Window treatment Introducing the electronic shade

How does a window company get a name like “New Visual Media Group”?

It starts out as a billboard company 10 years ago, realizes its technology and business model don’t mix, and finds an alternative product line.

And doesn’t change its name.

Let’s back up: When New Visual Media Group first launched in 2007, it believed it could create pixel-technology for the emerging electronic billboard industry.

But when it came time to connect those pixels to make a display as large as a billboard, it became clear the technology wasn’t practical, and Principal Elliott Schlam realized the company needed to reconsider the applications for its technology.

“We started the company as a flat-panel display company,” he said. “In billboard displays, each little pixel was a tenth of an inch in size and we realized that, for a billboard, you’d have to go through the engineering to put the pixels together so you don’t see any seams.”

Then Schlam found inspiration in the most unlikely of places.

“I was reading literature about how windows consume 5 percent of the nation’s energy and thought it’d be interesting if we could make these pixels bigger so we could cover up a window,” he said. “We very quickly modified the technology, which doesn’t get washed out by the sun, from very small pixels to window-sized pixels.”

He discovered those pixels make the perfect shades for windows.

How it works
Elliott Schlam, principal of New Visual Media Group, says the company developed its window-shade technology by enlarging pixels it originally developed for flat-screen displays.
But how does it make a building more energy-efficient?
“Basically, the structure is an electronic capacitor,” Schlam said. “There’s a conductive coating on the glass and we put a conductive coating on the shade. Then there’s a very thin lamination on the glass, so you have a capacitor, which is a very simple structure.”
The conductive and ink coatings on the shade then add to the shade’s energy-saving properties, according to Schlam.
“We’ve chosen them because they reflect radiation and have these energy-efficient properties,” he said. “It’s the nature of the coatings on the shade.”

The company utilizes standard, double-paned windows and places an electronic shade, an enlarged pixel, in the gap between panes. These shades can be triggered to rise and fall electronically using a remote or mobile app.

“The shade is a very thin plastic foil, which is coated with ink, and we put it through a thermal processor,” Schlam said. “When you put a voltage on it, the shade rolls down the glass. When you remove the voltage, it rolls back up again.”

This ink coating makes the shade highly customizable.

“Because we coat the shade with ink, it can be red, blue, green or pink,” he said. “It can even have a floral print.”

According to Schlam, any image can be printed on the shades, even logos. This ability to brand the shades, Schlam says, has generated a lot of interest in various private industries.

“We’ve shown this to the large international aircraft manufacturers who are interested in putting it in cabin windows,” he said. “You could put the aircraft logo on the shade and the passenger can push a button and the shade would go down and, since it’s fully electronic, the head flight attendant or captain could open or close all of them at once if there’s a need to do that.”

Biz in brief
Company: New Visual Media Group
Founded: 2007
Headquarters: Eatontown
Employees: 12
One last thing: Because its shades are placed between panes of glass, they’re more sanitary than normal curtains. According to Elliott Schlam, there is interest in the health care industry because of these properties.

There’s another benefit, according to Schlam: The shades are highly energy-efficient.

“It’s extremely energy-efficient, many times that of any other window technology out there today,” he said. “The main thing it does is block sunlight from warming up the inside of the house.”

According to Schlam, standard insulating glass today passes approximately 20 percent of the sunlight into the structure, while New Visual Media Group’s technology passes only 3.5 percent.

And even though the company is in talks with various industries to bring its technology to the manufacturing space, other companies and some government agencies have clearly seen potential.

New Visual Media Group has received four contracts from the New Jersey Commission on Science and Technology, one from the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities and one from Public Service Electric & Gas, among others.

Susanna Chiu, director of energy efficiency services for PSE&G, said this program was designed specifically to help emerging companies develop their promising technologies.

“PSE&G’s Technology Demonstration Pilot Program was designed to help companies like New Visual Media take their innovative energy efficiency ideas and make them accessible to customers,” she said. “We chose the Electro Polymeric Display technology for a grant because we believed that it had both technical merit and real world commercial potential that was worthy of further development.”

E-mail to: [email protected]

Ending tax deal with Pennsylvania meets resistance

New Jersey is poised to end a nearly 40-year-old reciprocal tax agreement with Pennsylvania that allows commuters to pay their home state’s income tax rate rather than that of the state where they work.The change, which could have a fairly sizeable tax impact on commuters from both states, is currently set to take place Jan. 1, after Gov. Chris Christie did away with the deal earlier this month.

And while estimates indicate it could bring as much as $180 million in additional revenue to the state, there has been pushback.

The change means commuters from both sides of the Delaware River would be sending income taxes to both Trenton and Harrisburg — and that’s not sitting well with some politicians.

Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) said that, according to census data, any New Jersey resident who commutes to work in Pennsylvania and makes less than $110,000 annually will end up paying more in income taxes.

On the whole, he estimates the decision will cost roughly $1,000 each year for more than 100,000 New Jersey commuters.

“This is nothing more than a tax increase on New Jersey residents,” Sweeney said. “It will be a blow to residents who are trying to make ends meet. It’s unfair and unacceptable. This is not the last word on this issue.

“We should not be balancing New Jersey’s books on the backs of middle-class taxpayers. I call on the governor to renegotiate a new agreement that does not harm New Jersey’s working families.”

Christie says the move is a result of the state Legislature’s inability to find $250 million in savings in public employee health care costs, something he had requested when he presented the current fiscal budget earlier this year.

In a recent statement, Christie spokesman Brian Murray blamed the Democratic-led Legislature for “intentionally putting a $250 million hole in the budget to benefit their public employee union bosses.”

“If the Senate president and the (Assembly) speaker don’t want this to go forward, then put the residents of South Jersey ahead of the union bosses,” Murray said. “It’s their choice and, once again, they are picking their union masters over the people of South Jersey.”

The state Department of the Treasury has previously estimated the move would bring in roughly $180 million in new tax revenue to the state from the more than 100,000 Pennsylvania residents who commute to New Jersey for work.

Over 120,000 New Jersey workers are estimated to make the trip into Pennsylvania.

Christie does appear to be willing to renegotiate the deal, telling reporters at a news conference last week that the Legislature has “got time” to help him make the changes to public employee health care costs that he desires.

But his willingness to reconsider hasn’t stopped Democrats in both states from criticizing his plan.

Jeffrey Sheridan, a spokesperson for Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, said Christie seems “committed to making Pennsylvania and our residents working in New Jersey suffer the consequences of his failure to enact a responsible budget.”

New Jersey’s Assembly majority leader, Lou Greenwald (D-Voorhees), says the decision is short-sighted.

“The governor’s decision to focus on turning a quick buck instead of finding sustainable solutions to our budget problems continues to hurt our state and our residents,” he said. “New Jersey’s already high cost of living already causes residents to flee our state; it makes no sense to needlessly raise taxes on working families.”

E-mail to: [email protected]

Veteran brewer Military gave Fisher many of the skills she needed to start Backward Flag Brewing Co.

Torie Fisher spent her 19th birthday in Iraq, during the first of her two deployments with the U.S. military.
The service was all she had ever known, starting with her station in Germany after high school.

“I wanted to do something different,” Fisher said. “I was ready to move on.”

In September of last year, Fisher pounced at the opportunity to combine her interest in craft beer with a business partnership to open Backward Flag Brewing Company, a two-barrel brewery and tasting room, in Forked River.

“We put in our retirement money, sold a lot of belongings and fundraised,” she said.

Fisher credits her 13-year career in the military with helping to teach her the organizational and research skills and develop the confidence she needed to start her own business.

But not even the military prepared her for what came next, she said.

“We hit all of the goals in our three-year plan within six months,” she said. “Right now, we are jumping through hoops every week to make sure we have beer in the tasting room.”

In June, Fisher left her position in the military as a Blackhawk helicopter crew chief and aviation life support technician to manage the brewery on her own full-time.

Backward Flag Brewing Company is currently open Friday through Sunday.

Brewing discrimination
Torie Fisher said being a woman in the military was never an issue.
“When you walked into a room, you did not automatically assume that the man in the room was in charge. Both men and women held positions of authority,” she said. “But, since operating as a brewery in the civilian world, anytime I am with a man — usually one of my volunteers — whoever comes up to talk to us at festivals or events automatically turns their attention to him and starts talking to him as if he is the owner, even after they are corrected.
“Most of the time, it is men that do that.”

The rest of the week — sometimes up to four times — Fisher and her crew brew popular beers such as X-626 Oaked Ale and Forked River Mountain Spout.

“The brewery is a unique business in which I can also interact with members of the community in a way that other businesses can’t,” Fisher said.

For example, Fisher said, she recently took her daughter to harvest hops from a farm in Colts Neck. She also has been working with local business owners who want to work with veterans and frequently meets with other entrepreneurs to collaborate on projects.

“For example, I have a meeting with a woman to talk about how she can make soap using our beer,” she said. “That’s what I love about this very versatile job — I love sharing stories and introducing others to new things in the world of beer.”

Backward Flag Brewing Company’s location at the Jersey Shore hasn’t slowed business down, either.

“I have not seen a big difference between our summer and winter crowds,” Fisher said. “We get a lot of support from the local area.”

Especially from other veterans.

“In some ways I might even compare our business to a modern-day Veterans of Foreign Wars (post),” Fisher said. “We welcome everybody, but people tend to gather here to share their experiences.”

Fisher also makes it her mission to hire veterans or prior law enforcement that want to learn about beer.

“A man came in yesterday looking for a job. He is getting ready to retire from law enforcement and was in the Marines for five years,” she said. “Today, he’s learning how to clean kegs.”

Technically, he’s still an intern. All of her employees are.

“We have a couple police officers, a member of the military — we work around their schedules and supply them with beer education and knowledge for their time,” Fisher said. “If they take a certifying class, I give them a cash bonus as well as reimbursement for their education. And on the first Thursday of every month, we have staff training and tastings.”

Fisher also supports veteran and law enforcement organizations by hosting public community events during the week, such as discussions regarding post-traumatic stress disorder, with guest speakers and services.

Biz in brief
Company: Backward Flag Brewing Company
Executive: Torie Fisher, founder and owner
Headquarters: Forked River
Founded: September 2015
Revenue: Undisclosed, but business is good; the brewery cannot keep up with supply and demand. “We have sold out on two different occasions and have had to close for that reason,” Fisher said. “We are now at the max of our abilities.”
Employees: About 10
One More Thing: “Coming from a career in the military, I’m used to male-dominated fields,” Fisher said. “I do try to focus on and talk to women when they are here, because a lot of times, when they come in with their husbands or boyfriends, they’ll be timid about ordering or are not sure what they’re looking for. It helps them to know that they can be comfortable talking to me about beer.” Fisher said she is looking forward to hosting more women-only beer appreciation events.

“Our branding is what helps to separate us from everyone else,” she said.

Backward Flag Brewing Company’s mark as a veteran-owned brewery has not gone unnoticed — nor has the quality of its beer.

Voted fourth-best in the state (behind Conclave Brewing Company in Raritan Township; Kane Brewing Company in Ocean; and Carton Brewing Company in Atlantic Highlands) by Untappd.com — a social media site used by more than 3.2 million beer enthusiasts — supply and demand has become an issue.

“We put out the first batch of S.T.F.U.” — a pale ale with the coffee and cocoa characteristics of a stout — “a few weeks ago, and sold out in one weekend,” Fisher said.

Fisher is working on expanding Backward Flag Brewing Company into a seven-barrel system, with plans to distribute to bars and restaurants who have been repeatedly calling to request the brewery’s product.

“We are also considering taking over more space in the industrial park we’re currently in to expand our tasting room,” she said.

Sudden increases in demand and having the means to expand have not yet defined success for Fisher.

“When I opened the brewery with my partners, one of the questions we used to ask ourselves was, what is our end goal? How will we measure success?” she said. “To me, that will be when we get to a point where we can get involved in community programs and reach out to help people in the ways that I want to. That, to me, defines success.”

E-mail to: [email protected]
On Twitter: @megfry3

Managing the needs of a four-generation workforce

A seismic shift is underway in today’s workplace. Two massive generations — the Baby Boomers and the Millennials — with very different needs and expectations are testing the abilities of even the most adroit HR department. HR managers and CFOs must decide how companies are going to source talent as managing the four-generation…

Boomers change one part of the equation, millennials change the other

Baby boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, differ from any other generation. Now more seniors are working compared to any time since the turn of the century. According to a recent Pew Research Center study, almost 20 percent of Americans aged 65 — or around 9 million people — are full- or part-time employees. In 2000, that number was less than 13 percent.

Boomers are rewriting the rules of retirement. In a recent Bank of America Merrill Lynch retirement study, 72 percent of pre-retirees, age 50 , say their ideal retirement includes work in some capacity. They remain on the job for a variety of reasons, both financial and personal. For many Boomers, playing it safe means managing down their income and taking social security at a later date. For employers, it means addressing the unique needs of people in these later stages.

Meanwhile, the millennials, young adults who came of age around the year 2000, are now officially America’s largest living generation and predictably the largest generation in the US. labor force.

Millennials have their own priorities, while facing a unique set of financial challenges. Many are balancing student loans with the need to start saving for retirement. Unlike their boomer colleagues, they value flexible working hours and training programs within the workplace, so HR managers must factor in these distinct preferences.

The HR manager and CFO must adapt

The four-generation workforce is a unique demographic phenomenon — with two massive generations at opposite ends of the age spectrum — but it signals important changes for companies looking to attract, support and retain the very best talent.

What’s clear for the HR manager and the chief financial officer: they’re dealing with four very different generations born between 1946 and 2004 who are experiencing a wide range of financial challenges. From paying down student debt and purchasing their first home to supporting aging parents and easing into retirement, HR teams must broaden the conversation they’re having with employees to encompass financial matters well beyond simply encouraging people to take advantage of a 401(k).

A solution? Addressing financial and physical wellness together

In the Bank of America Merrill Lynch workplace benefits survey, 90 percent of large firms said they believe workplace financial solutions will become a standard element of benefits packages in the next decade. And one in four large firms said that they currently offer or are considering incentives to encourage employee participation in workplace financial solutions, like debt management, budgeting and college savings.

Employers rethinking or expanding their benefits for a multigenerational workforce are starting to look at benefits holistically, as part of a complete package, rather than in silos.

Standard health care programs will also need to be retooled. According to the Bank of America Merrill Lynch 2016 CFO Outlook, the top three benefits programs that U.S. companies use to attract and retain skilled talent include: health care insurance (97 percent), retirement funding (94 percent) and bonuses or other compensation incentives (87 percent). In addition, 65 percent offer wellness programs, 55 percent provide education funding, 49 percent offer flexible work hours and 29 percent offer financial counseling services.

CFOs also said they view rising health care costs as the top business threat to expansion. According to the report, 69 percent of workers had an increase in health care costs in the past two years.

Companies need to manage health care expenses while balancing the need to grow and maintain a competitive workforce. As a first step, CFOs and HR teams need to identify opportunities for cost savings and efficiencies.

Heath Savings Accounts are one answer. Companies can consolidate HSAs with other plans and employees can save for both short- and long-term medical costs. Currently, 46 percent of employees say they have started to use or have increased their use of HSAs, or Flexible Savings Accounts, as a response to higher medical costs.

There is a broad acknowledgement among CFOs that more must be done to attract, support and retain their very best employees — whether they’re 22 or 62.