People, People, People: Jeff Peck and iSun

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People, People, People: Jeff Peck and iSun

Sun, 11/14/2021 - 3:35pm -- tim

Photo: Jeff Peck, CEO of iSun, Inc with iSun employees on a project in South Burlington. Photo Credit: Halle Daubner.

by Joyce Marcel, Vermont Business Magazine 

It is very rare that a small family-owned Vermont contracting company, founded in 1972, becomes in 50 years a multi-million dollar renewable energy company that's been traded on the NASDAQ since 2019.

(To put it into perspective, very few Vermont companies are publicly traded at all.)

The rare company is iSun Inc (formerly Peck Electric Company, formerly The Peck Company Holdings, Inc).

iSun is a solar engineering, procurement and construction company (EPC) based in Williston that is doing projects in about 13 states, including all of New England and as far away as Colorado.

The company runs on values. From its website: “We are committed to creating products that promote awareness and respect for the environment. We believe that business plays an essential role in initiating innovative technologies to improve the global quality of life...We are committed to improving our shared planet in a way that leaves it better for our children than we found it.”

To understand iSun, one needs to look at its chairman and CEO, Jeffrey Peck, 51, an outdoorsy man who seems to be uncomfortable answering questions on Zoom, but is absolutely intent on answering them fully and honestly.

His father, Harvey Peck, founded Peck Electric in Williston in 1972. When he had to leave the business for health reasons in 1981, his wife, Diane Cone, took it over. This in itself is remarkable, because not too many women were running construction companies way back then. In 1994, Jeffrey joined the business. In 1999, he bought it.

Over the years, the company moved from doing residential electrical work to industrial work for IBM and other large companies. In 2009, it went into solar, and it has been a leader in solar energy ever since.

Peck Electric went public in 2019. Late last year it acquired another company, a Canadian provider of “solar power electric mobility and smart city solutions for government, commercial retail, academic and data-center projects” called iSun (hence the company's new name) in a non-cash stock transaction. Its sole employee remains headquartered in Montreal.

And just last month Peck acquired the Waterbury, Vermont, residential solar panel company SunCommon for $40 million.

Photo: Peak solor panels at sunset. Courtesy photo.

It also recently secured a $30 million commitment for development and professional services from Fusion Renewable and a $7 million EPC for a 448 megawatt solar project in Alabama.

Most of the people I talked to about the company attributed its growth primarily to Jeff Peck's foresight and vision. One person I talked to said — and you don't hear this very often — “He has deep respect for the honor of work.”

But if you ask Peck himself why his company has been so successful, he has only one answer: “People, people, people.”

“You can't build a great business without great people, and you have great people by taking care of them,” Peck said. “We want to bring renewable energy everywhere. And when you take care of your people, and you treat them well, you value their work, you give honor and dignity into what those people do, then I think it helps you become an employer of choice. And that helps you build a business for the long term. And that was incredibly important to us.”

Some of Peck's managers have been with him for over 30 years. And iSun has been a signatory to the local Union (IBEW Vermont Local 300) since Peck Electric’s inception in 1972. Being a union shop provides the company with skilled labor that allows them to scale up-quickly from project to project.

The company estimates that it has between 200 and 250 active union members.

Business can be a force for good says Chad Farrell, the founder and CEO of Encore Renewable Energy, a Vermont B-Corp company which has worked with iSun on multi-million dollar projects for 10 years.

“We focus on not only the economic bottom line, but the social and environmental bottom lines,” Farrell said. “iSun's position as a union shop offering a good, livable prevailing wage, or even better than prevailing wage, has always spoke to us as a really positive attribute of their philosophy and their approach.”

Being a union shop will be increasingly important as the U.S. begins to attach values to the profit motive, Farrell said.

“I can say that's going to be a differentiator in the marketplace moving forward,” he said. “As the country starts to put more of an equity lens on our economy, as we really start to think more about being more than just a shareholder economy, offering those competitive wages and having the union behind them truly is a differentiator.”

Duane Peterson is the co-founder and co-president, along with James Moore, of SunCommon, Vermont's largest solar energy company, which was just acquired by iSun.

Peterson has known Peck since SunCommon hired Peck Electric to install its very first residential and commercial solar panels. He said Vermont values lie at the core of Peck's approach.

“I think a lot of people in business talk about the workforce as a cost,” Peterson said. “And I think Jeff sees his workers as his primary asset. He treats them as human beings with respect and decency. And that's how you get to innovation — by having a really highly functioning, motivated, respected workforce.”

Working with Peck has been a pleasure, Peterson said.

“I've always appreciated that he's calm and kind and friendly,” he said. “And again, those are not necessarily qualities associated with successful business executives. But those are the qualities of the people I want to hang out with. I think that served him really, really well. And coming back to the acquisition, this isn't some random guy in Ohio who we sold to. This is Jeff Peck, and we know him and respect him dearly. He's a fellow Vermonter, which matters a lot.”

Last year iSun reported a “COVID year” revenue of around $21 million. This year, Peck said, it will double that.

With the two acquisitions neatly stowed away, iSun now employs 350 people.

Energy independence means a great deal to Peck.

“In my lifetime, I remember a lot of conversations around becoming energy independent,” Peck said. “And recently that was achieved. I think now our focus should transition to how do we become renewable energy dependent? And rather than try to decide how much should be 'dirty energy,' I think our focus should be on how do we get to all clean renewable energy? And if we put that out there as our goal, and what we should want to do as a country, then eventually we'll get there. The long term goal should be renewable energy independence.”

 

Early Life

The Peck family has deep ties to Vermont.

“I come from a long, long line of Vermonters on one side,” Peck said.

“And my mother's side of the family was from Canada. Both parents were born and raised in Vermont.”

Peck has an older brother and a younger sister; neither of them joined the company.

Their father, Harvey Peck, was an electrician by trade.

“As I've heard this story, it was a turbulent time in Vermont for construction, probably for the country,” Peck said. “And he had to make a decision. Was he going to travel to where the work was, or stay in Vermont and start his own business? So he chose the latter. I give him a lot of credit.”

Peck's values come from his parents.

Photo: Jeff Peck, CEO of iSun, Inc. Photo Credit: Halle Daubner.

“Probably, the words of my parents would have been along the lines that it was important to be in a people business,” Peck said. “And construction is a people business. You have employees, you have customers you're working with, you have vendors.”

It is also important to be in the type of a business where you can make your accomplishments tangible.

“Something you could see the completion of,” Peck said. “Also, working as a team, I think, was important. And so I think that was the foundation of the family discussions around the business. All of our discussions were always around the people that work here. And the people that we did work for. It's like an extended family.”

Peck started working in the company when he was very young.

“When you grow up in a family business, it feels like you're always working in the family business,” he said. “You're always doing something. Oftentimes on the weekends I would be at the offices, just doing something to be kept busy. I remember being eight or nine, somewhere in there, going to job sites and trying to help, maybe sweeping or something like that. And it became a joke — they didn't like me going to projects anymore. I must have done a terrible job sweeping.”

In the early 1980s Harvey Peck fell ill and his wife took over the business.

“She was at a crossroads,” Peck said. “She needed to decide, 'Do I let the business end? And with it what we've done, what we've built? Or do I step in and try to make this work.' So she brought in some partners and chose the latter.”

His mother had not worked outside the home before.

“She got married really young and had children right away,” Peck said. “So by 1981, when my father left the business and she started running the day-to-day operation, she was 31 years old with three kids. But the people in the business were like family, the customers were like family. So you know, she persevered.”

Peck wasn't sure how his mother brought on other investors.

“I know they needed some investments to keep the operation running and growing,” he said. “And there's always financing concerns when you're growing a business, right? And so she brought in two partners with much more of a construction background. Obviously, she wasn't an electrician and needed partners who were electricians. She brought two of them in and raise a little bit of money and moved forward.”

At the time, probably between 20 or 25 people worked for the company.

Peck went to Champlain College and took a degree in business. Then he had to decide whether to stay in Vermont or seek his fortunes elsewhere.

“I knew this business was incredibly hard and I wasn't sure that I wanted to just stay in Vermont and work in this business,” he said. “But in college I came in and started working a little bit. And I fell in love with the people we work with, and the people we work for, and, you know, seeing the progress of what you did every day. It was good work. And so I stayed.”

But he never became an electrician.

“No, I don't have any field training,” he said. “We have lots of great people here who have those experiences. So I came in and was on the operational and financial side.”

So far, he's not missed seeing the world.

“I love Vermont,” he said. “I think I'd always felt that was always home for me. At a young age I wasn't sure I could stay here and earn a living. And obviously, there's curiosity about what else is out there in the world. I think youth is wasted on the young, as they say, right?”

 

Changing Technology

By the time Peck took over, the company had left residential electric far behind and was focusing on the industrial sector. It did a lot of work for IBM, for example, wiring their new manufacturing facilities.

“Our company is an innovative company that has always been working on the latest and greatest technology, and trying to bring those technologies to the customer,” Peck said. “And so working on IBM's semiconductor labs, the technology was always changing. It was always new technology and new challenges. It was good and exciting work.”

iSun continues to work for Global Foundries as well as for other large companies.

Next, Peck took on communications.

“We started to do communications work as the telecom industry got really busy and active,” he said. “We developed that skill set and differentiated ourselves and helped move that technology forward.”

Photo: Peck solar panels. Courtesy photo.

 

Going Solar

In 2009, through his executive vice president, Kip Myrick, Peck got interested in solar energy.

“Kip, who has been with the company for over 30 years, probably prior to 2009 thought that we should get into solar,” Peck said. “He thought it was the next thing and really pushed hard for it. We thought that it was the time to look at something transformational for the business, something new. Solar was an exciting new technology with lots of opportunities. We'd built a good business where we could build complicated large projects. And so the transition to solar and constructing those projects was really, we felt, a pretty natural transition. Solar is the greatest investment we can make right now. We're determined to accelerate the adoption of renewable energy.”

During the Obama administration, federal subsidies spurred on the solar industry. But Peck doesn't see subsidies as being particularly important.

“I think there's subsidies on all kinds of energy,” Peck said. “I think there have always been some tax credits and things associated with solar, prior to when we got into it. But what's really helped the acceleration of the adoption of solar has been the decreasing prices in solar panels. And then, the efficiencies built into constructing it.”

Subsidies may have gotten a bad rap early on, Peck said.

“For some reason, there's been a real focus on subsidies,” he said. “Maybe it's because there were some early bad performers. But you know, in any new evolving industry there will be bad performers. There will be failures. I'm sure if we went back 100 years and looked at the oil industry, I'm sure we had lots of failures. Bad things happen. That doesn't make every other energy company, or the industry, bad. There were some bad actors or bad players early on in solar. But it's a great market in the energy business. It's completely renewable.”

From the beginning, solar energy was a seductive force to Peck.

“With my experience building projects in the semiconductor industry, we always hear that the next chip is going to be twice as fast and twice as small and half the price,” Peck said. “And we're sort of seeing that same transition in solar technology. We've seen the output by the panels get much larger and at much lower cost. So that's really helped drive and move the industry forward — to make it affordable. Now we can produce solar power that is less expensive than any of the other dirty energies.”

To make his point, Peck mentioned the recent California oil spill that ruined some Orange County beaches. But he recognizes that the United States needs an energy mix right now.

“All kinds of energy are important,” Peck said. “For now, solar will not solve every problem. But it should be where we're putting the majority of our investments, as we look for the business solution for the climate crisis. And as we look to provide clean, renewable energy for people with no secondary negative side effects.”

The controversial nuclear energy option, he believes, is off the table.

“I don't think we'll ever build another nuclear plant in this country,” he said.

 

Building Relationships

Peck's solid relationships in the solar energy field are now fueling iSun's growth. Some of those relationships are a decade long and going strong.

For example, when SunCommon was founded in 2012, it needed solar installers. That's when it found Peck Electric.

“When James and I started SunCommon, we brought our backgrounds in campaigning and marketing but had never worked in solar,” Peterson said. “If we had arrogantly assumed we could handle the construction aspects, we surely would have messed it up. So we turned to Vermont's largest electrical contractor that had launched a solar division, Peck Electric. That partnership flourished, as SunCommon grew the sector and Peck built a few thousand residential solar arrays for us as well as a couple dozen larger community solar arrays. So I think of Jeff as an extraordinarily professional and competent construction executive, but one who is always driven to innovation.”

In 2018, they parted ways.

“As SunCommon matured and we hired Operations who knew what they were doing, we brought construction in-house,” Peterson said. “So we parted ways with Peck, in deep respect and appreciation for what we'd done together. Peck then focused on the larger commercial solar segment; SunCommon expanded our residential and small commercial segment. Until we just re-connected, bringing all that we both offer together under one roof. Now the band is back together.”

Photo: SunCommon employees install solar panels on a roof. Courtesy photo.

Peck Electric offered a dedicated, unionized construction work force that it could put in the field. That was one of the attractions to Encore, which originates, designs, develops, finances, and permits solar installations. As an installer, in 2011, it chose Peck.

“At that point we were, in fact, a very small development shop,” CEO Farrell said. “But they had dozens, if not hundreds, of employees available to actually do the work in the field. We didn't have that, right? So it was a very deliberate and effective partnership, where they were essentially bringing all the labor that we needed to build the projects. And we were bringing the projects themselves.”

The relationship was symbiotic, Farrell said.

“I like to think we’re sort of the origination partner in the relationship,” he said. “And they are essentially the construction partner. They have served as the electrical services contractor on greater than 95 percent of the projects that we've delivered and are working on.”

Right now, the two companies have 10 active projects going forward.

“All of these are several 100 kilowatts, or multiple megawatts,” Farrell said. “So, they supported the deployment of about $100 million of capital investment to date, with more always coming into the pipeline. But those 10 projects that we're actively collaborating on now have a total cost of around $30 million. We serve as the origination partner or the developer, and they are coming in and procuring a lot of the equipment, the men, managing subcontractors, and ultimately helping us actually construct these projects in the field.”

Going forward, iSun is also developing its own projects.

“Their business model to date has been more as an electrical services contractor,” Farrell said. “But obviously, as they grow, they see opportunities out there as well. We're looking forward to supporting them on some of those early development efforts as they move into that market.”

 

Going Public

Peck Electric was looking at going public because “we wanted to build a renewable energy platform focused on solar,” Peck said.

What does that mean?

“It means we wanted to be able to touch all the sectors within renewable energy where solar would be provided,” Peck said. “So there is the residential market, there's the commercial market, there's an industrial market, and then there's the large, utility-scale market. We wanted to make sure that we were going to be involved and impactful in each one of those sectors.”

Peck needed capital for that kind of growth, so he became an early adaptor in the new SPAC market.

A special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) is like a shell company: It's a stock you can buy that doesn’t have the support of an underlying business. It is formed by investors who go public and then go searching for a company to buy. Once the SPAC has bought a company, it becomes public, the investors take their stock shares and disappear, and the company carries on, saved from going through the complicated IPO process.

In this case, the SPAC was a company called Jensyn Acquisition Group, from Freehold, New Jersey.

H Kenneth Merritt, Jr, of the Vermont law firm Merritt and Merritt, is currently iSun's attorney. He became the company's lawyer in 2020, to help with acquisitions, handle SEC reporting and filing, and take care of other day-to-day matters. He was not involved with the company when it became a wholly-owned subsidy of Jensyn, but he offered me some insight into the SPAC system.

“SPACs are sort of the latest thing,” Merritt said. “There's just tons of money flowing into them. This particular one, called Jensyn, went public in 2014, I believe and raised about $40 million. They had been looking for an acquisition candidate — an operating company — for a long period of time. And Peck Electric was interested in going public. So they did a bit of transaction by merging Peck into Jensyn, and changing the name to Peck Company.”

On Tuesday, July 2nd, 2019, the whole Peck family — including mother Diane Cone — plus Myrick and his family and seven others from the company rang the closing bell at NASDAQ in New York City to mark the occasion.

 

Acquisitions

Once Peck had capital, it turned its attention to acquisitions to expand its reach.

It bought iSun in January of this year.

“The Peck Company purchased iSun, which had solar power, car ports, canopies, and EV charging systems,” Peck said. “So we bought them and rebranded in January to iSun.”

The growing popularity of electric vehicles was a big stimulus.

“We believe that the transition to electric vehicles is going to cause massive increase in demand,” Peck said. “When we acquired iSun it was because they had a solar carport with EV charging. And we thought that that connection to the vehicle would be incredibly important.”

While it is still unknown where the demand for solar will hit in each sector, iSun will be there waiting.

“We want to help accelerate the adoption of solar in every sector,” Peck said. “So as we see this increase in adoption of electric vehicles, and the infrastructure required for the charging, we want to be involved.”

Last month the company also acquired its old friend SunCommon for $40 million — $24 million in cash and $16 million in stock. .

“So with SunCommon, we are now in a residential space as well,” Peck said. “After going public with the goal of having a renewable energy platform that we can service each sector in the industry, we thought it was important to be in front of the homeowner who, after purchasing their electric vehicle, will, I think will naturally want to use as much renewable energy as they can. Having solar on their home to offset those costs, and helping with the new demands on the grid, I think, will be incredibly important.”

For SunCommon, this was the next step in its evolution.

The company had to shut down for a few months when the pandemic hit, but when it reopened it found there was a great consumer demand for clean energy products. So although its revenues were smaller due to the pandemic, it still ended the year with $33.1 million in revenues.

“So it's the beginning of this year, our board of directors asked us to imagine what's next,” Peterson said. “We are committed to doing everything we can to build clean energy. The challenge then was how to expand, how to do more. And in discussions with our various friends, we spoke to Jeff Peck, who we know really well from the partnership we had when SunCommon was formed. We had heard he'd cooked up a clean energy platform. And we both concluded that the iSun platform would benefit from residential and small commercial kind of business units to combine with its utility and industrial scale units, and its EV charging network.”

SunCommon, with its entire staff, including management, intact, is now a wholly owned subsidiary of iSun.

“Of the $40 million, about $2.5 million is going to the SunCommon employees,” Peterson said. “So they're each getting $2,000 of cash and some iSun stock.”

 

iSun Strategy

The acquisitions have positioned iSun to be a leader in solar energy.

“I think they're a fantastic company,” Merritt said. “I've very much enjoyed working with them. They're obviously focused on the solar industry, which is absolutely essential in combating climate change, and they now have the capacity to serve sort of the whole range of the solar industry from residential, small commercial to utility scale, and larger commercial projects. So I think they're extremely well positioned, given anticipated infrastructure spending, and the country moving away from fossil fuels to alternative energy.”

Although he wouldn't divulge any company secrets, Merritt indicated that more acquisitions are in the company's future.

“There will almost certainly be additional future acquisitions,” Merritt said. “They have a very well-defined growth strategy. Initially, they are focused on the Northeast, expanding further geographically with other acquisitions of residential solar companies. So they'll be up and down the East Coast and they also have operations in the West. I think the goal is to continue to grow and expand the footprint.”

Solar can become an organization's brand. It can be a representation of an organization's values.

These are iSun's selling points.

“When people see a business that has solar on their roof, and they've embraced renewable energy, that's a brand people want to be associated with,” Peck said. “That's incredibly important. Not only can a company save money, but it'll build brand credibility. And so, too, with electric vehicles. Having that visual representation of an organization's value with carports and EV charging, we thought would be really important.”

As electric vehicle adoption accelerates, electric bills are going to go up.

“Most people are going to charge their cars at home, or at work,” Peck said. “We knew that being connected to that customer early would help with the acceleration of the transition to renewable energy and to the electric vehicle. Because you've seen this with Tesla. The energy market is your home powering your car — it's all connected. The batteries give your home resiliency.”

Photo: Rendering of iSun's solar canopy. Courtesy photo.

Transferring to an electric car can be uncomfortable for some people. So iSun wants to connect with those customers early to help them through the process.

“It's new,” Peck said. “It's different. And we've been in this business for 13 years now. In the solar business, that's a long time. And so we want to take what we've learned and help people transition. We want to make them feel comfortable about it. We really love the way that SunCommon is connected with their customers. So that was important to us.”

Peck said he tends to be “product agnostic,” meaning he is not wedded to any particular solar brand or product.

“I want to find the best solution for the customer and meet them where they want to be sold to,” he said. “If we were building a specific product, you know, we feel obligated to try to just sell that one product to them. We want to be able to sell to our customer the right product for their needs. There are a lot of solar products out there.”

Sometimes things go wrong out there.

“Every company that you'll talk to always has a great highlight reel, right?” Peck said. “We can all give you a corporate resume and tell you all the great things we've done. I think what really matters when things go wrong, when things go bad, is how you respond and what you do. We have a 50-year history. We make it right.”

For example, while doing a 7 megawatt project, someone superimposed a number and the many truckloads of panels that arrived were the wrong ones.

“So we purchased another 7 megawatts of panels,” Peck said. “But we were able to repurpose the other panels and use them on other projects. But it was important that we make projects right when things go wrong.”

It's all part of being a people business, Peck said, returning to his main theme.

“Why I love the business is that I've been around a long time,” he said. “I know people. I've committed to relationships. So when a mistake like that is made, because we've been around so long, we're able to find the right panels, and make the project right and, and still make the schedule.”

 

iSun Today

iSun's reach is growing.

“We're in every New England state, plus New York,” Peck said. “We have projects in Pennsylvania, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Alabama. And then we actually have a large utility scale project that we're working on in Colorado as well.”

The new $30 million contract from Fusion Renewable is to find and build solar projects throughout the United States.

“It is a group of Israeli oil and gas — and, as I like to say, dirty energy — companies who recognize that they want to diversify and transition to renewable energy,” Peck said. “They already own some dirty energy assets in the U.S. And they own some natural gas assets. We started working with them a few months ago, after making an acquisition in the utility side of the business. We brought in an employee to focus on that part of the business. These are large projects. We are helping them own, operate, acquire and build solar assets. They're excited to transition to clean energy.”

The Israelis came to iSun because its work touches on all the different sectors.

“Out of all the companies in the country, they came to us for a really one-stop service,” Peck said.

The $7 million from Fusion Renewable is the Alabama project.

“What we were able to do with this project was to find land,” Peck said. “And to get interconnection agreements to the grid through Alabama Power to build renewable energy. Even as dark red of a state as Alabama is, is now recognizing that consumers and businesses are focused on ESG (environmental, social, and corporate governance). They want to understand where their energy mix is coming from.”

States that were traditionally opposed to solar energy are now embracing it, Peck said.

“The costs are lower than the dirty energy,” he said. “And businesses that want to expand into their states want to know that the utilities are making a commitment to invest in renewable energy. So the Alabama project was a contract for $7 million for us to first design and develop the solar array. And then once we have permits, which should take somewhere between nine months and maybe two years, then we build a large solar array in Alabama.”

The project will be built on 2,600 acres.

“It was part of a 30,000-acre timber forest,” Peck said. “The 2,600 area had been recently cut. They wanted to record their harvesting timber and recycling every year, and that section was ready to be replanted. But the owners of the land said, 'We think the state of Alabama needs renewable energy.' They wanted to find a way to put solar on their property.”

For quite a few years, the fossil fuel industry has been working to impose higher taxes on solar projects. But Peck is undaunted.

“There will always be bad people at work, looking out for their own best interests,” he said. “The great thing about working in renewable energy and solar is that you feel like you're doing good while you're doing your job. I don't know what those forces want to do or why they would be opposed to renewable energy.”

 

The Future

The future looks bright for iSun. Homeowners are transitioning to electric vehicles now. Soon state and local governments as well as businesses will be making the same transition with their fleets.

“Because of our longevity and the depth and breadth of our knowledge in the industry, we can really help accelerate that transition,” Peck said. “We can provide them with EV charging, we can provide them with solar carports, we can provide them with solar on the roof of their businesses, we can build them out in the field and connect that to their meters. We made an investment in software which can help manage the vehicles, so as you run a business with a lot of different vehicles, you're managing your fleet. You know how much you're spending to charge. So we take a holistic approach to the industry. We want to help accelerate the adoption for solar energy.”

Peck has two sons and a daughter who might be interested in joining the family company.

“My daughter is 20 and she's at Providence College,” he said. “She was thinking law and now she's transitioned to business. Like me growing up around the businesses, in a home where they have a business there's a lot of conversations about it. My oldest son works in Boston in real estate finance. And my middle son is still in college at New York University, He has worked here several summers. He's installed. He's worked on electrical construction jobs, doing the dirty work. He's worked on installing solar panels on the roofs of projects. He worked on the YMCA project in downtown Burlington. He worked around the office this summer. He's seen the business up close. So he's certainly interested. I think they all really like and enjoy the business.”

No matter how large he can scale up his company, Peck insisted he is committed to remaining in Vermont and growing jobs here.

“While we've talked a lot about the routes we're going, Vermont's my home,” he said. “As long as I'm doing this, Vermont will be our home. We're always looking for ways to grow the business, but I don't want to lose sight of the fact that we're committed to Vermont. It's where we were founded, it's our home, it's where our values are. We want to take the good stuff that we've gotten from the people in the relationships here in Vermont, export them to other places while we're bringing renewable energy. So I think that'll create a lot of opportunities with jobs and growth for the people who live here now.”

Peck has often said that young people should be more exposed to opportunities in the trades, that the state needs electricians, plumbers, contractors and carpenters maybe more than it needs English professors.

“I think that is an issue,” Peck said. “I'll see young men and women come out of college and apply in an apprenticeship program and come to work for us. And oftentimes, they'll say, 'Oh, I wish I had known about this before I went to school.' I worry sometimes that there's this whole group of people who would love to work in renewable energy, and can come in work and learn the skills and learn the trade. But maybe they've been told that that isn't the right next step for them in their life. There's lots of ways to learn, and there's lots of good and meaningful work. I think that we like to bring honor and dignity to that type of work and make sure that people understand that we value it. It's great work. You're building something that'll last decades that will produce renewable energy every day.”

Even as an employer of choice, Peck said he is still having trouble finding workers.

“I would love to have a lot of people interested in entering the renewable energy space,” he said. “It is a somewhat of a difficult time for hiring. But I don't think we're unique. I think everyone's having a hard time. We're all trying to figure out how to move forward post COVID. How do you integrate people into your workforce? How do you continue to grow? How do you meet the employees in a way that they want to work? I think it's an adjustment for everybody. But again, you know, we're focused on growing the business and being an employer of choice.”

Peck is building an energy company that will last deep into the future.

“For me, it's about the team that's with us and getting to do this great work with them,” he said. “It's about working with them every day and seeing we're building something with some longevity. The product we're building will last for 40 years and produce energy. And I get to do it with such a great team of people every day. For me, that's the fun stuff.”

Joyce Marcel is a journalist in southern Vermont. In 2017 she was named the best business magazine profile writer in the country by the Alliance of Area Business Publications. She is married to Randy Holhut, the news editor/acting operations manager of The Commons, a weekly newspaper in Brattleboro.