Growing Companies

When your father reminded you to turn off the lights when you left a room, you probably just grumbled and reluctantly complied. Tom Kirkpatrick took his father's advice further: he now runs a company that not only shuts off the lights - it does a whole lot more.

Kirkpatrick is the president and CEO of Eco Engineering, which tells companies how they can save money by installing energy efficient lighting systems - including sensors that turn off the lights automatically when no one is in the room.

"You'd be surprised at how many corporate offices never think about the lights after they turn them on," Kirkpatrick said. "Even the (chief financial officers) don't always think about the expense. But it's a good place to cut operating costs."

Indeed, Kirkpatrick said, the savings mean the companies can earn back the cost of his company's services in one to three years. His average job cost is $150,000. The average savings is $75,000. Eco even offers a financing plan that allows a company to pay off the loan based on its monthly savings in the lighting portion of its energy costs.

It's a system that's been working wonders for Eco. It started in 1993 with six employees. It now has 55 employees, and had $20 million in revenue last year. Its current growth rate, Kirkpatrick said, is an astonishing 40 percent.

"I hope you'll be writing a story on us in three years when we top $100 million in sales," he said.

Here's just some of what the company does: An assessment of current lighting plans; a redesign of the lighting engineering to improve the aesthetic qualities of the facility, boost productivity, and lower safety risks; an upgrade in the lighting fixtures, ballasts and bulbs; and advice on how to obtain cost-sharing or tax rebates for the projects.

Eco has done this work in all types of commercial buildings, from offices to warehouses to hospital rooms. Its clients include Coca-Cola, Kellogg's and H.J Heinz, along with dozens of schools boards and governments.

The jobs have included a $2.5 million project in Atlanta's tallest building, the first phase of a multi-million dollar project to improve the efficiency of the lighting in dorms and classrooms at the University of Louisville, and an office building in Canada, in which the utility in Ontario paid half the cost. Governments and utility companies throughout the United States also offer cost-sharing plans or tax rebates.

"I get to help companies cut their energy costs, and I'm doing the right thing for the environment," he said. "It's really fun."

The company also likes to give back to the community. It is among the top per-employee givers to the United Way, he said. More importantly, each year it selects a United Way agency and helps it become more energy efficient - meaning the agency can focus more on its work than its budget.

"This saves them money for the next 25 years, instead of just a one-time gift," he said.

Writer: Paul Long
Source: Tom Kirkpatrick, president and CEO of Eco Engineering
Eco Engineering
11815 Highway Drive, Suite 600
Cincinnati, OH 45241-2065