Will, this is a really interesting article. It would be interesting to know if Amtrak has looked into other areas of revenue generation beyond simply serving passengers. In Alaska we would often face a similar issue with airplanes, in that our airplanes would never achieve the scale necessary to make a run profitable. So what wound up happening is that the airplanes would take their extra capacity and use it for cargo/freight service. Alaska Airlines was able to get contracts to deliver mail for the postal service on their planes, which helped to make the runs more profitable. It would be interesting to see if Amtrak could do something similar, and use their excess capacity to deliver certain forms of cargo as a way of closing some of their profitability gap. You would think that if the government were already propping them up, we could at least be using their network as a way to transport something like mail or parcel service, perhaps at a lower rate than what we could get from air cargo.
My wife an I love the idea of Amtrak, but have always wound up passing on it because it winds up being so much more expensive than other forms of travel. If they were able to get their costs and prices under control, it might actually be a concept that would make sense. I like your ideas for how the company could improve!
I love the work of SpaceX and actually think that it has the potential to be one of the more interesting companies of the next generation. It sounds like Elon has the goal of ultimately using SpaceX to explore space, but it will be interesting to see if, and how, he is able to balance that goal with the goal of making the industry profitable. It would be great to see further partnership between SpaceX and NASA as a way to make both of them better and more efficient. NASA’s shift toward unmanned aircraft, while cheaper, just doesn’t have the same wow factor that it used to. It would be great to see an organization out there that once again challenges what we can accomplish as a species. I hope that SpaceX can figure this out to really ramp up our exploration of space. Great choice for a company to look at! Hopefully they can keep up the good work and continue to innovate.
I think you hit on a great point when you mentioned the issues of having such a concentration of grant funding within SC. This is something that is a problem for a great number of nonprofits all over the globe. You touched on a few of the key issues of grant funding, namely sustainability and continuity. One of the challenges that many nonprofits face is that funders are always looking to fund something “new.” As a result, many funders do not offer renewals on their grants. At least in my experience, what this leads to is that many nonprofits will shift their focus over time to “follow” the grant money. At my previous employer, each grant would almost be its own startup, and then just as the program would hit a point of reaching sustainability, the funding would go away and the program wasn’t quite ready to make it on its own. This can lead to tremendous ineffectiveness within the sector, both for funders and the nonprofits themselves. It would be interesting to know more about how SC deals with the challenges that come with funders changing their focus areas over time.
I love this type of a hotel concept! Back in Fairbanks, AK we actually have something similar called the aurora ice hotel. They originally tried to build a an ice hotel for people to stay at, but found that US building code requirements were so stringent that it simply wasn’t something that would be viable in the long term. For a while, however, they had a few guests that would stay there at really high rates, and the company would probably still be doing it if it weren’t for the code issues. What they wound up doing was converting it to a hotel/museum that is housed inside of a larger, permanent structure so that they can keep it up year-round, similar to what Avani was mentioning. I think one of the charming aspects about your company’s concept, and perhaps why they choose to make a new hotel each year, is that it keeps the concept fresh. Each year they can try a new design, new decor, new ice/snow sculptures on the inside, etc. The folks in Fairbanks, much like these guys, also discovered that serving drinks out of ice martini glasses was a great revenue stream. All in all its a great concept and one that has tremendous potential to remain fresh and exciting. I would also imagine that a lot of the internal artwork can be sourced by local artists who simply want to showcase their craft rather than command a high price point. Really unique idea!