Q&A: Neumann CEO say tech firm is right for times
Feb 17, 2013 (The Gazette (Colorado Springs - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
As a congressman for 16 years, Todd Tiahrt is accustomed to navigating political waters.
He could face some tricky currents in his role as CEO of Colorado Springs-based Neumann Systems Group.
Tiahrt (pronounced tee hart) became CEO of NSG last month, replacing company founder David Neumann. Neumann remains chairman, president and majority owner of NSG, developer of a power plant emission control technology that Neumann says is cheaper and smaller compared with conventional technology. The NeuStream technology, being tested at the Martin Drake Power Plant downtown, has become embroiled in the debate over the future of the plant as well as the governance of Colorado Springs Utilities.
Tiahrt, 61, served in the U.S. House of Representatives for Kansas' 4th Congressional District from 1995 to 2011. After leaving office, he formed Todd Tiahrt LLC, a consulting firm specializing in aviation/aerospace, defense, energy, government relations and municipal and county governments. NSG was a client; Tiahrt worked with NSG to move technologies from the lab to the demonstration stage, along with providing market research and general consulting.
Tiahrt recently took time to answer some questions via email.
Question: What interested you about the job of CEO at Neumann Systems
Answer: Neumann Systems Group is a new technology company that I think is right for the times and right for the economy. Using technology to convert what we normally think of as pollution and process that into products that create jobs is fascinating and necessary. Our local economy has relatively high unemployment, just as the national economy. Converting pollution into products will create local jobs and in time see new jobs solidify nationally from the NSG technologies. Being part of the process of making new ideas into reality is something that I've always wanted to participate in.
Q: Did the debate over Colorado Springs Utilities' use of NSG's NeuStream technology give you pause in taking the job And do you see your experience as a lawmaker helping you navigate the local political waters
A: Since controversy has always been part of governing in America, I had no hesitation. NSG's relationship to Colorado Springs Utilities is contractual and common. We can and will complete the contract exceeding applicable regulatory requirements at a lower cost than any competitor. Because of that, Colorado Springs Utilities will be able to continue to provide low-cost reliable power in compliance with specific government regulations.
Using my experience, I hope to remove NSG from the controversy. Our technology under contract is just the beginning of other new technologies to convert pollution to products that will create local jobs. Becoming embroiled in a fight will only delay the much needed technology and the creation of jobs in Colorado Springs.
Q: David Neumann has praised you as "a leader, a problem solver and a strategic thinker of the highest order." In addition to your political expertise, what strengths do you see yourself bringing to this new job
A: We have a great team of creative thinkers. Our vision is to commercialize technologies that convert pollution into products that create jobs. My contribution will be to carry out that vision based on experience in program management, marketing, finance, politics and motivating people into action.
Q: At one point last fall, David Neumann said he might move the company out of the Springs. What do you see as the future of Neumann Systems as a local company
A: NSG is a Colorado Springs company made up of creative people who love to work and live in this area. Like any company, we want our team to be in a challenging environment that grants them satisfaction at work and at home. That being said, creative capital goes where it is welcome. Today, we see Colorado Springs as the place where we can develop our ideas into products that are competitive worldwide.
Q: Colorado Springs Utilities is the only one using the NeuStream technology. What's being done to find other clients Is that a priority
A: Colorado Springs Utilities has been visionary in engaging NSG's technology and that has created much interest in other utility providers. Our greatest barrier to moving forward with new customers has been the uncertainty in government regulations. EPA has been very aggressive in releasing regulations, some of which have been overturned by the courts. Utility providers have desired a more stable regulatory environment, but that hasn't stopped us from aggressively marketing our pollution-to-products ideas. Our strategy for commercialization is refocusing on near-term pollution-to-products technologies, which we believe will open additional markets for us.
Q: In the short time you have been on the job, have you been surprised by anything
A: Recently I have been pleasantly surprised by the renewed acceptance of the use of coal to provide electricity. The "war on coal" has lost footing in the public conversation when it was revealed that natural gas companies were funding disinformation campaigns by environmental groups to combat the low cost reliability of coal-fired power plants. From my perspective, NSG's technologies, when fully implemented, will exceed natural gas emissions in compliance with government regulatory requirements, so it is a logical renewed acceptance of coal.
Q: What is your working relationship like with David Do you, for example, talk daily
A: Dr. Neumann and I have been friends for some time and I enjoy daily conversations about politics, sports and our common goal of making NSG the premier provider of pollution-to-products technologies.
Questions and answers are edited for brevity and clarity.
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