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Ms. Jennifer Gremmert with Energy Outreach Colorado talks about keeping neighbors safe, warm and healthy
18th December 2020 • The Industrial Talk Podcast with Scott MacKenzie • The Industrial Talk Podcast with Scott MacKenzie
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In this week's Industrial Talk Podcast, we're talking to Jennifer Gremmert, Executive Director at Energy Outreach Colorado about "Energy with a heart. Keeping your neighbor, safe, warm and healthy". Get the answers to your "How Can I Help" questions along with Jennifer's unique insight on the “How” on this Industrial Talk interview!

You can find out more about Jennifer and the wonderful team at Energy Outreach Colorado by the links below. Finally, get your exclusive free access to the Industrial Academy and a series on “Why You Need To Podcast” for Greater Success in 2021. All links designed for keeping you current in this rapidly changing Industrial Market. Learn! Grow! Enjoy!

JENNIFER'S CONTACT INFORMATION:

Personal LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jennifer-gremmert-56801a6/

Company LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/energy-outreach-colorado/

Company Website: https://www.energyoutreach.org/

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https://youtu.be/kZFJMlrPzOc

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Industrial Academy: https://industrialtalk.com/industrial-academy/

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Safety With Purpose Podcast: https://safetywithpurpose.com/

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PODCAST TRANSCRIPT:

SUMMARY KEYWORDS

people, energy, jennifer, home, funding, community, colorado, programs, challenge, podcast, families, natural gas, organization, utility, big, collaborate, partners, talking, industrial, health

SPEAKERS

Scott MacKenzie

00:04

Welcome to the industrial talk podcast with Scott MacKenzie. Scott is a passionate industry professional dedicated to transferring cutting edge industry focused innovations and trends while highlighting the men and women who keep the world moving. So put on your hard hat, grab your work boots, and let's go. Alright, welcome to the industrial talk podcast. My name is Scott MacKenzie, and thank you very much for joining this platform. This platform this podcast celebrates you, the women and men of industry. You are bold. You are braver. You dare greatly you changing the world and you're changing lives. Why not? Why not celebrate you because you deserve it. I'm a big fan of yours, FYI. So if anybody says, I don't have any fans, they're lying. Because you have one right here. Scott MacKenzie? industrial talk podcast. Okay, we're gonna be starting a new series. Now, this series is interesting. And we're gonna kick it off, and we'll get some more information. And in the hot seat, her name is Jennifer Gremmert. Right. And she is the executive director at energy outreach Colorado. We're speaking about the heart and helping people. How can you complain against that? Come on, let's get rockin. She's a firecracker. A lot of fun. Cool. As cool can be. That's who Jennifer is. But before we get going, I mentioned it briefly in the, you know, quickly. Now, this is interesting. So there's a, there's a desire on this part in a number of really great people who have a desire to sort of make sense of all this. So there's sensemaking, right? Of all of this COVID stuff, what do we do? Now, on this particular podcast, you've heard me hammer on and on and on, about the necessity to rebuild or survive, rebuild and prosper, right? What do we do? What are the strategies? How do we make sense of that 2020 is behind us. 2021 is right ahead of us. And we need strategies, we need people to be able to provide insights on what we can do to survive, rebuild and prosper. We have to you have to we have to make this happen. Because we're all about and and this is how it started talking about collaboration, right? collaborate, we just can't do it on ourselves collaborate, innovate, because we got to think differently. We've got to, I mean, we just have to, not just from a technology perspective, but just more into the how do we relate? How do we communicate? How do we make people succeed? How do we solve problems. And then, of course, the big one, for me, the huge one, for me, the biggest one of the bunch, is educate, and that's where sense making comes into play. We have been through a challenging year, some more than others. Some are tough. I mean, you get you get the various degrees. But the reality is, nobody's going to sit there and say, I was sort of a normal year, it wasn't right. And so myself, cap logistics, and others have come up with this program that we're putting, trying to put a meat on the bones as we speak, we're going to drive a flag in this, you know, in the ground, but it is a way of being able to create real, real masterminds that have real insights to solve real problems that you and others can truly execute, not just from, from a business, but all the way up into the government level and downward and, you know, an extend out, how do we help people succeed? How do we help people

04:01

survive? Right? What are the strategies and tactics in it, because I've been talking about collaboration, this is purely a collaborative effort. And Jennifer, here is the first one out of the gate. So this is how it rolls, we'll do podcasts, we will definitely start talking about all of the the details associated with what Jennifer does and others do. And then we start to collaborate and collect all that information. And then on January, put this on your calendar, January 28, we're going to be talking about the community side of this effort, right, and how we can help the community from the perspective of people who are truly and companies who are truly in the trenches, and helping people succeed. And then we're going to do that, not just from that we're going to do it from an academic point of view. We're going to do it from a business point of view. And we're going to do it from a government point of view. And we're going to create an incredible network and across All mastermind group that you can collaborate with, and, and everybody, everybody wins. And that's what we're trying to do. And we're using the platform such as industrial talk, podcasts, videos, all the media that we can possibly muster up to be able to get that message out and get you tactical solutions. That makes sense, because we're in them sensemaking business, how's that? I'm worn out. One little intro, and I'm worn out. All right, let's get on with the interview. Because she's wonderful. She's with an organization called energy outreach. Now, this is what's interesting about it. They help people and they start with, with their energy bills, and with their that are maybe challenged in some way, shape or form, they're able to sort of help keep that light on, keep the energy going, keep the natural gas paid, and be able to help them from from truly an overall health perspective. survive. And this isn't it. This isn't Colorado, but but pretty much every state has a similar organization. And I just I love this stuff. I love when people put their their thoughts into action. and her team at energy outreach, Colorado, puts it into action. And we need more people like Jennifer, you need to step up and we need to just do our part. There's a lot of people that need help. And there are a lot of great organizations and a lot of great people like Jennifer, that want to help. And that can provide an excellent avenue to make that happen. Right. Let's start talking about caring. Let's start talking about giving of your time and effort and not having or expecting anything in return. Because your heroes, you are industry heroes, and this platform is for you. So let's get on with the interview. Jennifer Gremmert. Now that's gr e m. Ma. e. RT, the organization is Energy Outreach Colorado. And she's a fireplug. So enjoy the interview. Jennifer, welcome to the industrial talk podcast. I'm telling you. I'm looking forward to this conversation. How are you doing?

07:12

I'm doing great. Thank you for having me.

07:14

All the way from Colorado. It's cold over there. Do you have you got snow?

07:20

Yeah, it was supposed to snow tonight. So is it really? Yes.

07:26

Love the snow? We don't get enough of that here. Well, we get none. In Louisiana. Maybe maybe the part of the top of the boot but not not here in old New Orleans area. Now. What it does, it's a national security issue. You know, it's one of those problems. So anyway, for the listeners out there, now we're gonna have a great conversation I and I am just jacked about it. Give us a little background, who you are, and why you're such an incredible professional, then we're gonna venture on into the interview itself.

07:53

Sure. So I'm Jennifer Bremmer, I'm the executive director of energy outreach Colorado. So we're a statewide nonprofit whose mission is to ensure that all Coloradans can afford home energy. And I've been fortunate to be with this organization for over 20 years, I've spent my entire career in the nonprofit sector focused on affordable energy, affordable housing, economic literacy, even did a little higher education. But I am a person who really enjoys fundraising, I enjoy re purpose funding to help those in need. I've made a made a career out of it.

08:34

So but how does somebody like you? Why, why? Why is this? Why did you get involved?

08:44

I think I grew up in a family that was all about, you know, economic equality and sort of knowing that there's a lot of people that have more than me, but so many more people that have left. And so when I kind of discovered the nonprofit sector, as a career opportunity, I kind of jumped on it. I have an Economics and Political science background. So I like that intersection of policy and, you know, money, map and, and distribution of resources. I discovered energy outreach Colorado in the mid 90s. I was the fourth employee hired. And this was when energy, you know, it's always been obviously a critical need, and basically, but it was a little simpler than it is now. Right? It was sort of the framework that we had of our energy sector was how it was designed 100 years ago. And in that transition, we've seen huge shifts in how energy is delivered and the importance of it. And so it's been really an exciting field to be in and to be able to help people access affordable, reliable energy. It's been a great joy.

09:54

It's a it's an interesting journey, to say the least because what I mean when you start talking about The necessity to provide it's the state of Colorado. It's not just it's the state. Okay. There, there's a community out there that needs help there needs assistance. And power is pretty important. I mean, I, I put it right there at the top of necessities within a family people's lives. How has you How have you seen it sort of change from when you started to where you are today? And where do you see it going?

10:33

But I think, you know, it's, we're in a post COVID conversation, right? So people are home, they understand what he and energy means to them. But they understand the health of the home and how that relates, I think we're also seeing, you know, climate change being a big conversation, you know, reduction in carbon. When we think about energy, we tend to think about, maybe it's gasoline in our cars, we don't tend to think about the natural gas or electricity coming into our homes. And so from that consumer perspective, you know, I think about energy all the time. Most people spend human fear, they just take for granted that they turn right at the beginning, do

11:17

I'm one of them, but it's like, we had a storm come through a power's out, have gone, what is going on here?

11:22

What have they not done? Exactly, I think of Louisiana and the impact of power, wise writing, you know, and I think this is something that we just have to, you know, balance of how energy comes to us how we use it, you know, the value that it has in our lives. And then as we look at sort of this transformation of energy, right, that we want to produce energy in different ways that we want to consume it in different ways that we're starting to have technology that allows us to control that usage differently than it used to. And I think we are continuing to understand what a vital resource it is, and what a highly nuanced conversation is, in terms of energy generation, how it comes into our home, is something that's evolving really, really rapidly again, when you think of the proposition of how energy is delivered, it's been sort of traditionally done, or over 100 years. And in the last, I would argue, 10 to 15 years, it's completely transforming.

12:23

It's being driven by a lot of innovation. I mean, there's a lot of innovation going on there now, but I'm gonna I'm gonna have to address the the elephant in the room. And that's COVID. Right? Yeah. A, you have a community and that community is in need. What are your biggest challenges, especially today, and the uncertainty of the future? What's your biggest needs?

12:43

So pre COVID, about one in four Colorado households qualify for our programs based on age. And what we're seeing post COVID is just more households that are underemployed or unemployed, that are just really struggling with resources, and also that, again, need for having energy in your home or home or in a residential usages. Right. So that affordability issue comes into play. You know, we've already seen some income inequality in this country that then gets exacerbated when you have a situation like this. And so we work really closely with, you know, our government partners, there's public funding that goes into both energy systems and energy efficiency. My organization fills in the gap for this problem vailable and then working with utility companies, to put people on payment arrangements to start moving talking about how we ensure people stay connected. And then how can we think about, you know, that intersection of energy, housing and health, really in terms of like looking at energy efficiency programs, and things that are going to make that home healthier while also reducing costs? So we're in a really interesting place right now, we've been developing programs over the last two years, we've got great partners across the state. But like you said, Colorado be, you know, kind of microcosm I work in, we have an urban corridor that has one set of issues. And we've been and regulated in vertically integrated utilities. We have eastern plains that are more of that Midwest, high plains that have smaller communities, rural electric cooperatives and municipal utilities that work with and then we have resort communities where we have high concentration of wealth, but the people that we work with, or that we serve, are traveling multiple counties to really be the essential workers in those communities, they have much higher rates of conflict. So we have to balance all of those interests as we look at this work and not sort of a one size fits all, but really integrate with what people need. And we're fortunate that we have strong partners.

14:54

Yeah. Do you see any? I mean, I know there's a Do you have a crystal ball type thing however, one of the challenges I mean, really, with your market here with this COVID, because, quite frankly, your services, your solutions are truly needed. We need to rebuild, we need to figure out solutions, and to help people, you know, survive and then rebuild, and so on, is vitally important. But what do you see probably that biggest issue that you've got to deal with, in your in your group?

15:32

Yeah, it's really meeting people where they are and what they need. So we do you have a holistic approach to this. So most people come to us in a crisis, they can't afford their energy bill, or they don't have access to heat. And so make sure that they, you know, get their furnace repaired or replace that we, you know, get them on a risk management program, you know, on a payment, a reason that we help pay that utility bill for them in their short term, then we really try to educate around, you know, conservation, what can they do to reduce the usage, what equipment can be replaced? And then we're looking at long term energy solutions that we do through a lot of regulatory and legislative work around energy policy. So what is the right design and community? How do people interact with their utility partner? How do we think about not only just individuals, but small business owners who are also really struggling in this? Yeah, you know, we're cut, we're trying to, basically, like, overall rates with what how we can deliver these, you know, innovative, and I think, really, you know, good programs to people to help reduce that burden. Because, again, we need a healthy workforce, you need people, you know, participation as much as possible. We also need healthy utility companies, there are cornerstones of a lot of our communities, and they're doing tremendous work, right. When you have a storm, you know, being able to be agile. But I think all of these in this transition, when you have any major transition like this, there's tensions. So I think that's where more education is around energy, in general, more conversation about it. It's not a black and white issue. There's a lot of nuances in this. I think innovation is exciting. And we're starting to figure out how we can get community solar gardens and get those subscriptions so that we can provide long term affordability for folks.

17:26

You said solar gardens,

17:28

correct? Oh, yeah. Gotcha, like a big solar array. So versus rooftop system, which may not be you know, I have a strong opinion about that, just because there's so much limited funding we have in this space, right, you know, thinking about where are the economies of scale, utility scale solar, solar gardens, there's all different terms. But I think, you know, as we look toward this transformation, again, there's ways are so much more affordable, etc. It's on par with the other source of energy. And so making sure that the families we represent paid into that system to subsidize it that they get access. And so we have to just kind of keeping sheep.

18:11

Here's the challenge I have, and and you in this short conversation, you've rattled off a ton of stuff. Yeah, you could do this, you could do this, you can do this, you can do this. But But let's, let's sort of narrow it down to let's say, three things that one can do. I mean, just right now. Sure, I can call you. I, I just, there's just and I don't have time, like, give me some Quick Hits here.

18:39

Well, I mean, in every community across this country, there are local organizations that are supporting vulnerable customers, you know, large organizations like Catholic Charities, the Salvation Army, those are groups that we work really closely with. But in every community, a lot of times there's a food bank, or a rental assistance program that also has introduced on top of it. So our local community partners are really, really good at finding out who those families are need. There's a lot of faith based institutions doing this. The challenge is every state does this a little bit differently. Right. There's federal programs that are that some are run by community action agencies, some are accounting. You know, I think, the there's a lie II Clearinghouse that sort of has a national view of this. You know, looking at all the different utility programs, it's kind of all over the place, because energy regulation and maintenance. But I can tell every, every state, there's an organization similar to ours, we're doing the kind of work we do. And I think, you know, look at what your utility company does when you donate bills. You know, help your neighbors right?

19:50

Right? I do like that now. That's all great. Okay. So I got a number that starts with the number or but surprised With power, if I don't have power, I'm having a hard time with enough. It's just like what? But anyway, let's say I can make that call and I can get that. So there's people out there and organizations, companies, whatever, are willing to help. Yes, you're still struggling?

20:14

Yeah, we have to look at what's happening with COVID, there's part of our population that's driving, they're working from home, nothing's changed, their expenses are down, we have more resources. And then we have a group of folks that are always going to be challenged because of the wages they have. They're maybe underemployed or working less hours, or they get sick and sick time. And so there's this balance that we're seeing. And so how can one group help support the other group? So there's a sort of a right, that there's a shared benefit of supporting these kinds of emergency assistance programs. And I think what we find is most of the families, I would say, over 75% of the families we serve, just need our help once or twice. If that one, I'm sort of immediate, something happened, right now, it's a lot of health challenges and job interruptions. But it could be a divorce, it could be something that just happens, all of a sudden, you don't have the income to make ends meet, you need a little bit of help. That's why we designed these programs. You know, for the other 25%, you're an older dog, maybe you're someone who's disabled as on income, and so your income doesn't change. So as other expenses, like you said, energy's top of the stack, because the bill that you pay first, but it's also interesting, because you pay for it after you write. So there's like a difference for that. And I think when we think about utilities, in general, what how broadband becomes so critical, how waters becomes open. And all these things are layering on top of each other. And so I think, you know, again, more awareness that we can have around affordability issues.

21:56

So okay, that's all great. So it's good. You're doing yeoman's work, it's fantastic. I love it. But there's got to be roadblocks, there's got to be challenges. It doesn't just, you know, wake up and go, Hey, check it out. Another check is in mail. Check it out. You know, what? I mean? What are the roadblocks?

22:16

I think, you know, funding's always a problem. I mean, I think that's, you know, regardless of what, you know, challenge you're trying to write and so what we try to do is use the best of the resources that we have, our funding comes from the taxpayers, utility, ratepayers, or donations. And so we take that very seriously and try to be as efficient as I think there's, you know, just a constant struggle around what's the best investment? And how do you, you know, make that I think the barriers that we have for the families we serve is, it's a lot of people, it's a very humbling experience to have to ask for help. In our sort of public assistance world, it's a lot of, you know, repeating yourself over and over tell your story. It's very humbling, it's hard to do. And I think what we're trying to figure out is how to better create systems and structures that can allow this assistance to flow in an easier way. And I think that's just something that we're always going to struggle with services,

23:21

and you're dealing with dignity. I mean, some people are probably having a hard time. And do you ever have to say, I'm sorry, we just because we just talked about funding? We can't help you. Do you say that? Or do you just say, yeah, we'll figure it out, we will figure it out.

23:40

We really try to figure it out. I think part of the challenge of the balanced public funding and private funding, is the public funding has a lot of caveats to it, you know, people have to do their due diligence, you know, in terms of distributing this funding, because that's the appropriate thing to do. The where we try to bring in flexible funding is to help ease that in situations, I'll give you an example. Let's say we have someone that has a really old furnace, and it dies. And they've been mandating it forever and ever. And we want to put in a high efficiency gas furnace, it's we have really affordable natural gas rates, do you think that's going to save them a lot of money, it's going to be better, but their electrical panel needs to be updated, or they don't have the right ventilation. So those are the things that in the past, a public firm may have to say, Oh, I'm sorry, we can't do this because we don't have the funding to bridge that difference. And that's where we really said, you know, we have so few opportunities to get into these homes. Let's help when we can. So how can you provide that flexible support, we're really starting to see tillys understand that health and safety aspect. You know, one other example is think of a child that has a chronic respiratory issue and they're constantly going back and forth to the hospital and we release them into a home that has You know, really poor indoor air quality, maybe really old carpeting that's holding on to a lot of dust and, you know, hair and things that are just exacerbating respiratory problems. What if we went in and made that home healthier? reduced that, you know, kind of impact on that household? Can we then track reduced health costs and improve, you know, quality of life and less school?

25:24

Work? I

25:25

mean, I think we have to really start making these connections more broadly. And, and I think that's just the nature of when you start to really experience this individually. You know, in Colorado, we had fire wildfires all summer, where they would open their windows at night to let fresh air in, and they could, you know, that all of a sudden changes the equation for people about what is you know, health and home? energy?

25:54

Yeah,

25:55

interesting conversation.

25:56

Yeah, that's a tough one you're absolutely spot on. And yet, yeah, there are so many little variables that you have to deal with. Are you always just sort of sitting there one day is like, man, I didn't think about I've been doing this for 20 years. I didn't think about that one.

26:10

Yes, it's constant. And I said it like the 30,000 foot level, right? I think big solutions big. And then my staff will come to me, and they're like, I'm in a building, and I can't fit the new furnace in the elevator to get to the boiler. And

26:28

I'm sorry, for laughing. That's funny. It's true. No, I

26:31

mean, we had a house where there was a tree growing through the house, and then you're like, Okay, well, what pot of money do I use to fix that? You know, working in rural communities that don't have the same inner connection. You know, we, we've done work on. And I was just telling somebody that's like, in southern Colorado, we still have a lot of families that use wood as their primary heating source. And so there's like an indoor air coffee component to that challenge, right. But there's a style aspect of it. And so we don't want to just replace it without thinking about customer choice. But if people you know, it's a bad it's always about, and I think we always try to think of it from the customer perspective and family, and how can we help them meet the needs that they have without, you know, changing?

27:22

And it's so funny, because when we start talking about energy, I I naturally gravitate toward power. Right. But it's it's also natural gas. It's a it's it's all components. propane. See? I just naturally it's like, Yeah, I got the power comes into that line. Yeah, yeah. But no, it's it's much, much grander than that. Now, once again, if pre via a pre COVID was one and four, do you have any ideas of what it's going to be in? Well, whatever you call this, this next normal ish, post, whatever?

28:00

No, I don't I mean, I think we're just trying to stay nimble. What we do know is our need is up about 40%, you know, from where it was last year, at the same time?

28:11

Oh, sorry.

28:12

Our agency partners are just seeing, you know, so much more need in terms of food assistance and rental assistance. And so again, civil money. You know, I think there's been a lot of great efforts, you know, at the federal level, and certainly at the state of Colorado, we just were awarded $5 million through a special session, the governor, and have initiated with our legislature and the legislature has been, you know, terribly supportive. But I think it's these are just drops in the bucket that are trying to get us through. And so there's, again, how we don't know exactly how long it will go. We know there's a lot of people struggling, I think we're trying to make sure that people that are kind of new to this situation may not have

28:56

Yeah, in the past, I would imagine this, like I would never know, I wouldn't know, I wouldn't even be like, dang, I can't pay my bills, then I wouldn't know where to go from there.

29:11

And what I want people to know is like, there's a lot of us working really hard to generate resources, so we can help you in that time. Yeah, I also think people need to reach out to their utility. Because those those companies have programs in place. They're, they're putting doing payment arrangements, they you know, have a lot of knowledge and really, they want to keep you as customers. it's in their best interest. And so we have to kind of work together this temporary area, and I think that's again for small businesses as

29:43

well. Yeah, we're gonna have to wrap this up. Now, let me ask you this, if I will, I would say I've got a lot of cash in my pocket and I want to give it to somebody and I want to give it to you. Where do I go?

29:54

You go to WWW dot energy outreach.org our website has all of our programs and then partners people can figure out where to access health. You know, for you as an individual, we also have programs and health like multifamily affordable housing or nonprofits and their efficiency, then you can connect to national partners that we have that do this work all across the country. Energy outreach.org

30:21

check that out. Man. I have nothing to add to that I have. I can't even poke holes in that strategy. I mean, it's easy, go to energy. outreach.org.

30:31

Easy.

30:33

And you can get pretty much all the information. I guarantee you worst case scenario, I would imagine there's a phone number and say, Hey, I got a question. I mean, what else can you ask for?

30:44

We have lots of places to put that funding and we can order them in any way you want

30:49

to do it, because we do this. And we do this. We can do this. We can. I mean, it's amazing. Kudos to you and your team. absolutely wonderful. And I think that you're going to be needed more than ever increase by 40%. It's like there's there's a neat 40% increase down here. Awesome. I love you. This is good stuff. I love what you guys do. You're awesome. All right, you listeners out there. Yeah, no, no, no, it's all on this side listeners out there. I want you to get involved. So we're going to wrap it up on the other side, do not go away. Because we will be right back. You're listening to the industrial talk Podcast Network.

31:34

All right. Once again, thank you very much for joining the industrial talk podcast. How about that having heart, Jennifer Gremmert gr e m, m e r t is the name, the organization is energy, outreach, Colorado, go out to energy outreach.org get some information, you're not going to be disappointed. And people need your help. And I know that you guys are absolutely generous and kind, big hearted, just like Jennifer. All right. Again, January 28, is going to be the day that we're going to be sort of driving that flag in for this particular sort of mastermind group on how we will survive, rebuild and prosper. But with people who have a real vested interest in helping you and your company succeed, right. And they have insights, and we have to collaborate, we have to be innovative, we have to educate. And that's the real premise. So we have to make sense of all this. So that we understand what to do, where to go, and how we can definitely survive because we need you. It's it's that important. And these individuals, like Jennifer and others, are just willing to give up their time, their energy, their insights, their heart, to be able to help us in these very challenging times. All right. Everything that you can possibly imagine will be out at industrial talk Com. This particular podcast will have all those links. And then we're gonna continue to sort of pump on it. This was the first one out of the gate. Jennifer was kind enough to be able to say, Yes, I will do it. I see the vision. I understand it, and I want to be a part of it. Thank you, Jennifer. All right. Again, be bold, be brave, daring greatly. and hang out with people who are bold, brave and daring greatly, and you're going to change the world. And that's what you're all about. Because you're an industry and you do that. All right, thank you very much. And we're going to be back with another incredible podcast interview. Uh, shortly be safe.