Energy efficiency upgrades driving business at Neil Kelly
By Wendy Culverwell
Neil Kelly CEO Tom Kelly said last week that the demand for energy efficiency upgrades has prompted growth in his business.
Energy retrofits are driving growth for Neil Kelly Co., one of Portland’s leading home improvement contractors.
Tom Kelly, CEO, said the company’s Home Performance division has grown to 40 employees from just five in early 2011. Energy retrofits work has more than doubled every year and is poised to lead the company in 2013.
“We may do more business next year in energy retrofits than we do in remodeling,” said Kelly, guest speaker at the Portland Business Journal’s monthly Power Breakfast, held last week morning at The Governor Hotel.
Neil Kelly completed 211 home retrofits in 2011, reducing the average energy consumption by 30 percent, or 2.8 tons of carbon per house per year.
“We’re making a difference,” said Kelly in a wide-ranging conversation.
Kelly, 61, has led the company since 1979 when he was 29 and his father had a massive heart attack that triggered an early retirement. Business was strong but quickly faltered in the economic downturn of the early 1980s. That led to some tense family conversations, he recalled.
His father couldn’t tell if his son or the economy was killing the company.
Now, Neil Kelly is preparing for its next transition.
Kelly said his son will join the company’s management team after graduating from Portland State University next spring, with the goal of eventually taking over.
Noting that he himself was probably too young to helm the company at 29, Kelly said he’ll bring in transitional leaders until his son is ready to stand on his own.
In the interim, Kelly plans to semi-retire into the chairmanship role within about five years.
Kelly, who has taken a leadership role in the sustainable business community speaking out about coal among other issues, has no regrets about the initiatives he’s led, regardless of whether they succeeded or failed.
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