. I’d recommend businesses:

  • Opt for cloud-based solutions so you access your business data on any device and from anywhere – an invaluable advantage in a competitive, fast-paced business environment.
  • Choose tools where you pay only for what you really need – so you’re not wasting money on apps where you use only a handful of their available features.
  • Weigh up your business needs against the app’s capabilities and do your research to see if you could perhaps consolidate to save overall subscription costs – for example go with one more advanced tool in place of three others.
  • Check if your chosen tools can properly integrate with each other to avoid experiencing digital disconnection, and ensure the software provider is aware of any potential integration problems and are addressing these head on.”

Callan Mantell, Vice President JAPAC, Oracle

Callan Mantell
Callan Mantell, Vice President JAPAc, Oracle

“When you think about the construction industry, the image of the Sydney Opera House, or The Beehive might pop into your mind. Your first thought is probably not fintech. However, the builders and head contractors who deliver these iconic projects – and our homes, data centers, warehouses, and everything else, do need to think about how technology can be deployed to dramatically improve their back-office processes.

“Many builders have made great strides in efficiency and innovation at the job site with technologies like the Internet of Things, reality capture, drones, and autonomous vehicles. Even more efficiency gains can be had by automating and streamlining the progress claim and payment processes.

“Cloud-based collaborative claim and payment management solutions can boost efficiency and reduce risk across the entire process. And by supporting compliance with the Security of Payments (SoP) or Construction Contracts (CC) Acts, they help ensure everyone is paid fairly and on time.”

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Merlin Luck, Regional Vice President of Small and Medium Businesses, Salesforce

Merlin Luck
Merlin Luck, Regional Vice President of Small and Medium Businesses, Salesforce

“There’s more choice than ever when it comes to fintech tools, providing small-to-medium-sized businesses with greater access to the financial instruments they need to realise their growth ambitions. For example, the days of visiting the local bank manager at a brick-and-mortar store have given way to online financial institutions running on state-of-the-art technology backends.

“Sixty-six per cent of customers expect companies to understand their unique needs and expectations, and only 27 per cent feel that financial institutions provide great service and support. As such, it’s crucial to choose a fintech provider that can tailor to your small business’ circumstances and customers. Prospa, for example, allows small businesses to apply for loans of up to $250,000 using a simple online application running on Salesforce Service Cloud. After a quick credit check, in many cases, business owners receive their funding in 24 hours.

“Powered by Salesforce, these options are possible with Prospa’s sophisticated use of data insights to create a single view of the customer.

“Given the competitive fintech landscape, small businesses need to choose providers powered by sophisticated technology to ensure the benefits of a 360 customer view can be implemented for more personalised services.”

Anny Le Wilson, Chief Revenue Officer, Joust

Anny Le Wilson
Anny Le Wilson, Chief Revenue Officer, Joust

“Fintechs are often all painted with the same brush based on the misconception that a fintech can be a one stop shop for all parts of your business. This is simply not true. Businesses are complex and there will be different solutions required for different business goals and outcomes. It’s important to select the right fintech partner for different parts of your business, this can range from the payment processors, to the KYC process, to payroll and project management, all the way through to marketing and sales. The tools required for a fintech should be very dependent on the key objectives and outcomes the business is aiming to achieve. When the objectives and outcomes are clearly defined, choosing the right set of tools becomes easier.

“For businesses that are transitioning to digital models, a digital customer acquisition strategy is important for managing the sales pipeline and maintaining a sustainable business model.

“The majority of Aussies are now accustomed to the benefits of digital connectivity to get business done.

“Using digital channels to drive customer acquisition means that you are connecting with people who are already looking for your services. Digital marketing channels have the capability to drive significant flows through a business, delivering a stream of quality customers on a consistent basis. If managed properly, these customers can multiply based on other products they may be in the market for or by providing referral and advocacy for your business.

“Finding the right fintech partner for digital distribution, and customer targeting, is an important part of scaling your business. The true value of digital customer acquisition is unlocked when businesses make an ongoing commitment and integrate it into their workflow.”

Paul Byrne, CEO, Zai

Paul Byrne
Paul Byrne, CEO, Zai

“One service that all businesses should be asking their payment providers about right now is PayTo. Built on the back of the New Payments Platform, PayTo allows businesses to charge their consumers through direct bank transfers using their PayID. It’s incredibly useful for companies that run business models with recurring payments, as it both automates the payment and allows it to happen in real-time. As it’s a direct bank transfer, you also avoid merchant fees for card payments and any charges that may occur if you attempt to draw payment out of an overdrawn account.

“Embedded finance experts such as Zai have been working closely with NPP to deliver best-in-class solutions for PayTo.The service was only launched last month, but companies should start enquiring about it now to get ahead of what will be a major shift in how Australians manage payments.”

Karl Durrance, Managing Director ANZ, Stripe

Karl Durrance
Karl Durrance, Managing Director ANZ, Stripe

“Payments provide the essential rails for commerce. Whether that’s your customers paying you, you refunding your customers, or ensuring your employee’s wages and expenses are paid, payments are what makes the world go around. With the plethora of payment options now available as digital wallets, subscription services, online marketplaces, having the right financial infrastructure to power your online payment processing and commerce solutions can save you time, money and help streamline your business.

“Digital transformation isn’t just an option for businesses looking to get ahead.  It’s now a necessity for any company of any size and that’s where platforms like Stripe come in. Optimising payments, adding new business models, driving additional revenue streams and scaling faster are all key to business success. From homegrown brands like Luxury Escapes and The Dinner Ladies to much larger multinational businesses like Xero, Atlassian, and Scentre Group (Westfield), being armed with the right tools means we can collectively grow the GDP of the internet.”

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Rob Taylor, Head of New Markets ANZ, Zoom

Rob Taylor
Rob Taylor, Head of New Markets ANZ, Zoom

“The customer experience is more central to financial services than ever before. People want flexible, secure options from wherever they happen to be. We’ve worked with customers like NAB to evolve the way financial services are delivered, using Zoom Rooms, Meetings and Zoom Phone. Features like virtual receptionist, smart call queues, and end to end encryption give your team and customers easy access to secure, streamlined services.

“If it’s apps you’re after, look no further than the Zoom Apps library. It’s a treasure trove of tools. I’ve been loving the online whiteboard from Miro, using visual tools like sticky notes and diagrams, to democratize participation across our hybrid teams and produce more actionable outcomes.

“With the DocuSign app integrated directly into Zoom, users across banking, finance and insurance industries are benefiting from the incredible time saver that is digital signatures. After weaving this app into my own day-to-day, it’s hard to imagine we ever used to courier contracts over to customers or vendors for their physical signatures! It’s a real game changer.”

Lucy Allen, Global Head of eCommerce, OFX

Lucy Allen
Lucy Allen, Global Head of eCommerce, OFX

“Fluctuating exchange rates come with the territory of managing a global ecommerce or import/export business. Rather than using precious time watching foreign exchange markets all day, an easy way to streamline cashflow and help protect your business from volatility is through natural hedging.

“This occurs when your overseas revenue, earnings, and costs, from customers or partners, are in the same currency. Costs can also include different business expenses, such as paying taxes, vendors or suppliers. The biggest benefit to natural hedging for businesses is more certainty over profit margins, as you aren’t converting revenue unnecessarily at an exchange rate you can’t control.

“Fintech tools such as an OFX Global Currency Account, which grants access to eight virtual currency accounts, allow businesses to achieve natural hedging; you can receive, hold and send funds in multiple currencies, within a single dashboard. So you can bypass unnecessary conversion fees eating into your profits.”

James Campbell, Regional Manager ANZ, SnapLogic

James-Campbell
James Campbell, Regional Manager ANZ, SnapLogic

“Integrating diverse apps and data as well as automating core workflows and processes are critical first steps to creating a modern, connected financial services experience for consumers. Doing so allows you to harness the power of your data to gain insights for better decision- making, inform the development of new products and services, streamline operations, lower costs and more.”

“Many firms are already using automated workflows and AI to keep pace on the surface with consumer expectations. But these pockets of automation and digitalisation are often siloed, the product of disconnected data and applications, leading to inconsistent consumer experiences.

“The fact is the faster you can integrate all your applications and systems, the better you can compete with seamless, connected experiences for your customers. It allows you to harness the power of your data to gain insights for better decision making, inform the development of new products and services, streamline operations and lower overhead costs, and more. With a true 360-degree view of your customer, you’re able to deliver personalised marketing and services that meet their needs.”

Chris Dahl, Co-CEO, Pin Payments

Chris-Dahl
Chris Dahl, Co-CEO, Pin Payments

“Small businesses play a significant role to the Australian economy, yet are often the least advanced when it comes to digitising and optimising their own operations. However, nowadays, it’s very easy to outsource aspects of the business which are time consuming or laborious using technology. 

“Firstly, if you haven’t already, make sure you have the right digital accounting software (like Xero or MYOB) to simplify this process. Once this is in place, look for aspects of the business which could be made more efficient. There are apps for monitoring business expenses (Expensify), getting your invoices paid early (Marmalade) and handling your backend business payments (Pin Payments/Stripe).

“While there are countless apps to make running your business easier, what you decide on will depend on your needs. Take the time to read reviews from other businesses using the tools you’re considering, to get a better idea on their impact to your business.”

Marcus Lasarow, Founder and CEO, CashD

Marcus-Lasarow
Marcus Lasarow, Founder and CEO, CashD

“Considering the flexibility of our work lives now, the pay cycle is the last bastion for change. Along with the emergence of apps that enable micro savings, BNPL services and financial coaching, many employees are also seeking the option of earned wage access to match their new work models.

“The traditional pay cycle is outdated, there are more people accessing apps to get their pay before pay day rolls around, as opposed to using credit applications for living costs. An app that enables workers to get paid their up-to-the-minute accrued earnings from their employer at any time on any day, can flip the old pay cycle system on its head.

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“The CashD app integrates with a company’s existing processes across payroll, workforce management and HR solutions, and offers an extension of the company payroll funds. A 2020 survey demonstrated that flexible pay solutions that empower employees, such as an app for access to a real-time digital wallet of earned funds, can increase staff retention by 19% and speed up recruitment by 27%. The seamless low risk experience can be a game changer for the business, and make them an employer of choice.”

Patrick Tripp, SVP of Product Marketing, Cheetah Digital

Patrick Tripp
Patrick Tripp, SVP of Product Marketing, Cheetah Digital

“Marketers in banking and finance are used to navigating regulations. Strict rules make it challenging to connect with consumers in a meaningful way, something now expected from all brands digitally. However, with the right tools and support, restrictions can spur creativity and see finserv brands uniquely differentiate from their competitors.

“Banking and finance marketing teams must have access to industry-compliant solutions that enable them to make bold customer interactions. Rather than having non-engaging, one-way communications, there is an increasing need to offer a two-way conversation between business and consumer across all channels.

“Solutions that offer personalised and two-way engagement with consumers across multiple channels will increase the customer lifetime value due to their meaningful experience with your business, which then presents the opportunity to cross-sell and upsell with your happy clients.”

Carly Shamgar, Co-Founder & CEO, Shouta

Carly Shamgar
Carly Shamgar, Co-Founder & CEO, Shouta

“Utilising fintech tools and apps in the workplace can streamline processes and give you more time to focus on the running of your business. The question is, what are your pain points and what tools are available to help you?

“I work with businesses every day who struggle with the hassle of corporate gifting. Often, businesses are ingrained with old school processes and ideas around gifting that can be time consuming, expensive, and a logistical nightmare. Many are now opting for new-age fintech alternatives to simplify the process.

“The Shouta Biz platform allows businesses to digitally gift clients and employees in a way that is quick and affordable –  it’s a must-have fintech tool for all businesses big and small.”

Guy Olian, CEO, Smart Ease

Guy Olian
Guy Olian, CEO, Smart Ease

“Given the huge number of fintechs in the marketplace, thorough research is critical before adopting a solution or partnering with a business. Many of the best fintechs solve a single problem and have specialist expertise in their niche; look for case studies to get a good sense of the business problems solved and the applications in different settings. A good source of advice or information could be your industry body or association.

“While the tech aspect is key, most fintechs are only as good as their service. Often you need more than just a platform to complete a transaction. You may need some advice or consultation, so find a fintech that will listen to you, has the resources to help, and that puts customers first. As well as asking the right questions, look for genuine testimonials that demonstrate a strong service record.

“Finding the right solution for your business can unlock huge potential. These innovations can make your business more efficient by increasing productivity and reducing operating costs. Smart Ease, for example, helps businesses decarbonise and digitise their operations – which helps to increase business efficiencies and lower overhead costs.”

Brian Renvoize, Director of Growth AU, Wayflyer

Brian Renvoize
Brian Renvoize, Director of Growth AU, Wayflyer

“Australia is home to a thriving culture of entrepreneurship and innovation, with a rising number of individuals committing to the dream of establishing their own businesses. With the eCommerce space bustling in particular, there is a need for agile and smart tools that support businesses in this sector and enable them to grow, especially from a funding and analytics point of view. One of the biggest challenges is that traditional finance providers often don’t consider the unique context of eCommerce businesses.

“However, new alternative finance providers are increasingly offering solutions tailored to the needs of this sector. This includes things like evaluating business performance holistically when assessing funding applicability. It also means providing fintech tools/apps which help entrepreneurs make data-driven decisions based on insights from sales, revenue and more. In short, business leaders should collaborate with a company that sees the relationship as a partnership – one where both parties thrive.”

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Michigan farmworker diagnosed with bird flu, becoming 2nd US case tied to dairy cows

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Michigan farmworker diagnosed with bird flu, becoming 2nd US case tied to dairy cows

A Michigan dairy worker has been diagnosed with bird flu — the second human case associated with an outbreak in U.S. dairy cows.

The male worker had been in contact with cows at a farm with infected animals. He experienced mild eye symptoms and has recovered, U.S. and Michigan health officials said in announcing the case Wednesday.

A nasal swab from the person tested negative for the virus, but an eye swab tested Tuesday was positive for bird flu, “indicating an eye infection,” U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials said.

The worker developed a “gritty feeling” in his eye earlier this month but it was a “very mild case,” said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, Michigan’s chief medical executive. He was not treated with oseltamivir, a medication advised for treating bird flu, she said.

The risk to the public remains low, but farmworkers exposed to infected animals are at higher risk, health officials said. They said those workers should be offered protective equipment, especially for their eyes.

Health officials say they do not know if the Michigan farmworker was wearing protective eyewear, but an investigation is continuing.

In late March, a farmworker in Texas was diagnosed in what officials called the first known instance globally of a person catching this version of bird flu from a mammal. That patient reported only eye inflammation and recovered.

Since 2020, a bird flu virus has been spreading among more animal species — including dogs, cats, skunks, bears and even seals and porpoises — in scores of countries.

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The detection in U.S. livestock earlier this year was an unexpected twist that sparked questions about food safety and whether it would start spreading among humans.

That hasn’t happened, although there’s been a steady increase of reported infections in cows. As of Wednesday, the virus had been confirmed in 51 dairy herds in nine states, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department. Fifteen of the herds were in Michigan.

The CDC’s Dr. Nirav Shah said the case was “not unexpected” and it’s possible more infections could be diagnosed in people who work around infected cows.

U.S. officials said they had tested 40 people since the first cow cases were discovered in late March. Michigan has tested 35 of them, Bagdasarian told The Associated Press in an interview.

Shah praised Michigan officials for actively monitoring farmworkers. He said health officials there have been sending daily text messages to workers exposed to infected cows asking about possible symptoms, and that the effort helped officials catch this infection. He said no other workers had reported symptoms.

That’s encouraging news, said Michael Osterholm, a University of Minnesota epidemiologist who has studied bird flu for decades. There’s no sign to date that the virus is causing flu-like illness or that it is spreading among people.

“If we had four or five people seriously ill with respiratory illness, we would be picking that up,” he said.

The virus has been found in high levels in the raw milk of infected cows, but government officials say pasteurized products sold in grocery stores are safe because heat treatment has been confirmed to kill the virus.

The new case marks the third time a person in the United States has been diagnosed with what’s known as Type A H5N1 virus. In 2022, a prison inmate in a work program picked it up while killing infected birds at a poultry farm in Montrose County, Colorado. His only symptom was fatigue, and he recovered. That predated the virus’s appearance in cows.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Educational Media Group. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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At collapsed Baltimore bridge, focus shifts to the weighty job of removing the massive structure

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At collapsed Baltimore bridge, focus shifts to the weighty job of removing the massive structure

BALTIMORE (AP) — Teams of engineers worked Saturday on the intricate process of cutting and lifting the first section of twisted steel from the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge, which crumpled into the Patapsco River this week after a massive cargo ship crashed into one of its supports.

Sparks could be seen flying from a section of bent and crumpled steel in the afternoon, and video released by officials in the evening showed demolition crews using a cutting torch to slice through the thick beams. The joint incident command said in a statement that the work was being done on the top of the north side of the collapsed structure.

Crews were carefully measuring and cutting the steel from the broken bridge before attaching straps so it can be lifted onto a barge and floated away, Coast Guard Rear Adm. Shannon Gilreath said.

Seven floating cranes — including a massive one capable of lifting 1,000 tons — 10 tugboats, nine barges, eight salvage vessels and five Coast Guard boats were on site in the water southeast of Baltimore.

Each movement affects what happens next and ultimately how long it will take to remove all the debris and reopen the ship channel and the blocked Port of Baltimore, Maryland Gov. Wes Moore said.

“I cannot stress enough how important today and the first movement of this bridge and of the wreckage is. This is going to be a remarkably complicated process,” Moore said.

Undeterred by the chilly morning weather, longtime Baltimore resident Randy Lichtenberg and others took cellphone photos or just quietly looked at the broken pieces of the bridge, which including its steel trusses weigh as much as 4,000 tons.

“I wouldn’t want to be in that water. It’s got to be cold. It’s a tough job,” Lichtenberg said from a spot on the river called Sparrows Point.

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The shock of waking up Tuesday morning to video of what he called an iconic part of the Baltimore skyline falling into the water has given way to sadness.

“It never hits you that quickly. It’s just unbelievable,” Lichtenberg said.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT

One of the first goals for crews on the water is to get a smaller auxiliary ship channel open so tugboats and other small barges can move freely. Crews also want to stabilize the site so divers can resume searching for four missing workers who are presumed dead.

Two other workers were rescued from the water in the hours following the bridge collapse, and the bodies of two more were recovered from a pickup truck that fell and was submerged in the river. They had been filling potholes on the bridge and while police were able to stop vehicle traffic after the ship called in a mayday, they could not get to the construction workers, who were from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

The crew of the cargo ship Dali, which is managed by Synergy Marine Group, remained on board with the debris from the bridge around it, and were safe and were being interviewed. They are keeping the ship running as they will be needed to get it out of the channel once more debris has been removed.

The vessel is owned by Grace Ocean Private Ltd. and was chartered by Danish shipping giant Maersk.

The collision and collapse appeared to be an accident that came after the ship lost power. Federal and state investigators are still trying to determine why.

Assuaging concern about possible pollution from the crash, Adam Ortiz, the Environmental Protection Agency’s mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator, said there was no indication in the water of active releases from the ship or materials hazardous to human health.

REBUILDING

Officials are also trying to figure out how to handle the economic impact of a closed port and the severing of a major highway link. The bridge was completed in 1977 and carried Interstate 695 around southeast Baltimore.

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Maryland transportation officials are planning to rebuild the bridge, promising to consider innovative designs or building materials to hopefully shorten a project that could take years.

President Joe Biden’s administration has approved $60 million in immediate aid and promised the federal government will pay the full cost to rebuild.

Ship traffic at the Port of Baltimore remains suspended, but the Maryland Port Administration said trucks were still being processed at marine terminals.

The loss of a road that carried 30,000 vehicles a day and the port disruption will affect not only thousands of dockworkers and commuters, but also U.S. consumers, who are likely to feel the impact of shipping delays. The port handles more cars and more farm equipment than any other U.S. facility.

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Collins reported from Columbia, South Carolina. Associated Press writers Sarah Brumfield in Washington, D.C.; Kristin M. Hall in Nashville, Tennessee; Adrian Sainz in Memphis, Tennessee; and Lisa Baumann in Bellingham, Washington, contributed.

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The Texas attorney general is investigating a key Boeing supplier and asking about diversity

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The Texas attorney general is investigating a key Boeing supplier and asking about diversity

DALLAS (AP) — The Texas attorney general has opened an investigation into a key Boeing supplier that is already facing scrutiny from federal regulators over quality of parts that it provides to the aircraft maker.

The office of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said it began looking into Spirit AeroSystems because of “apparent manufacturing defects” in parts that “have led to numerous concerning or dangerous incidents.”

In a statement Friday, a Spirit spokesman said, “While we do not comment on investigations, Spirit is wholly focused on providing the highest quality products to all our customers, to include the Boeing Company.”

Paxton asked the Wichita, Kansas-based supplier to turn over documents produced since the start of 2022 about communication with investors and Boeing about flaws in parts and corrective steps the company took.

The request goes into detail in seeking internal discussions around Spirit’s efforts to create a diverse workforce “and whether those commitments are unlawful or are compromising the company’s manufacturing processes.” Paxton asked for a breakdown of Spirit’s workforce by race, sexual orientation and other factors, and whether the makeup has changed over time.

Since a Spirit-made door-plug panel blew off an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max in January, some conservatives have tried to link aviation safety to diversity at manufacturers.

Paxton is a conservative Republican who this week agreed to pay $271,000 in restitution to victims and take 15 hours of training in legal ethics to settle felony charges of securities fraud. Paxton did not admit wrongdoing in the 9-year-old case.

The Federal Aviation Administration launched an investigation into Boeing Spirit after the Alaska Airlines incident. An FAA audit of manufacturing procedures in Spirit’s factory gave the company failing grades in seven of 13 areas.

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Boeing is in talks to buy back Spirit, which it spun off nearly 20 years ago, as part of a plan to tighten oversight of manufacturing in its supply chain.

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