JUSTON SMITHERS | CTO
Red Fox Resources and 44 Energy Technologies has been a Payroll Systems customer since 2013
For years, adorable children in school buses have begged and cajoled truck drivers to honk their horns. Freeway-fieldtrip etiquette requires these truck drivers to graciously comply. What these children don’t realize is they have something in common with those truck drivers: they are all riding in diesel powered vehicles.
Admittedly, it’s a stretch of a transition. But the nostalgia of big truck excitement is something we can all relate to. That youthful excitement has evolved into an adult career for founders Brad Edgar and Juston Smithers. Having worked on diesel emission control technologies together since 2002, they joined forces in 2013 to create and develop two companies: 44 Energy Technologies, a consultancy and technology investment company, and Red Fox Resources.
Big trucks, buses, heavy equipment, and generators use diesel particulate filers (DPFs) and diesel oxidation catalysts (DOCs) to help control particulate (soot) emissions. These parts contain precious metals like platinum and palladium, which are mostly sourced from mines outside the United States.
That is until now.
One of the main goals of Red Fox Resources is to create a domestic resource for platinum group metals (PGM) found in DPFs and DOCs. By recycling spent DPFs and DOCs, the parts are broken down and the metals are repurposed.
Creating domestic resources for these metals is just one positive outcome Red Fox Resources provides with their services. Over the last few years, fleets, service centers, and dismantlers didn’t have many options when it came to spent parts. For many, throwing them away was the easiest option. Because the metals have value, discarding them is equivalent to throwing away cash. Red Fox Resources pays companies for their spent DPFs and DOCs, returning value to customers for parts previously thought to be worthless.
The process Red Fox created for customers to sell old parts is more efficient and easier than dumping them.
“We knew early in the company we didn’t want to develop a technology-based product only to struggle to get customers to like it,” Juston said regarding how the company found its foundation and direction. “[It was] very much driven by listening to customers to understand how our skills and experience might service their needs.”
One example is a major transit agency that was required to keep their older diesel buses running even though replacement parts for their emission systems were no longer available. Juston and Brad thought, “We can use our background in emission control technology to develop solutions to repair and refurbish these parts and keep the buses running clean.” Sure enough, they did. And now they are looking to deploy their technology across the truck and bus industry to keep emission systems running well at a fraction of the cost of replacing with new.
Brad Edgar, co-founder of both companies, received his PhD in Mechanical Engineering from UC Berkeley, and has founded a number of successful businesses over his long career. In 2010, he received the prestigious Haagen-Smit award from the California Air Resources for outstanding contributions to emission control technologies.
Juston graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in Chemical Engineering, specializing in environmental technology. Out of school, Juston went to work for an environmental consultancy whose clients were major corporations. “Naïve Juston thought these guys want us to design an environmental-pro process. The realty was paperwork. They wanted to get the most profit for the least operating cost. That’s just how businesses operate. It wasn’t a positive impact. [I was] assisting clients doing what they were already doing.”
According to Juston, party conversations about environmental consulting were boring. And he agreed. That changed about 15 years ago with the advent of the clean diesel. With diesel powered cars making a commercial comeback, diesel trucks’ critical role in goods transport and heavy industry, and electric cars becoming mainstream for the average consumer, Juston now receives genuine interest about his job from others. It’s the “Rockstar” role of his environmental career.
“I walk around with a microphone,” Juston laughed in response to the Rockstar comparison.
For the record, he doesn’t. But he did make a point to say he plays the electric guitar. He was also kind enough to support that claim with photographic evidence.
And this little exchange is where Red Fox’s mission comes into play. The word “relationship” appears at the beginning and end of their mission statement. To write this client spotlight, Juston and Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Tripp Heller, were interviewed. Although professional and informative, they both were incredibly friendly and warm. They made the interview less about their company and more about placing focus on a relationship. In this case, a relationship with Payroll Systems. “I look for a personal relationship with all our vendors,” Juston said.
Juston was referred to Payroll Systems based on one of those relationships. “I don’t have a CFO background and I knew nothing about corporate governance. I never did HR. I had to learn this stuff in the school of hard knocks. No website guides you through the setup of a C-corp.”
“We didn’t do a cost-benefit analysis [on payroll providers]. We didn’t have time to do that stuff. I have since been very grateful we have you guys [Payroll Systems]. People like Katie can answer complicated questions quickly. It’s very personal. Katie taught me how to use the web interface. Once I learned it, it was a time saver.”
Katie is Juston’s dedicated Account Manager that Juston graciously advised should have a promotion.
Tripp chimed in regarding our services, “You guys are out in front of your competitors in terms of R&D tax credit that can be applied to a company’s payroll tax. You guys are ahead of the curve… easy and seamless which is what you want it to be.”
The R&D tax credit Tripp is referring to is The Research & Development Tax Credit. It is a general business tax credit for companies that incur research and development (R&D) costs in the United States.
Between Brad, Juston, and Tripp, new services and products continue to evolve. As Juston puts it “we’re never at stasis.” The business model of Red Fox Resources needs to continue to evolve organically. By listening to their clients and their needs, Red Fox will continue to create technologies dedicated to helping their target industries. Even the location of their headquarters was strategically picked with this evolution in mind.
Headquartered in Oakland, California, they are at the forefront of the State’s leading emission control standards. California has always been the national leader with regard to environmental policy and regulation, so Red Fox and 44 Energy Technologies are able to use their in-state experience to help national customers as regulations spread throughout the country.
This is yet another positive outcome of Red Fox Resources, helping businesses comply with regulations the moment they are rolled out. It’s another outcome that supports their mission: The use of diesel emission control parts (DPFs, DOCs, TWCs) is the result of complex intersection between regulations and technology—Red Fox Resources understands this intersection better than any other recycling company and utilizes our experience to provide solutions, earn trust and foster long-term relationships.