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St. Louis-based firms Azimuth Energy, Aschinger Electric launch solar-focused joint venture

Two St. Louis-based companies, Azimuth Energy and Aschinger Electric Co., said Tuesday they’ve inked an agreement to form a joint venture focused on expanding their footprint in the solar energy sector.

The two firms said the new partnership will focus on bidding on and building utility scale and commercial solar projects. The agreement is the “first of its kind in the St. Louis region between a solar engineering and construction firm and an electric contractor,” officials said.

Azimuth, a solar engineering and construction firm, and Aschinger aren’t strangers to each other. The companies have previously worked on nearly 100 solar engineering projects dating back to 2009. Their relationship began as a prime and subcontractor arrangement before becoming more formalized, said Azimuth President Marc Lopata.

“About two years ago, we started structuring our projects as joint ventures so that we could be more competitive and efficient. Then, about six months ago, we decided to join forces on a company basis rather than a project basis,” he said.

The two companies said their partnership will provide them with the ability to more competitively bid on projects and to operate more efficiently by reducing costs and sharing resources.

“In the renewable energy field, you find that a lot of companies are engineering only and hiring out construction or the other way around — they are only constructing but not developing or engineering projects,” said Aschinger President Emily Martin. “To have both of those capabilities with one team allows us to be more competitive and react more quickly to the market. We see a lot of growth in this market coming forward in the next 10 years for certain, but even over the next 30.”

Azimuth and Aschinger will operate out of adjacent office spaces in Fenton.

“We look forward to working even more closely with Aschinger and parlaying our strengths to better serve the community and region,” said Lopata. “I am particularly excited to have Mike Seger aboard as vice president of renewable energy for Aschinger Electric. Mike and I have built hundreds of solar-energy projects together, like the solar roof of the Moonrise Hotel, and Mike is one of the most capable professionals in the industry.”

Azimuth has 12 employees. Clayton-based private equity firm Oakland Capital Partners in 2019 made a majority investment in the energy firm. Aschinger has about 170 employees and is among St. Louis’ largest women-owned companies. It had revenue of $56 million in 2019.


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New nonprofit opens campus in St. Louis to lift women into the middle class

For Hogan, the granddaughter of Enterprise Rent-A-Car founder Jack Taylor, her vision has come a long way from the Rock Hill retail shop she opened a decade ago to help women find affordable professional attire. After closing the store in 2017, she spent the ensuing years getting “a lot of smart people in the room” to research and design a nonprofit model meant to truly change women’s lives with high-touch career coaches, counseling, child care and other services.

They’ve partnered with nine other nonprofits — co-designers, they call them, because of their help creating Rung’s programming: Family Care Health Centers for health care, the Fit and Food Connection and Urban Harvest for nutrition and wellness, LaunchCode for job training, Prosperity Connection for personal finance coaching, Provident Behavioral Health for mental health, and Safe Connections for domestic violence services, among others.

“Instead of re-creating the wheel, it’s better to take organizations that exist and give them space,” Hogan said.

Over the next few months, Rung’s staff will begin recruiting about 100 women to start the program in January. They’re looking for women who are a setback or two away from crisis — living on wages from a couple of part-time jobs, or, as Gill put it, “surviving, not thriving.”

Rung will pull from the whole metro area, from educational institutions, nonprofits, even walk-ins from the neighborhood.

Participants are known as “members,” but there’s no fee. Rung actually is designed to remove as many barriers as possible, hence child care for very young children, and a separate area and staff for school-age children who need help with homework. They’ll have free grab-and-go meals so getting home to cook for the kids isn’t an excuse to stray from the program.

After dealing with trauma, health care or other immediate issues, members will be assigned a Rung staff “coach” who helps them establish goals. Work and career help follows, with coaching on resume-writing, job interviews, even salary negotiations. They don’t want to just place people in low-level jobs. Rung will connect members with high-level contacts at area companies.

The process will take at least six months but will stretch on as long as a member continues attending and participating. Rung plans to add a new cohort of women every quarter or so with the goal of moving and placing several hundred people into the workforce a year.

“We can link them directly into career opportunities,” Gill said. “We want to make sure we provide a direct connection to employers. … The ultimate goal being more women making more money.”

Hogan hopes to develop the program into one that area companies know produces quality applicants.

“We really want to partner up with as many employers and educators as we can,” she said.

Rung worked with the Brown School of Social Work at Washington University to design a system to measure the program’s outcomes, with an eye on creating a new model that can be replicated elsewhere in St. Louis and the country. Hogan and Gill suspect it won’t be hard to find many women that will jump at the chance to join. Earlier this month, 120 women applied for 10 slots in a pilot program.

Hogan cautioned that Rung won’t be just a casual club for women. Some will inevitably drop out. But for those who want to make a change, they’ll have all the resources they need.

“The trick is finding the women who are really prepared for the work,” Hogan said.

From stltoday.