Sticking up for the underdog

Lori Farley, left, and Jennifer Singer

CALGARY, Alta. — A new scholarship aimed to help those looking to launch a new business is honoring the memory of trucking pioneer Ron Singer.

Intonovus Canada, along with the support of Singer’s daughter, Jennifer, initiated the Ron Singer Business Development Fund after receiving a donation from the Alberta Construction Trucking Association (ACTA), a group currently in hiatus.

Lori Farley of Intonovus had been involved with the ACTA since 2012, learning about the trucking industry and its struggles to find workers during that time. With money in the bank, the ACTA donated to a number of not-for-profits and charities, Intonovus being one.

Farley said the goal of Intonovus was to use the money it received in a way that would help people start businesses in Alberta’s new economy.

“Intonovus Canada is designed to partner with organizations, entities, not-for-profits, charities…anybody that is pushing forward on social impact,” said Farley, explaining that social impact includes how Alberta workers transition into new businesses instead of seeking employment with larger corporations.

Farley said with many trucking companies in the province struggling as a result of the recent economic downturn, it was important to create a legacy for Ron Singer, whose passion was trucking.

“We want to make it easier for those people who have no resources and no knowledge of starting a business to help them grow those (new) businesses,” she said.

Ron Singer

Singer started in the trucking industry in 1966 and logged more than four million miles over a 40-year career. He worked as a driver, mechanic, welder, driver trainer, supervisor, and operations manager.

When his father retired in 1973, Singer purchased a truck and became an owner-operator. Purchasing additional trucks over the years, he incorporated in 1978 and launched Ron Singer Truck Lines.

Singer passed away in 2014, and today, his daughter, Jennifer, is operations manager for the company.

The creation of the Ron Singer Business Development Fund is part of an overall effort by Intonovus Canada to build a $20 million fund to help entrepreneurial endeavors.

“One of the reasons the scholarship is so important to what we do is to make sure that we don’t leave any people out,” said Farley. “We make sure that truckers know about it, so if they’re wanting to start a trucking business, they have some help early to structure and think about what their business is moving into, five, 10, 20 years from now, what that will look like.”

Though the scholarship is not solely for those looking to launch a trucking company, it does give such ventures priority.

“If there is a woman who applies,” said Farley, “we’re not going to turn someone away because they are not in the trucking industry.”

It is also primarily geared toward women, youth, those with disabilities, and rural residents. Those who have recently lost their job or have had to shut down their trucks will also get special consideration.

“Anybody can apply. We don’t want to put certain guidelines,” said Singer, adding that it is often difficult for people looking to start a new business to find funding sources, especially women. “You don’t get money from anywhere.

There has to be a place for regular people (to get funding) but there’s nowhere to turn.”

Singer said the goal of the scholarship is to make it easier for people to access the necessary funding to start a new business, regardless of what individual needs each applicant may have. There are other avenues people can take to find funding when starting a new business, but they often come with various caveats applicants must meet to receive the assistance.

“It’s different for everybody, some people need different help for various things,” said Singer. “I don’t want to make it hard for people. Especially being a woman being in construction and trucking…thank goodness for my dad, or I won’t have had anything.”

Singer said her father was a man who would always stick up for the underdog, and drivers more often than not fell into this category.

“He was always in the battle for a trucker. It didn’t matter if he lost all his friends and people disagreed with him, he always stood by them,” she said. “He wouldn’t put up with a trucker being treated like garbage.”

To qualify for the Ron Singer Business Development Fund, applicants must meet certain guidelines, including being located in the Calgary area, are starting their first or a new business, and can commit to attending programs offered by Intonovus Canada and Impact Calgary.

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A university graduate with a degree in English, I have worked in the media and trucking industries as a writer, editor, and now as western bureau chief of Today's Trucking and I have several years of management experience in journalism, as well as hospitality, but am first and foremost a writer, both professionally and in my personal life, having completed two fiction novels.

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