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Powering the world from Piedmont; GenPro's bright future

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Dwight Patterson can talk about western Nebraska and the Bahamas in a short span and make it all connect.

Patterson, the founder and CEO of GenPro Energy Solutions that has its South Dakota office in Piedmont, can discuss the 5.2-megawatt solar electric project that the company is getting ready to break ground on in Scottsbluff, Nebraska. And a short time later, he can detail a project in the Bahamas that involves creating and storing energy.

That explains the reach of GenPro, which Patterson started in 2003 in Rapid City to handle solar-water pumping distribution and focuses on renewable energy and energy efficiency integration, according to the company's website. Since then, it is supporting active projects on four continents and has opened offices in Florida and Nebraska. The Piedmont location opened this spring after GenPro acquired an LED manufacturing company in California. More than 50 people work at the Piedmont facility. The company also has an office in Central City, Nebraska, which has several employees.

As to what has led to the company's growth, Peterson credited the people who are hired there, calling them outstanding individuals who have a dream within a dream.

“We bring on people that have the aptitude to go after their own dreams and if it's within the energy market and fits within our overall vision of our organization, we give them the tools really to empower them to live a dream within a dream,” he told Black Hills Business.

But another reason for the company's success has been its ability to say no, he added. Customers would come to GenPro looking to do renewable energy for their home or business, Patterson said, only to sometimes be told that it would not be in their best interest.

“Many times we would recommend that the customer not do it yet, that their particular situation didn't warrant the investment at this time,” he said.

The customer base these days in the renewable energy and energy efficient markets appears to be strong and growing.

Patterson said that the majority of the growth over the last 10 years has been on the East and West coasts, but that the lion's share of their solar projects have been done in the Midwest.

“I would say a good 65 percent of our business is actually in the Midwest now compared to where it was about 5 percent in the Midwest in the early days and 95 percent out of state,” Patterson said.

The growth in the market has been fueled by the economics of the technology becoming easier for customers to absorb. For companies facing rising energy costs, being able to take control of energy costs is a huge draw, Patterson said.

Other projects in the Black Hills area done by GenPro include ongoing work including a recently completed solar project at Black Hills State University. Also, they did a custom solar-powered awning at Lucy's and the Green Wolf in Hot Springs. Those are smaller projects that the company has done, Patterson said, alongside larger endeavors that can take six months to two years to develop and deploy.

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