Corrections or additions?
These articles by Kathleen McGinn Spring and Bart Jackson were
prepared for the July 21, 2004 issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights
American business survives on paper. Ninety-nine million tons flow
annually through North America’s channels of commerce, keeping our
lives and our fortunes vital – and recorded. The dawn of computers,
rather than ushering in the much touted paperless age, has nearly
doubled our annual consumption since 1970. As these mounting mounds of
printed pages proliferate, so does access to the private details of
our lives and of our clients’ business.
The problems of what to keep, what to lose, and how, are analyzed in a
day-long seminar, "Document Retention and Destruction," on Thursday,
July 22, at 8:30 a.m. at the Clarion Hotel in Cherry Hill. Cost: $329.
Call 715-883-3539. Sponsored by Lorman Education Services, this
workshop features speaker Keith DiMarino, principal of DocuVault’s
Delaware Valley division. His talk is aimed, he jokes, "at a lot more
business owners than think it’s important."
Clients are beginning to ask questions. "What are you doing with my
papers?" they want to know as the transaction winds up. "You’d be
amazed at the number of major national retailers who routinely set all
their credit card carbons in the dumpster for the convenience of any
identity thief," says DiMarino. He has witnessed such careless paper
trails in all levels of businesses and professional dealings since his
Raised and still residing in Woodbury, DiMarino attended
Philadelphia’s Wharton School, earning a degree in business. While his
fellow students were struggling just to keep up with the books and
academics, DiMarino in his few spare hours, founded Equigent
Consulting and simultaneously gained real world experience. Upon
graduating from Wharton in 2000, he expanded Equigent, advising a long
list of industries, ranging from cosmetics to cement. While working
for a Colorado client, he met with the heads of DocuVault in Denver.
While he now works for DocuVault, he maintains Equigent Consulting as
"Each document has a life cycle: starting with its creation, through
its span of intended use, on through to its end of value," explains
DiMarino. Categorizing your papers along this continuum, can help you
decide where to shuffle what, and when.
Storage. Somewhere between a document’s useful span and its total loss
of value lies an gray period when you might need it, but not nearby.
Generally, attorneys are advising businesses to hold onto all
financial and transactional records for seven years. This rule of
thumb fits the state and IRS tax codes, and several legal statues as
well. Professionals who deal with patients or clients under age 18
should store their records until they are 18, plus another seven
years. Retail credit receipts require only a 90-day retention.
Exactly what to store has provided records managers with endless hours
of debate. But DiMarino offers one statistic born of experience. Only
five to eight percent of all documents stored are ever retrieved for
any reason. The unnecessary remainder gather dust. "Most firms could
be a lot more strict in their selection process," he says.
After selecting what to store, it is necessary to decide how to store
it. Here, the most old-fashioned method may be the best in the long
term, and is often the least expensive alternative. A box of papers
can be stored for 100 years in a fireproof vault more cheaply than
transferring them to microfiche, microfilm, or any of the cyber
methods. Even the Durable CD is now estimated to have a life span of
only 50 years. However, it is technology’s unstoppable advance that is
more likely to render unreadable any electronic backup method in less
than a decade. (How many PCs today still read your ancient floppies?)
Reams of risk. Are there actual nefarious people lurking out there
waiting to kidnap and abuse our unattended documents – or are we just
being paranoid? Twenty years ago, few people ever shredded anything
and information stealing was definitely not a preoccupation. But many
see identity theft and cyber invasion as akin to hijacking – crimes
that were invented on the heels of new technology. Police officials in
many cities are citing identity theft as the fastest growing crime on
DiMarino points to the large number of convicted identity thieves who
admit to taking jobs as waiters strictly as a means of gaining access
to customer credit card numbers. DiMarino predicts that in a few years
credit cards will do away with the 16 digit code embossed on the front
and use only the swipe strip. "But until then, the theft of this
number, and the rewards, make it irresistible," he says.
While doctors, lawyers, and accountants may hold valuable private
information about individuals, most businesses, would seem, do not.
Business-to-business firms particularly would appear to print out
little of interest to anyone else. But clients do not necessarily feel
Hooked on Phonics has recently been accused of violating its
agreements by selling its client list to Gateway. The list had little
more than the names, addresses, and some basic family demographics.
Yet the clients were outraged. And whether that list was sold or
stolen, those people with their personal information being
disseminated to possibly scores of other companies, really don’t care.
They just don’t want it in the public domain.
"People feel rightfully uneasy about giving away personal and
financial information," says Dimarino.
To shred or not. So how do you protect yourself and your customers?
The first step is to clean up your computer before things ever get
printed out. Most libraries install an automatic expunge feature,
which deletes each transaction after it is completed. This foils
anyone who wants to peek into an individual’s private business. Such
expunge software is inexpensive and usually provides a variety of
DiMarino warns that hard drives of old disposed computers should be
removed and broken up, so they cannot be salvaged by hackers.
When it comes to printed paper, DiMarino insists that the method of
destruction should be strictly a matter of cost value – like any other
business decision. He laughs, "you have $350-an-hour lawyers who don’t
answer their phones and wouldn’t dream of getting their coffee or
stationery supplies, but they dutifully shred all their own documents.
They sit with a stack and pass five sheets at a time through their
little office shredder." The reason, of course, is that shredding is
more fun than brewing coffee. But the billed client may not appreciate
the joy. A professional destruction company, after an initial set-up
fee of $500, charges approximately 15.5 cents per pound to turn your
paper into recyclable powder.
Yet destruction is more than a matter of cost. There are three
companies in the U.S. that piece together shredded documents. Three
that we know of. They can pull your shreddings from the dumpster, scan
them into a computer, and in moments reassemble your documents for
profit. If you hire a professional shredding service, make sure they
take the extra step of grinding the paper. It’s better for the
environment and your security.
Of course, for the security obsessed, DocuVault and others will add
the final step of incineration. Company officials can follow the
powdered paper to the fire and watch it burn. "This seems a bit like
overkill,"says DiMarino, "but if it makes them sleep better at night,
it’s probably worth the price."
This year, the average North American will consume nearly 650 pounds
of paper. E-mail does not seem to be making a dent, as our usage
climbs annually. For businesses, an increasing amount of this paper
will contain information customers do not want shared. Those companies
that provide the extra measure of information protection are
displaying not so much paranoia as one final aspect of customer
service. Security, after all, can be a selling point.
– Bart Jackson
The day will come when you ask your sweet little boy how his day went
and he will shrug his shoulders and say, simply: "OK," and there will
be no elaboration. To the same question, your darling daughter will
not give you details of what this friend said and what that one wore.
She may even burst out crying. To your entreaties for more
information, your child may say: "Whatever."
Worse, you may have the experience reported by one working mom. A
legal assistant, she kept right on working while her children, all
five of them, progressed from day care through elementary school. Then
one day, right about the time that the two oldest were entering their
teen years, she returned home from work to find a scene right out of
the Old West. Two of her brood were standing astride the couch arms,
clutching bows, and pointing arrows at their fleeing siblings. She
quit work the next day, and only returned when the baby left for
Most parents, of course, do manage to keep their teens safe, happy,
and productively occupied while they work. The key to doing so may
well lie in establishing – and abiding by – boundaries, while, at the
same time, working constantly at smooth communication. Scott Albert,
MSW, says that is possible to forge a mutually-trusting relationship
with your teen. He leads a two-session course in "Navigating the Teen
Years" at Mercer County Community College’s continuing education
program on Thursday, July 22 and July 29, at 6 p.m.. Cost: $48.
Register at 609-586-9446.
A former counselor at the Lawrenceville School, Albert is married with
a 12-year-old of his own. He currently works at the Princeton Center
for Leadership and is also in private practice.
The biggest challenge for parents, says Albert, is that for the first
12 years of our children’s lives we’ve been working from a model that
goes out the window once they enter adolescence. "From ages one to
six, we are our children’s primary teacher. Then from ages 6 to 12 we
move into the role of administrator, while still serving as teachers.
But by this time, they recognize that they have another teacher too.
As parents, we become more life skills teachers."
The problem, Albert says, is that parents "get pretty accustomed to
their roles. And then the formula changes and we don’t change that
well. We talk to our children as though we’re still in those old roles
and they tune us out. They want something different, but we don’t know
what to do."
"Within a family there is a dance to your relationship with your
kids," says Albert. "Change the dance, and you break the trance." The
trance, he says is about breaking the unconscious routine that you get
into with your kids. "As an adult, you have to take charge of
renegotiating in your own mind the role you play. Your child may be
trying to tell you that it’s not working. But bottom line, that
information hasn’t been incorporated."
What kids want, Albert asserts, is a parent in the role of
navigator/coach. "We need to modify our communication with our
children" in order to open up new possibilities with them.
"So often in the hustle and bustle we make promises we don’t deliver
on," Albert says. "We become overwhelmed and we misalign our
priorities." By the time they’re adolescents, "kids have an idea of
what mom and dad deliver on. The more inconsistency, the less value
there is to communicate with the parent."
Albert uses Stephen Covey’s model of the emotional bank account to
illustrate the point. "In essence, you’re either making a deposit or a
withdrawal into the account with your child. Overall the relationship
still remains positive if you develop more emotional accountability."
So how do you do that?
Be your word. Being your word, says Albert is "following through on
your commitments." If you don’t "over time we lose our reliability
factor. If we chastise them for their unreliability, then we add
hypocrisy to the judgments they make about us."
For example: "If they say: "I’ve asked you five times to take me to
the mall and something always comes up," acknowledge that you haven’t
followed through. Then follow through with integrity by doing what you
say you’ll do."
This goes for discipline too. If they don’t like their curfew, you can
listen to them – Albert suggests that you "be receptive to listening
to the child without judgment" while making sure that you stand firm
on what you value. To the curfew issue he says you can tell your
child: "I understand you don’t like the curfew, but that’s not
negotiable." Then, stick to it.
Incorporate feedback. Define your expectations with your children, but
be sure to stay in conversation to "evaluate and renegotiate.
Incorporate feedback from the teen. They want to be heard." Even if
you don’t "give in," if you’re really listening and acknowledging
them, you’re breaking the unconscious routine of parent as dictator
and moving into parent as coach.
Know what matters. "Most of us need time to really clarify what our
values are. Most of us," Albert says, are living all areas of our
lives, including how we parent "on the fly. Process your values.
"Slow down life," he suggests. "Open up new possibilities of
conversation with your children." And at some point you might want to
mention that there is absolutely no target practice in the living
– Deb Cooperman
A grant proposal is not a document – it is a campaign. The care,
thought, and planning you invest in each step of your campaign will
directly affect your odds of reeling in a piece of the $486 billion
given away by government and private sources annually in America.
The four-day seminar "How to Win Grants," beginning on Monday, July
26, at 8:30 a.m. at the Hilton Hotel in Hasbrouck Heights aims to
improve the odds for grant applicants. Cost: $659. Call 803-750-9759.
The course is taught by South Carolina-based Research Associates,
which boasts a 90 percent success rate for its clients over the past
Research Associates director of publicity and training, Kourtnay King,
who will be heading up the July seminar, notes how often grant seekers
fail to see the full scope of their undertaking. Since her youth in
Charleston, South Carolina, King was schooled in the ways of grant
makers. Her academic father and mother, employed by a local
non-profit, each gained outside funding for their projects from both
the public and private sectors.
After earning a B.A. in English from South Carolina’s Columbia
College, she put her career on hold for three years, "waiting tables
and learning what was out there." Two years ago she put both her
writing and evaluating talents to use by joining Research Associates.
King invariably presents grant seekers with a long, multi-step outline
that sends applicants back, beyond themselves, and into the community
they want to serve.
Selecting your mission. Set aside all those possible sources of
funding; set aside even your own organization and its capabilities for
a moment. Turn back and re-examine that community or group of people
you first sought to help, or the original rationale for your research.
Seek out the need – it may surprise you.
When great benefactor Andrew Carnegie came to Princeton University, he
examined all of the college’s requirements and decided what it really
needed was a lake that would encourage rowing and wean the boys away
from the barbarity of football.
While you probably will not want to trust your gut whimsy as much as
the grand Carnegie did, look hard. You never know. King suggests
professionally surveying the population or the field you aim to aid.
Get the input from those seeking your solutions.
Once you have discovered several needs, list the methods by which your
organization is able, and willing, to help. Only after you have your
own mission solidly fixed in all your members’ minds can you begin the
hunt for grantors. Tailoring your program to the grantor makes you
just a general beggar, and it will show.
"In examining the many grantors, I cannot stress strongly enough that
people look at what each agency specifically wants to fund," insists
Looking into sources of funds. Most libraries have innumerable volumes
describing public and private funding agencies. Somewhere out there
are patrons designed to fund your individual program. The New York
organization www.FoundationCenter.org will lead you to the most
comprehensive lists. The Foundation Center also provides grant writing
seminars, open discussions with grantors, and encourages walk-ins at
its Manhattan offices.
King suggests funds seekers check the IRS foundation listings. Since
every private foundation must register, it is a good way to hunt up
some of the more obscure patrons. Additionally, every good public and
academic library holds both hard copy and online files on public and
private grantors, all cross indexed. Remember, your mission pie may
best be funded by slicing it up among several donors.
Assembling the team. Grant proposal preparation calls for just the
right number of cooks, each with his own specialty. Ideally, each
responsibility is relegated to an individual expert, but organization
size may dictate some doubling up.
The overall team captain need not be the best at anything, except
managing. You will need a surveyor who knows how to obtain good
statistics, and how to define your mission. Through the course of the
project, he can determine how well the project is succeeding. A
numbers cruncher/bookkeeper should be assigned the job of soliciting
the various costs and translating them into a budget. Throughout the
project, a number of people can act as researchers, unearthing data on
potential grantors, possible tools, and workers for your effort. They
can feed the writers a constant flow of information.
An overall grant author should oversee all the writing to make it flow
smoothly as if from a single voice. King prefers to have several
writers providing their expertise along with several reviewers giving
their take on the final form. A computer wizard is also essential, as
is a general gofer, who can answer the call: "Help, we are out of
toner, who is going to get some at this hour?"
Study the RFP compulsively. You have selected your mission, applied to
a grantor, and now his thick RFP (request for proposal) lands on your
desk. "Slowly, carefully, read it five times through. Make notes and
list questions. Pass it along to every member of the grant team and
others in your company. Then take it back, and read it five times
more," says King.
Do not annoy the grantor. Once you have a solid comprehension of the
RFP, bundle up all your questions into a single E-mail and send them
to the grantor. (E-mail, rather than phone allows for an easy, written
response.) Please, do not annoy the grantor by dribbling in daily
Now comes the tricky part, which grant advisors love to debate. How
much phone or personal contact do you try to make with the grantor?
Many experienced applicants insist you should always try to establish
a personal relationship with at least one member of the grantor’s
staff. A bit more cautious, King feels that "while it certainly cannot
hurt to have friends in high places, you do not want to pester the
people you are asking for money." In the end, this is something the
grant seeker must feel his way through, but better to err on the side
Starting to write. No sweet, lyrical piece of prose will seduce folks
into pouring cash into a bad project. However, the best of projects
can be foiled by a shoddily written proposal. King suggests a steady,
flowing narrative style. "Clarity" and "spoon-feed your reader" are
good mottos. Received as one of hundreds, your proposal will be
briefly scanned by evaluators under time pressure, so aim for a ninth
grade reading level. And please – no jargon. It only lets the grantors
know that you are eagerly to impress them. While you never want to
plead, it is all right to become emotional and convince readers of the
sincerity of your passion.
Achieving a look. Presentation is often as effective as content in the
proposal. "You want to demonstrate that you are professional, without
appearing slick," advises King. If you are a non-profit, perhaps your
charts might be better received in an appropriately frugal black and
white. If you are a corporation, your potential grantor already knows
you can afford a color copier, so go ahead and compete with bright
Even font style can be persuasive, as does finding that ideal depth of
detail, (somewhere between fully explained and exhaustively boring).
Finally, and probably most important, have you answered every question
as the grantor asked it? Don’t assume that any question doesn’t apply.
Throughout the life of your project, continued evaluation should be
maintained. Frequently, though not always, the grantor demands
periodic reports on monies spent and results achieved. For your own
records alone, it is worthwhile to establish such a self-evaluation
schedule. Noting in the proposal that you plan to share your own
evaluation reports provides a nice competitive edge. At the very
least, it will sustain a track record with the grantor and improves
your odds when you return with your hat in your hand next year.
– Bart Jackson
Watch any episode of television’s "West Wing" and you will walk away
with one constant moral: persuasive writing matters – and it pays
well. Perhaps few understand this unobtrusive truth as thoroughly as
the writers of grant proposals. Along with the grant administrators
and evaluators, they are the ones who help steer the big money as it
transfers from patron to grantee. And often it rubs off. While the top
successful corporate grant-getters can pull down $200,000 annual
salaries, certain independents have been known to trouser $40,000 for
a mere 10 hours work. Not a bad day’s pay for a wordsmith.
Yet grant writing is scarcely a financial panacea, allowing every
starving novelist to drive around in a Mercedes while waiting for
Random House to accept his magnum opus. For most, grant preparation
provides either a nice supplement or an acceptable wage. According to
a national survey taken by Research Associates, a grantmaking firm
with headquarters in Columbia, South Carolina, the average
professional grant writer across America earns from $35,000 to
$45,000. East Coast writers will find more competition yet more
On the other side of the table, grant administrators – managers
employed by foundations and other patrons – earned nationally $45,000
to $60,000 on average, but substantially more in the West and
Northeast. Grant evaluators, those on the grantor’s staff who review
stacks of applications, bring home about $10,000 less annually than
their administrator bosses.
Experience, as in so many fields, seems to be the key to higher
salaries. Grant writers with a 20-year track record, nationally ranged
from $45,000 to $60,000, while more than a third of those in the trade
for only three years were commanding under $35,000. Likewise, most
20-year grant evaluators had graduated to the $60,000 to $75,000
Yet very few companies, whether for-profit or non-profit, employ a
person solely to write grants. In l975, Anne Black stepped out of the
University of South Carolina with an M.S. in biostatistics and
databases. She eased into the office of her first job in a large
private firm all prepared to do federal healthcare reporting and was
told, "Oh, by the way, you are also our grant writer." More than a
little stunned, she realized that management’s decision was based on
her swift access to numbers and research data. It seems to have
worked. Today, she is a senior grant writer for Research Associates
with an enviable batting average.
Municipalities are increasingly eying the governmental and private
funding fountains and assigning grantmaking as a fixed part of the
duties to qualified employees. Former South Brunswick police officer
Ron Schmalz in 2000 doffed his uniform and became that town’s public
relations coordinator for a salary of $53,333. High on his job
description was responsibility for finding, landing and often writing
the township’s grant applications. While his current remuneration
represents no great leap over an average police officer, it does
afford Schmalz occupational variety.
While some people, like Schmalz, take jobs that require extensive
grant writing, may others go out on their own, establishing a
freelance specialty in grant writing. Mark Leckington, founding
partner of Community Grants & Planning in East Windsor, has been
writing grants on his own in the central New Jersey area for 11 years.
The towns of Hightstown, East and West Windsor, Princeton, Hopewell,
Ewing, South Brunswick, and Hamilton all owe him thanks for the
millions of dollars he has directed into their coffers.
"Over the past five years," Leckington notes, "we have fully saturated
about four small, distinct markets, because everything in this
business is so word of mouth. Neighbors talk. One township will hear
of what we have gained for the town next door, and will call us." This
folksy marketing approach prevails nationwide primarily because
municipalities and not-for-profit organizations have an instinctive
repugnance for slick advertising.
For the grant writer getting started this means that it is probably
not necessary to spend a lot of money on advertising. However, no one
knocks on your door. Like old-time lawyers before the strictures on
commercial ads were lifted, you must get out in the community, join
groups, hustle, and make your presence known. Then, when you set your
rates, remember that for each billable hour spent writing a grant
proposal, you have probably spent one hour marketing your expertise.
Of the oceans of writers’ associations, probably the only one whose
website is likely to net your personal classified a solid
grant-writing hit is the Editorial Freelancers Association,
Since grant preparation involves researchers, accountants, surveyors,
computer wizards, and community experts as well as good authors, the
team approach has become the most popular. As in theatrical
production, the writer plays only one vital part. Typically, people
bring one or two skills to the work of writing grant applications. As
a young high school techie, Leckington used to help out at his uncle’s
real estate office in Ewing. One day in l989 he wandered next door and
discovered elderly grant writer Charles Nathander tapping away on a
typewriter. Soon Leckington rolled up his sleeves and helped
Nathander’s shop computerize. In return, the older man taught
Leckington the trade that has become his career.
Leaving Mercer College with his degree unfinished, Leckington joined
with Randall Gottesman and opened Community Grants & Planning in l993.
Today the firm boasts a home run average in the high eight-hundreds
for its mostly municipal clients. "Part of that record is due to our
pre-reviewing process," says Leckington. "We always advise people
against making highly improbable applications."
The skills. Since every application is a complex and individual
entity, the skills vary. "Certainly strong writing ability is prime,"
says Leckington, "but it alone is not enough to carry you through."
Attorneys, professional planners, and published writers all work on
Community Grants’ staff, full or part time.
"Probably the most important skill is the ability to envision the
need," says states Leckington. Frequently the grant writer is less a
hired gun than a problem solver who must come up with an answer for an
unsure client. Hone to a sharp edge that magic capacity to interview
well and analyze beyond the words.
Research Associates’ senior grant writer Black goes a bit further and
states that a good grant writer needs compassion. "He needs to carry
around his portable soap box, and find where the grass roots are," she
says. Also, she adds, do not neglect your budgetary training. Black
has found that most grantors absolutely feast upon detailed
accounting. More detail than less is her motto. Thus even if the
application budget is assembled by an accountant, you, the writer must
be totally conversant with it.
Since the training is broad, very little is official. The National
Association of Grant Writers is a loose confederation that eases in an
out of activity from time to time. On the East Coast, the would-be
grant writer can find training at The Foundation Center, 75 Fifth
Avenue, in Manhattan; 212-620-4230; www.FoundationCenter.org. This
nationwide organization primarily links grant seekers with grantors,
but it also offers extensive courses in grant preparation, and career
opportunities. Its website even features available in-house positions.
Research Associates also offers an extensive training course at many
locations on the East Coast. Their four-day seminar costs $629. Call
Once you have trained yourself with this rather eclectic and vague
list of skills, you will still have to scare up your own clientele.
Leckington estimates it takes about five years to establish a solid
customer base. But the individual writer seeking just to dabble and
gain supplemental income need not wait so long.
Most application preparing firms charge by the billing hour, or quote
a flat fee based on the type of grant. Percentage rates are frowned
upon and can earn you a bad reputation in a hurry. Leckington cites
the case of a one-person company in northern New Jersey that took on
the very easy application for road improvement for one town. The town
was awarded the $400,000, but it could not afford his 10 percent fee.
"In the end, the town had to refuse the award, and give back to the
state the whole $400,000 for want of this guy’s bill," Leckington
In short, grant writing provides a marvelously varied career for the
perceptive generalist. You can bite off a piece, or take on a whole
project; get into the field full or part time. Locally, Community
Grants and Planning welcomes new and able candidates, 609-371-1937;
www.CGPlan.com. All you need is a good pen and a portable soapbox.
– Bart Jackson
What are the odds of your going to the moon? About the same as the
odds of late-l9th century tourists making it to the South Pole. Yet
less than a century after the first footprint in l911, tourists,
researchers, and trekkers line up by the thousands to comfortably
abide on the foreboding expanses where Roald Admunsen first stood –
and where Robert F. Scott died. Clearly, the pioneers have gone and
the homesteaders have moved in. Perhaps lunar landings too are not so
far from the public’s grasp.
By what steps will the extraterrestrial realms shift from the
explorer’s to the traveler’s venue? This is one of the questions
considered in "Space: New Missions and Opportunities" on Tuesday, July
27, at 5 p.m., a New Jersey Technology Council event taking place at
the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory. Cost: $40. Visit
This roundtable includes Michael Paluszek, president of Princeton
Satellite Systems, and Lewis Mixler, director of technology transfer
for Princeton Plasma Physics Labs. As well as discussing how our
society will progress spaceward, these NASA-connected veterans outline
the broad spectrum of career opportunities for those seeking to
participate in such missions.
NASA is the hub, but she reaches everywhere for help. Prior to each
launch, the agency solicits every corner of the private sector. Its
latest mission is to return to the moon, with an eye toward expanding
planetary exploration. In response, Princeton Satellite Systems has
bid on the full CER (concept, exploration, and refinement) package.
Along with more than 1,000 other competing firms, Paluszek and his
crew have wholly conceptualized how the mission will run. Their plans
detail the main transport and all support vehicles used. They have
presented total cost models, along with each individual factor from
how much fuel to what kind of technicians will be required.
So what is Princeton Satellite’s model? "That’s privileged," says
Paluszek. "NASA doesn’t begin reviewing until September. Everything’s
a secret until then."
This step into space is scarcely a bold new venture for either the
12-year-old Princeton Satellite Systems, based at 33 Witherspoon
Street, or its founder/president. Raised by a mechanical engineer
father, Paluszek grew up in Westchester, New York and Toronto,
eventually finding an academic home at the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology. Earning a B.S. in electrical engineering in l976, he
earned graduate degrees in aeronautical engineering, and then in
"Those were the days of the great mid 1970s fuel crunch," Paluszek
recalls. "The government had funded many of us to work on fuel
enhancement and alternative energy sources. Then the crunch vanished
and so did the funding."
Moving across Cambridge’s Kendall Square to the Draper Laboratories,
Paluszek took up work on navigational systems for space shuttle
vehicles. He came to central New Jersey to join the then-GE Astro team
as one of its principal designers of satellite control systems, such
as the GPS Polar. By l992 West Windsor’s GE Astro plant had seen
several new logos, and owners, and Paluszek decided to strike out on
his own. Today his Princeton Satellite Systems creates a variety of
software for NASA and for private space launch companies.
Exactly how far we will go into space Paluszek sees as a social,
rather than a technological question. Surely, it was international
competition that drove technology and pushed us to put a man on the
moon. And, in his opinion, it must be society’s needs and desires that
will motivate the next steps.
Support and subsidy. "The whole reason the public became
disinterested in space launches from the mid-1970s through the
early-1990s is that people saw space as forever relegated to a few
astronauts," says Paluszek. The original space shuttles, designed to
shatter that vision, proved so expensive and so slow to turn around
that the astronauts-only perception only grew stronger. As a result,
NASA’s funding slackened and the desperate agency was forced to hit
the public relations trail.
"Every major mode of transportation is subsidized," Paluszek points
out. Large scale transport requires government aid. Most folks agree
that a high speed rail trail would be a marvelous thing, especially
for America’s coasts. Two hours from Boston or Washington to central
Manhattan would help literally millions. The technology exists, but
the railway does not, simply because no single company could gain all
the easements, lay the track, establish the stations, and still make a
profit. The government would have to vote to pitch in.
A matter of infrastructure. Does NASA have a vision that the public
will vote to support? Paluszek thinks so. The concept of offering a
broader access to space will fire the public’s imagination, he
believes. When a man thinks, "Well, maybe not for me, but definitely
for my children…" he is very inclined to back this journey.
Backing the journey of great numbers into space means paying for the
infrastructure. Facilities for many lunar trips, in reasonable-sized,
newly modified vehicles, launched from many areas, would have to be
established, and so would receiving services at the destination. "This
is going to be a bigger bill to swallow than most previous transport
systems," warns Paluszek, "because it all comes in one chunk." Citing
the analogy of today’s vast air transport system, he says, "Imagine if
we had only a few 747s flying, only for military use. Now suppose you
wanted to expand that into a nationwide or global air passenger
service. Think of establishing all the airports, the connecting links,
the flight controllers." The lists (and costs) go on endlessly. But
the technology exists.
Your chance to participate. As NASA encourages us back to the moon in
greater numbers, career opportunities abound. "Every technical field,
from software creator to hardware engineers, up to all kinds of
managers will be required," Paluszek says. Inventors who can design
everything from specialized hand tools to comfortable sleep chambers
could find themselves bankrolled. Public relations professionals will
explain each new step to an anxious audience Research and development
experts in nutrition and robotics as well as mass manufacturers will
find a profitable niche.
While the sleep chamber design jobs are not available right away,
those seeking to put groceries on their earthly tables immediately
might want to take a look at www. sbir.gsfc.nasa.gov to determine what
NASA wants through its Small Business Innovation Research program. The
site displays its full list of current projects and individual
Laying the track. Back when NASA and other defense agencies had set up
satellite infrastructure for possible commercial use, Pan Am rolled
the dice. It invested the $50 million it cost and launched its own
communications satellite, selling the links to television stations. It
is arguably the best investment the firm ever made. Today, virtually
anyone with a spare $50 million can launch a satellite, with estimated
returns running $100 million annually.
"If we create the space travel infrastructure, people will find
reasons to go; just like intercontinental flights," Paluszek assures
us. He foresees great potential in research, mining, and other
industry. The elements exist, many say, to make rocket fuel on the
moon. Imagine the leap if space transport were not tethered to its
earthly base by a fuel hose. The possibilities exist, and if we
choose, technology will follow. It’s the taxpayers’ call.
– Bart Jackson
Corrections or additions?
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