Editor’s note: Local Tech Wire launched a series of stories as 2008 ended that focused on selected executives’ views regarding survival and opportunity in a “nuclear winter” economy. Well, the “nuclear winter” is stretching into spring, so LTW is visting with more CEOs and other execs to discuss what can be done to avoid shutting down or, better still, growing business in the toughest of times.

Restarting the series is a discussion with Geoff Comrie, founder and chief executive officer of Transite Technology. The Raleigh-based firm launched in 2002 as the last “nuclear winter” dragged on, and today the firm is growing as it helps clients reduce transportation shipping costs.

In the days of cost-cutting and revenue preservation, is flourishing with a software-as-a-service suite of products that helps companies slash delivery costs by an average of 20 percent.

Here is the Q&A with Comrie:

A “nuclear winter” and now “nuclear spring” have in many ways frozen the economy. But in the last such “winter” the Internet and Web 2.0 emerged as entrepreneurs seized upon tough times to deliver innovation and to grow their businesses or start new ones, not just survive. What is your advice to fellow and would-be entrepreneurs – conserve, cut or invest?

For entrepreneurs with existing businesses, walk the fine line between being saving and spending. And, it’s a good time to take a hard look at spending on what really matters. Do you need to pay for beautiful offices if you do business by phone or on-site client visits? Transite has always been financially conservative. We’re profitable; we have money in the bank and have not taken any external VC or angel investments. And, don’t be afraid to spend money to grow.

In 2009, we’ll be very aggressive, but smart, with investments to grow our company and continue to invest in innovation and marketing. For example, we just paid a large fee, by our standards, to an organization to push unlimited press releases instead of paying by the drink. We budgeted by the quarter for the cost individually, but it made sense to greatly increase our exposure and save 50 percent over the next 12 months. Shutting down sensible spending will weaken a company and put it behind when the economy gets better.

For new entrepreneurs, don’t be deterred if you can financially justify your product or service. Our company’s message to prospects is that customers come to us for real cost savings services and business process improvement technology. It’s not extravagant, but we get attention because our savings go right to the bottom line, and we prove it.

Who will be not just the survivors but the winners still standing when the recession ends sometime in 2009?

Those that can help their customers with revenue generation and customer acquisition (top line) or real cost savings (bottom line) will continue to grow and be properly positioned for acquisition. Companies have adapted to the economic times and still have capital to spend for the right reasons. Give them the right reason to spend by proving the ROI. Transite’s ROI is so high that our solutions are “self funding” from day one, and we can prove it. Not many CFOs can turn down a conversation that starts with provable monetary gains.

What is your biggest fear/concern for this still-young year?

My biggest concern is the overall economy and how we’re all paying the long-term price of bad judgment and misbehavior that were sometimes driven by greed and ego, rather than sound business practices. The bailouts are mind-blowing.

Conversely, what are you most optimistic about?

The change in the administration will be a short-term refreshment and people are much more aware of the importance of alternative energies and being less dependent on foreign oil.

In what areas do you see opportunities for growth in 2009? Means to help companies become more efficient? Enabling technology to help people do more with mobile devices? Investments in clean technology? Further evolution of the Web? Tell us what you think.

Not to be too self-serving, but it’s finally being recognized that a big profit growth opportunity for many companies is cutting the cost of shipping their products to market. Generally, the cost of shipping is the third largest expense on an income statement. Yet, it’s a black hole to most companies due to its complexity and lack of internal expertise. Supply chain practices have been largely focused on procurement of raw materials and production processes and transportation has not been under the same penny-pinching scrutiny. Our business is good because companies are beginning to see that they are spending way too much on shipping.

If the IPO markets remained closed, how can life science, medical device and other capital-intensive startups best generate cash to keep investors onboard and the company doors open while pursing R&D?

For companies who are in a reasonably good cash position, it’s important to be critical of every dollar spent. Continue to strengthen relationships with the financial community so that relationships are built and people know your story when the capital markets brighten. It’s also basic blocking & tackling: ensure you have enough capital to weather the storm, and put the money where it is most likely to generate income or a positive liquidity event.

What do you believe will be executives’ biggest challenges this year: Financing? Growing sales? Balancing the cutting of costs with need for R&D as well as consumer support?

For businesses that don’t have six months of cash in the bank, it’s always sales.

For established businesses, I think it will be balancing costs with prudent spending. You have to control expenses but can’t suffocate a business by failing to spend and invest for current and future growth.

Will venture financing tighten, especially for startups, as recent surveys have indicated? If so, how do you (or) your clients (or) your portfolio companies adapt?

Yes, it continues to be very tight and it will mean that companies need to do everything they can to run lean. For some parts of the market, it may mean partnering instead of internal development and marketing. While capital is still available, the bar will be very, very high for everyone.

Do you believe off-shoring of jobs will increase this year? Please explain.

While the cost of off-shoring has increased substantially in the last few years, programming still costs less per line than in the U.S. The real question is: does the lower initial cost yield a better product, or just a lower cost? If I can produce a better product that yields a higher price, then off-shoring it is a shortsighted solution. Transite’s industry is too complex to off-shore, we develop everything internally in the U.S. The domain knowledge transfer cost and time would be exorbitant and produce a much lower grade product. Plus, if you don’t have a foreign employee directly overseeing the off-shore development, you have a very high chance of spending more than coding it domestically.

What advice would you offer to job seekers in such a tough environment?

Network and stay positive as many companies are still hiring. Also, consider that this may happen again and how can you better position yourself for security and growth going forward.