Come See & Touch the Future at PortTechEXPO

A solar concentrator dish that can burn through a one-inch thick solid steel block (at 2,650º F), create steam to run a turbine, or recycle wastewater for reuse; hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles; an electric semi truck; a remotely operated zero emission vehicle, on which can be mounted cameras and sensors for diverse purposes, such as railroad track safety or marine infrastructure inspections; a computer system that uses game theory to prevent security breaches… these and scores of other exciting clean energy, environmental, transportation and security technologies will be on display during the fourth annual PortTechEXPO. This year, for the first time, the public is invited for a free, action-packed afternoon seeing and touching these technologies of the future.

Produced by PortTechLA, the expo will take place on Wednesday, September 11, at Crafted at the Port of Los Angeles (110 E. 22nd Street; 22nd Street at Harbor Blvd.).

PortTechLA is a local public/private nonprofit with a global reach. It is dedicated to creating sustainable technology companies for ports and beyond by bringing together entrepreneurs, corporate partners and investors to accelerate innovation, advance clean technologies and help create economic opportunities. PortTech promotes and helps to develop technologies that enable enterprises to meet their environmental, energy, security, transportation and logistics goals. Attracting and growing these technology companies creates new jobs, protects current jobs by ensuring that our port remains competitive, and reduces negative environmental impacts on local communities.

PortTechEXPO kicks off with a morning session featuring Federal Maritime Commission Chairman Mario Cordero, a panel discussion focused on Clean Energy, and a luncheon with Keynote Speaker, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. Tickets and table sponsorships for the morning session and luncheon are still available at From 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. exhibits open for the free public event: “CleanTech – Cool Tech.”

Much of the CleanTech – Cool Tech event is focused on education. The Port of Los Angeles TransPORTer, a mobile exhibit that features displays on the history, jobs, cargo, equipment, environmental programs and future of the port, will open for visitors. Southern California’s top research universities will be represented with displays and interactive exhibits on their latest research and development projects. And local high schools have been invited to bring displays on their STEM projects. Anyone considering a career in research, technology or the maritime industries, will surely find something of interest at the expo.

Clean Tech – Cool Tech will also feature a host of alternative fuel and electric vehicles for use on both land and water. If you are considering purchasing a hybrid or plug-in electric automobile, several vehicles will be available to look over, and experts certified to maintain them will be available to answer questions. Small, medium and full-size electric trucks will also be on display. And speaking of vehicles, unmanned, remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) are becoming more versatile for both land and sea applications, and both will be exhibited at the expo.

Electric lighting and ways of saving energy have been hot topics for years. We’ve progressed from incandescent, to fluorescent, to Light Emitting Diode (LED) lights in an effort to reduce energy and cost. Come see a demonstration of the next generation in lighting: Light Emitting Plasma (LEP).

Councilman Joe Buscaino will be the featured speaker during the Clean Tech – Cool Tech event. In addition, representatives from AltaSea, the marine research center planned for City Dock #1, will share their vision and plans for the iconic, world-class facility. Food trucks and entertainment round out the event. So, step into the future on September 11 at the fourth annual PortTechEXPO. For further info, see

Herb Zimmer owns PriorityOne Printing in downtown San Pedro and serves as Board Chairman of PortTechLA.

San Pedro: Constantly Evolving, Yet Grounded in History

“Like the Pacific Ocean lapping at its shores, the community of San Pedro is ever-changing… the only constant is that its culture, economy and environment are, as always, tied to its port.” Those were the opening words of an article on San Pedro’s past and future that I wrote a few years back for a Chamber of Commerce publication. On the occasion of San Pedro’s 125th anniversary, it seems appropriate to revisit some of what I learned while researching that article.

Every community evolves based on changes in economic trends, demographics and technological developments. San Pedro is not unique in that respect. However, we are certainly unique in how those factors, in combination with our geographic location, have shaped the community that San Pedro is today and will become in the future.

Historically, our economy has evolved through multiple stages: ranching, trading in hides and lumber, military activities, fishing, canning, shipbuilding, and international trade. All have had their impact on the community, and each one, to a greater or lesser extent, has been dependent on the fact that we are located adjacent to one of the world’s great ports.

Each economic era brought new demographic elements to the community. Originally populated by Spanish and Mexican ranching families, the advent of military activities and large fishing and shipbuilding industries brought new immigrants from around the country and around the world. Today, San Pedro is truly an ethnic melting pot with many residents tracing their heritage to Spanish, Mexican, Italian, Slavic, Japanese, Norwegian Swedish and other immigrants. The blend of traditions, ideas and cultures that derives from that mix has given San Pedro a flavor all its own, and an energy and open-mindedness that’s seldom found in more homogenous communities.

Technological change has also had a major effect on San Pedro. Ships have gone from sail, to steam, to diesel power, and have grown from small schooners to megaships. That has enabled the pace of international trade and activity at our port to increase exponentially and, with the advent of containerization, automation has made it possible to handle enormous volumes of cargo. The downside has been that automation brought with it the negative effects of fewer local jobs and the added pollution produced by diesel-powered ships, trains, trucks and cargo handling equipment.

Looking to the future, San Pedro will continue to evolve economically, environmentally and socially. To become sustainable in all three areas will require the creation of a new, well-paid local job base and the elimination of the negative environmental effects produced by the large industrial port. Knowing that, port management and the community have come together on several sustainability initiatives primarily centered on diversification of port-related activity.

Current and future community development plans include a bridge-to-breakwater waterfront promenade and Red Car route, the USS Iowa, a new downtown harbor and plaza, a completely redeveloped Ports O’ Call Village, Crafted at the Port of Los Angeles and AltaSea (a world-class marine research institute). These waterfront venues are designed to create new jobs based on tourism, arts and culture, recreation, academics and marine research. PortTechLA, a public/private technology center and business incubator founded by the San Pedro business community in cooperation with the City and Port of Los Angeles, will develop and grow new technical, manufacturing and export jobs by attracting companies with technologies that help port tenants meet challenges with the environment, clean energy, logistics and homeland security.

This is a very dynamic and exciting time for our community. However, as our economy grows, we add new community assets, and become more environmentally sustainable, one thing is sure to remain constant… that unique sense of community that has marked our entire history. People make a community. And there is no better community in which to live, work and play than San Pedro. spt

Herb Zimmer owns PriorityOne Printing in downtown.

The Future Will Be All About Electricity

If you’re like me, you’ve pretty much taken electricity for granted. However, after a couple of recent extended power outages in our neighborhood, I really began thinking about just how much our lives are based on those little electrons flowing into the devices that make our standard of living possible.

As if I needed more evidence of the importance of electricity, once the power was restored, I happened upon an episode of the television series, Revolution, the premise of which is that all electric power in the world suddenly goes out permanently. In the series, civil society devolves into warring factions on horseback with bows and arrows. Fiction? Yes. But, consider everything you use during an average day that runs on electricity or required electricity for its manufacture. The generation, distribution, conservation, storage and cost of electricity are becoming more and more critical, not only in our personal lives, but for our entire economy.

Our largest local economic asset is the port. Take a look at that port, especially at night. Imagine how much electricity it takes to keep operations running safely and smoothly. Without a constant, consistent flow of electricity, all the goods that come into the port, and all the jobs they represent, are in danger of going elsewhere. The challenge, therefore, is to ensure that, as the port grows “green,” the supply of clean electric energy grows with it.

Electricity can be generated in numerous ways. Some methods use fossil fuels to run turbines. The obvious downside is that fossil fuels are not green. Nuclear power generation has its own environmental and safety problems. Solar, wind, fuel cell, hydroelectric, thermoelectric and wave action generation are more environmentally sustainable, and some combination of these renewables will likely be the future of electricity generation. The challenge, however, is that there are still significant technological and cost factors to overcome. Likewise, finding ways to store large amounts of that generated energy for use at a later time remains an elusive goal.

Electricity is distributed to users through a grid system. Our current grid infrastructure is in dire need of upgrading to keep pace with the exponential growth in electricity demand. It also needs to become “smarter” in order to do things such as smoothly integrate intermittent sources of electricity – like solar and wind – into the overall flow and also enable prioritization of distribution-based critical need.

Finding solutions to the above challenges is a high priority with our research and entrepreneur communities. One recent week, I witnessed just two examples: Through PortTechLA, I met Dr. Rajit Gadh, Director of UCLA’s SMERC (Smart Grid Energy Research Center). Dr. Gadh demonstrated for us how, using his smartphone, he monitors and controls 15 multi-plug electric vehicle charging stations on the UCLA campus. He is able to, among other things, stop and start charging of any vehicle, time charging to use off-peak rates when possible, and prioritize which vehicle gets charged first, based on when it is going to be needed. Combining the electric grid, wireless Internet, advanced sensors and smartphone technology in this way will revolutionize how future fleets of electric vehicles are controlled. The same week, I was part of a tour of one of the port’s terminal operations where advanced, more efficient, less expensive LED lamps are being tested as a replacement for the old high-pole sodium lamp “wagon wheels” we’re used to seeing every night. These lamps could save terminal operators thousands of dollars and produce better lighting for safety purposes. Even more energy efficient plasma lamps are just coming available, too.

Bottom line: While we can’t take electricity for granted, and there are challenges ahead, some really exciting things are happening in the world of electric power. spt

Herb Zimmer owns PriorityOne Printing in downtown San Pedro.

and is chairman of the PortTechLA technology business incubator.