Relationship With Schools Helps Rhoads Energy Grow Gallons
Founded in 1917, Rhoads Energy Corporation is a family of companies that serve Lancaster, Pa., and the surrounding area in Southeastern and Central Pennsylvania. In 2018, the Eastern Pennsylvania Alliance for Clean Transportation awarded Rhoads Energy the Alternative Fuel Visionary Award for going above and beyond in its commitment to alternative fuel.
GROWING GALLONS IN NEW MARKETS
Because of the nature of the typical heating season, Rhoads Energy was experiencing a revenue “dip” in the spring and summer months. To become independent of cold weather seasonal profits, in 2014 the company ramped up its propane autogas focus and turned to school buses. The key to the company’s success is being a partner to schools. This involves educating about periodic changes, like the introduction of new nozzles for safer refueling, sending a newsletter, and setting up events like first responder training once a fill station is built. This in turn inspires schools to help Rhoads Energy educate others by allowing visits to their location to see the propane autogas buses and to ask questions.
LESSONS LEARNED FROM JENNIFER GOLDBACH, VP OF BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT, RHOADS ENERGY
1. Find Good Partners
Rhoads Energy hosted a symposium to educate the county school districts. They invited industry experts, such as the Department of Environmental Protection, Clean Cities, Blue Bird, and Roush CleanTech to speak, which resulted in the company’s first school bus customer. Since then, Rhoads Energy partners with Blue Bird and Roush CleanTech to meet with each school early in the process to answer questions.
2. Reach Out To Your Community
Rhoads Energy belongs to the Montgomery Bucks County and Berks County Pupil Transportation Associations to attend monthly meetings and to speak about propane autogas buses once a year.
3. Be Creative
The company gets creative to fit a school’s needs and what the filling station site allows.
“These people are busy so we try to make it as easy as possible for them to get the information they need. It’s a long sell and can take a couple of years because we’re asking them to make a big investment.” Jennifer Goldbach
“Start educating yourself first and meet with people who are already doing this who are happy to share details with noncompetitors. Meet with schools already using propane and see what’s important to them. Then find good vendor partners and get involved with your state association.” Jennifer Goldbach