On the first day of this new year, South Mountain began its 25th year as an employee owned company (and its 38th year in business). It was on January 1, 1987 that we converted from a sole proprietorship in my ownership to a democratically owned worker co-operative. As I’ve so often said, it was a hinge point in the history of the company.
When I started South Mountain in 1975 I was 25. Now there’s a group of us in our sixties who will gradually retire during the coming decades (starting with Mike Drezner at the end of this year) and a collection of new, younger owners poised to lead SMCo in to its 2nd generation, and beyond. My personal goal: to still be going strong in 2025, when SMCo turns 50 and I’m 75.
The last few years, however, haven’t been easy. We’ve been on semi-permanent scuffle: working hard, all the time, to keep everyone working, to keep adjusting, and to keep expanding the diversity of what we do. In our many years in business there have, of course, been other tough times, but never did it require such prolonged arduous efforts. One thing is for certain: we have left no sacred cow un-skewered.
And we’ve emerged. We scuffle no longer.
SMCo is wide awake and our temperature is rising. Now we are faced with managing fulfillment of the many exciting projects we have before us. And I’m one helluva lot happier to bust our tails trying to figure out how to get things done than to bust our tails trying to figure out how to have enough to do.
As we begin the year a quick survey of the projects in progress serves to remind me that we are a very different company than the SMCo of several years ago. From many connected new endeavors and approaches a new dynamic of diversity is emerging and rapidly becoming the norm.
Right now we are finishing the following:
- renovations in Oak Bluffs and Edgartown
- a sweet little high performance home in Aquinnah for the daughter of old friends and former SMCo stalwart Bruce Ignacio
- a deep energy retrofit to a 1930’s Chilmark cottage where SMCo owner Billy Dillon and wife Amy live,
- a 70 KW solar electric system and associated energy improvements that will make a large Chilmark property—where we have built three homes over 20 years—energy neutral!
Meanwhile, every week or two we complete a new residential solar electric system, and they keep on coming.
We have just begun a remarkable renovation project for the wonderful new owners of a storied Chilmark property that has a very tight schedule and some interesting architectural excursions. Phase One will be completed in June, after which we’ll drink a cup of coffee, take a deep breath while the owners enjoy, and continue in the fall with Phase 2.
We are designing a large barn/workshop/gallery for an artist in West Tisbury; it will include a greenhouse, composting toilet, and rainwater collection, as well as a large solar electric system that will provide all the electricity needs for this 50 acre property (see a pattern here?).
Meanwhile, along with our other design projects, we are working with Vineyard Power on permits and design for two very exciting commercial solar electric projects:
- 50 Kilowatts on the Aquinnah landfill for municipal power
- three parking lot canopies at Cronig’s supermarket that will provide 210 kilowatts and be the largest renewable energy project—by a fair margin—on Martha’s Vineyard to date, and the first parking lot canopies in Massachusetts.
We are also beginning some new projects off-island as well, including a planned net zero deep energy retrofit of a 50 year old 25 unit affordable housing complex in Falmouth, and a design for a new house in Vermont, which is way off our usual beaten track!!
So our 25th year as an employee owned company looks like it will be a thrilling one. We owe a lot of the excitement to the structure that has allowed us to safely navigate the rough waters of the last few years. With all oars pulling together we’ve been able to haul ourselves out of the storm. For now, we’re clear.
Happy New Year. Onward we go.