As the CEO of Populus, a growing company in the residential energy efficiency industry, I am grateful for President Obama's policies and initiatives that have encouraged the growth and success of my business.
A little more than two years ago, Populus was a small company of three -- a tiny ship staying afloat amidst the rough seas of economic recession. As the housing market collapsed, our little ship was low on supplies.
Then we saw a port in the storm. Boulder County had just gone out to bid for a company to administer EnergySmart, a program funded by federal stimulus dollars. The idea was to promote increased energy efficiency in homes and businesses by providing an energy advisor who could help owners move quickly from an energy assessment to installation of efficiency measures.
At Populus, we started with the simple idea that we could insulate homes and we ended up with a vision for a public-private partnership that would accomplish much more. We asked ourselves what we valued and how to honor the intention of the stimulus funding by fostering economic growth and creating jobs. In the bid response I wrote that administering the EnergySmart program would allow us to move Populus from a small, startup company to an established, homegrown Boulder County success story.
Today, we have 37 employees and we're still growing.
EnergySmart is more than an energy efficiency program; it's a public-private partnership that has advanced the triple bottom line of social, economic and environmental sustainability in Boulder County. Not only have we reduced residential energy use, the EnergySmart service has also advanced economic growth and social justice. We have helped to grow an industry by working with local contractors and teaching them the science of home energy performance. We have created jobs that pay a living wage, and we have leveraged private funding to increase the return on the public investment.
The impact of this federal stimulus funding has been more than saving money on energy bills or fighting climate change. It was a life preserver. It helped build an industry, developing a community-based program that is cost-effective and making a difference in the lives of our neighbors.
Beyond the utility bill savings of our customers, EnergySmart has caused a ripple through the local economy. Just one of many examples: the subcontractor who was paid to do our bookkeeping used those funds to pay for swim lessons and babysitting; the babysitter used those funds to put herself through school.
I used to think of Populus as a lone ship out at sea, charting a course and navigating the waters. But really, we're all on the same boat; one big boat we call Planet Earth. In the coming century, we'll be weathering more severe storms, some close at home and some far away. But no matter where the storm, the impact we make in our communities is just as important as the impact that's being made across the globe.
Our public-private partnership with Boulder County started a ball rolling. Because Boulder County took a chance on us, we've been able to grow beyond providing energy advising in Boulder County. We've taken what we've learned here and started working with the Denver Energy Challenge. We've taken our community experience and started working with large national utilities.
We're looking to grow even more. When Populus launches its first program in New York or Sweden, those carbon emissions reductions and kilowatt hours saved will be directly linked to the EnergySmart program. And that's real efficiency -- finding a way to work with the market to create programs that leave a legacy; to multiply your efforts and do more with less.
Private enterprises -- companies like ours -- are uniquely positioned to scale and replicate a successful program beyond the borders of one community. But we don't do it all, and we can't do it alone -- the public sector can start the ball rolling and continue to set the ground rules. By being inclusive of local businesses, these public initiatives can encourage economic development and foster innovation.
Follow Laura A. Hutchings on Twitter: www.twitter.com/populusboulder