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Behind the Sale of Hinesburg's NRG Systems

Friday, May 26, 2017   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Jeff Couture

NRG Systems was founded in 1982 with "a couple of hundred dollars in cash and a good idea," says former owner Jan Blomstrann.

On May 8, Blomstrann, 57, sold the $45 million company for an undisclosed amount to St. Louis-based Esco Technologies. The sale was the culmination of a months-long process led by a New Hampshire investment bank that resulted in nine interested buyers.

NRG has a high profile in the renewable energy business. The company pioneered methods to determine how much revenue a potential site for wind turbines will generate, giving investors the confidence they needed to put up the large amounts of money required. NRG also provides instrumentation to monitor the performance of turbines and stay on top of their maintenance.

Austin Davis of Renewable Energy Vermont, a nonprofit organization promoting wind and solar in the state, said NRG has helped establish Vermont's reputation globally as a leader in renewable energy.

“We are at a point in our state’s history where clean, renewable energy is as Vermont as maple syrup or cheddar cheese, and much like those products, we are exporting innovative technology across the globe," Davis said.

Esco emerged on top in the bidding for NRG not only because it had the money, but also because it had the culture, according to Justin Wheating, president and CEO of NRG Systems.

"In terms of looking for a partner, there's certainly paying for the business, but also culturally, would it be a good fit?" Wheating said.

What is NRG's culture?

Blomstrann doesn't answer immediately, but considers the question for a moment.

"I think people have a passion for the work," she begins. "They see the larger picture, building something that will make a difference in the world and the energy picture. I feel there is a culture of respect amongst the employees and just an interest in the greater world."

Toward the end of the vetting process, Wheating and NRG's Vice President for Human Resources Anna Grady took a trip to Esco's corporate offices in St. Louis for a culture check.

"They hadn't had anybody do that," Wheating said. "They were very gracious hosts, and let us get a feel for their culture. We came away very reassured."

Following the acquisition, Wheating was asked to stay on as president and CEO, along with the rest of the management team and the entire staff of 102 employees. Wheating admits to a bit of nervousness, now that NRG is part of a $600 million public company.

"I'm accountable, I think is the way to put it," Wheating said.

Wheating asked, straight up, what was expected.

"They said, 'We're not a corporate entity that stamps our brand on you guys,'" Wheating said. "'It's our goal to have you realize your vision. Certainly we're going to hold you accountable to making that happen.'"

Wheating's vision is to double the size of NRG's revenues in the next five years, to the range of $90 million.

Source: Burlington Free Press.  Read the full article here.

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