By ALAN J. ORTBALS
West Star Aviation, which industry professionals have ranked five years in a row as the best maintenance repair facility around, is seeing its success rise from the ground at St. Louis Regional Airport headquarters in East Alton.
West Star has again been voted the No. 1 Preferred Maintenance Repair and Overhaul in the 2018 Professional Pilot Magazine’s Annual Preference Regarding Aviation Services and Equipment survey. The publication began including the category “Best MRO” in 2014 and West Star has won the recognition every year from 2014-2018.
The PRASE survey is an interactive reader-to-editor-conducted survey on an annual basis by Professional Pilot magazine in which industry professionals, pilots, and aircraft maintenance professionals vote based on their experience, performance, quality and company knowledge in a wide range of categories.
West Star Aviation specializes in the repair and maintenance of business aircraft, specifically airframes, windows, engines, as well as major modifications, avionics installation and repair, interior refurbishment, surplus avionics sales, accessory services, paint and parts. It has a total of seven facilities in four states.
“I think what really sets West Star apart is our team’s absolute, 100 percent dedication to our customers, as well as the 100 percent dedication to our employees from the company,” said Jim Rankin, company CEO. “We believe that if you take care of your employees, they will take care of your customers. That’s how we operate every day.”
A key factor of West Star’s proven success is their effort to be accessible to their customers. In early 2017 the company focused on connecting with customers and providing them tools to do so. This included the redesign of the corporate website with customer connectivity in mind. The Connect feature allows for past, present, and future customers to connect directly with experts in the areas they are interested in or need information on.
“Our website and mobile app are just some of the tangible tools that were developed as a direct result of want to connect with our customers,” Rankin said. “Our customers don’t call an 800 number and select an option, you talk to real people. More importantly, they reach the right people the first time,” Rankin said.
By DENNIS GRUBAUGH
At one time or another, everyone needs the services of a handyman, and the older one gets, the more the demand.
But who can you trust? It’s a question that particularly dogs seniors wary of being taken by scammers.
The growing concern prompted Alton-based Senior Services Plus to start its own handyman program, which pairs up seasoned citizens with workers from its staff on a variety of projects.
“There were a lot of seniors coming to us who were being taken advantage of,” Senior Services Executive Director John Becker said. “We got to a point in time we basically started a handyman service for minor home repairs, in order for seniors to get decent service and not get overcharged.”
The program does not offer large repairs, like new roofs or house construction, but it does provide an opportunity for people to get a bid on more minor work and have something to compare with the costs of other providers.
Becker said there have been instances where Senior Services Plus has bid-out jobs that were “200 to 300 percent” less than outside contractors — possibly “unscrupulous” ones.
“We’re not undercutting anybody, but we’ve had bids that come back thousands of dollars vs. what we’re providing,” he said.
Seniors are in a unique position. They often live on their own, away from their families, and often with few resources. Women living by themselves are particularly vulnerable, he said.
“People see a senior and they jack the price up,” Becker said.
The handyman program offers a choice.
“We’ve had occasion where we go out and do a bid for manhours,” he said. The service gives them an idea of what they should be paying and the ultimate choice is made by the customer.
“It doesn’t mean they can’t go with a reputable contractor,” he said.
Financial exploitation of seniors is one of the worst facets of elder abuse.
“A lot of people think such abuse is physical, but it’s really the financial issue,” he said.
The work is done by staff at Senior Services Plus.
“We’re using existing staff (now), but we think it will grow in the future,” he said. The program was implemented in 2016, with the idea that it might grow to the point where staff would have to be added.
The nonprofit center, which is the largest senior advocacy center in the region, averages a couple of calls a week for the handyman program — mainly people needing a ceiling fan installed, gutters cleaned, a window or door installed or minor electrical and plumbing work.
“We like to serve people over 60, but it depends on the need, and it’s private pay,” Becker said. “We do the jobs ourselves at a very reasonable cost.”
For more information contact Senior Services Plus at (618) 465-3298.
By DENNIS GRUBAUGH
If their recent past is any indication, Julie Holdener and Benjamin Paulsen will have plenty of questions for future law clients. When it comes to client consulting, they’re among the best students in the world — with a plaque to prove it.
Holdener, of Mascoutah, and her college tag-team partner, Paulsen, of northern Illinois, took first place this year in the Brown Mosten International Client Consultation Competition in The Netherlands, an event not won by a United States team since 2009 and one that has never been won by students from the University of Illinois College of Law.
The achievement was three years in the making and tested the mettle of two eager students on the trail of the great law school pursuit known as the paper chase.
“We’re both very competitive,” Holdener, the newly minted law graduate, said.
The American Bar Association conducts numerous events in which law students may compete. Holdener said she and Paulsen teamed up in their first year in school to be on the client counseling team. Law school is three years in total when done full time.
The first year of tryouts they made the school team. That allowed them to advance to competition with other schools.
“We competed in the second year and didn’t get far,” she said. “But we had fun.”
The third year, they competed in a regional event in Chicago and took first, which was a ticket to the nationals in Durham, N.C., where they also got first place. Then, it was on to the international competition in Europe where they took the world championship.
Their dedicated coach Professor James Noonan was with them all along the way.
Holdener and Paulsen didn’t know each other before college.
“We had some classes together our first semester of law school. We were like, ‘Hey, you want to do this?’ And I was like, ‘Absolutely, I’m in.’ We really worked well together and balanced each other out, which is very important for this competition,” she said.
Even after the win, though, a lot of friends wanted to know what the event is all about, and it all comes down to handling client interview scenarios on the fly — with no advance time to prep.
“The client is coming to meet the attorney for the first time, which tests an attorney’s skill. Among those are the soft skills — personality, ability to adapt, that sort of thing — and the other is legal prowess, the hard skills,” Holdener said. “How do you connect to the client? How do you make them open up to you?”
Clients don’t know the law “so you have to ask the right question,” she said. “Ultimately, you’re thinking on your feet to give a legal answer.”
All of it involves role playing, not real clients.
“It would be nice if they were real clients, but they always hire actors to come in,” Holdener said.
The scenarios vary between regional, national and international rounds, but the general rules are the same.
“Every single round the issue is different. You never know exactly what’s going to happen. But you always have 45 minutes, timed. You always go over preliminary matters that are the same every time, like confidentiality.”
During the international round, the scenario involved a band with four men whose equipment had burned the night before in a bar. They wanted their equipment — and their money. The cause was negligence.
“They claimed the guy who owned the bar was smoking a cigarette and left it on his desk,” she recalled.
One could imagine such a scenario actually happening, but the potential legal responses could vary.
“You have to listen to the client. That’s the most important thing. Some people are money hungry and want to get a big paycheck out of it. But other people just want an apology. That’s a question for the client.”
A good lawyer can’t be a client’s best friend.
“You have to tell them bad news,” she said.
The sessions are very much like the real world. Lawyers are often told little about a case before they first meet with a client.
Holdener is studying for the Illinois bar and already has a job lined up now once she’s licensed. She is going to work for an organization called Equip for Equality, which is planning an office in East St. Louis.
“They are a statewide nonprofit that assists the legal needs of people with disabilities. The main office is in Chicago and until now there has been only one office in Southern Illinois, at Carbondale.”
The organization will open an office in East St. Louis once Holdener joins the agency.
“I’ll help out around Southern Illinois, but just by sheer volume most of my clients will be Metro East folks.”
Working for a nonprofit won’t pay as much but it will fulfill her own mission, she said.
“I went to law school for that purpose, it was my dream and my motivation. I feel like I’ve been blessed a lot in my life and I want to pay it forward,” she said.
Meanwhile, her partner, Paulsen, is headed to a large law firm in Chicago.
The pair received a plaque, $500 each and tons of respect from their school.
Twenty-two countries were involved in this year’s international competition. TEAM USA was seeded first after its performances in the preliminary rounds. After winning the semifinals, they competed in the finals against a team from Malaysia and a team from Scotland.
Holdener said she was continually impressed at the prowess of the competing students.
Over the last 10 years, competing law students have also been from Australia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Canada, China, England and Wales, Finland, Georgia, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Iran, Irish Republic, Jamaica, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Northern Ireland, Poland, Puerto Rico, Russia, Sri Lanka, Switzerland and Ukraine. The competition is run on a not-for profit basis by an international committee of academics and practitioners.
A Client Counseling Competition for law students was first established in 1969 by Louis M. Brown. It was adopted by The American Bar Association in 1972 and the International Competition was inaugurated in 1985. The International Competition was named after Brown in 1993 in recognition of the inspiration he provided as originator of the competition.
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