I wrote earlier about being invited by Governor Granholm to attend the RPS Bill signing this past Monday in Eaton Rapids. The following is the experience I had at that bill signing:
Friday October 3rd at 5:00 pm I received an email with this: (GOV) after the email address. I knew from my past experiences with the State Government, that anything with that (GOV) meant that the email was from the State. I have spent a ton of time over the last year or so working with people in Lansing and getting to know all the 'big wigs' in the State Capital. In my attempt to spread the word about what I would like to see happen in Michigan with regards to renewable energy and energy efficiency, I have been accepted into a few 'inner circles'. Because of this, I knew that there was a list of names that the Governor's Office was putting together for this RPS Bill signing and that a few of my contacts had been invited to go to this historic event. When I saw the (GOV) behind the email address, I felt like I had just found Willy Wonka's Golden Ticket. I made a few calls to make sure this was not a hoax or just a media event and I was told it was being held at a factory in Eaton Rapids where they work on parts for commercial wind generators. One of my contacts told me that the list of attendees was small and that only leaders of their respective professions had been invited.
After hearing that bit of information, I typed the address of Dowding Enterprises into Map Quest and planned on going to the RPS Bill signing so I could rub elbows with Lansing's Elite. Dowding Enterprises is in Eaton Rapids, which is a really nice small town south of Lansing. Eaton Rapids has all the charm of a small town Up North, but it is south of Lansing; this caught my eye right away as I drove through downtown. When I pulled into the parking lot of this brand new manufacturing center, I wondered what it was going to be like inside. I have been with the Governor before in gatherings, but this was new, because everyone looked ultra-important and unapproachable. So, I did what I normally do in an instance like that and walked in and started approaching the unapproachable. Luckily for me, during my mingling time, I ran into people I knew. Jennifer Alvarado, the Executive Director of the Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association walked up to me and said "I have to introduce you to somebody." Jennifer introduced me to the President of Dowding Enterprises (the host of the event) and he took Jennifer and I on a personal tour of this amazing, spotless new facility they had just opened to produce parts for commercial wind generators. He said something that others would also say that day, "It is nice to finally meet you, you are doing great work and keep it up." I have been making it a point to keep my face in front of people at the State Capital, but I did not know that people knew who I was, that was pretty neat. This gave me confidence to go mingle with some other people.
As I waded my way through the small sea of suits, I found a couple guys who were looking a little uncomfortable and I approached them to say hi. I tried the old true and tested line of "what do you guys do?" The response from one of the guys was "I am the president of DTE Energy, and what do you do." Before I answered, I thought to myself, wow there are some powerful people here. I told the president of DTE Energy what I did for a living and who I was and then said "I probably should not tell you this, but I am trying to get more people to use less of your product by building the most energy efficient homes imaginable." His response was a short but respectful "AHHH". Then there was an awkward silence which often occurs at these kinds of events, so I moved on.
I stood off to the side for a moment to observe what was going on. That is when I noticed that the company's entire work force was up on this mezanine looking down on the event. Almost on que, Jennifer Alvarado walked by me and I stopped her. I asked her why all those people were being made to stay up there. It made me a little concerned and she agreed that it seemed like a picture of how things work with the government. The real people are left out while the 'sea of suits' mingle and make decisions for them. We eventually did find out, that the group was up there for the photo 'op' and that the governor walked up there to talk to the group. It still seemed weird to me, but since the Governor was not there yet, I decided to go back to mingling.
I saw and met people who I normally talk to only on the phone or by email. I saw council people from Eaton Rapids, State Representatives, members of the Public Service Commision, State Energy Office people, and the list goes on and on. I met up with a person from around Manistee County whom I used to not get along with. At this Bill Signing, we agreed to use our connections and put our heads together to work with Benzie and Manistee Counties. We want to see more acceptance of residential wind turbines, other renewable energy technologies and green building in those areas. I am excited to have finally got to spend some time with this person and get to know him better. Our communication in the past was through other people and that made things difficult. I look forward to working with him and seeing what we can accomplish by putting our heads together.
Both he and I looked up and there she was standing right next to us, the Governor! She walked past us towards the podium and said "Hi guys". As she approached the stage area, the group was seated to hear what message the Governor would give. Gov. Granholm spoke about the great things that would happen as the result of this Bill signing and we all applauded, because of the effort it took to get this RPS Bill signed. She spoke about the success that companies like mine have had in such tough times, so we applauded that too. The best thing she said that got the most heads nodding, was about this Bill being just a stepping stone to better things. She talked about being at the table more in the future to work on 'spin offs' of this bill. This is very important, as there was specific language that was left out of the bill that many were upset about. I agreed with her when she said it was a step in the right direction.
After her speech, she sat at the table and signed copies of the bills that she handed to the different groups that stood behind her for pictures. I chose to not go up there, because I had nothing to do with the drafting of that bill, only influencing legistators to vote in favor of it. I was happy to see Jennifer Alvarado go up to the table, as she has been the driving force of this RPS/net metering Bill.
This is the time in an event like this, that everyone follows the Governor around looking to say something to her. I have learned to let her make her rounds because her aid is directing her where to go and how much time they have before they have to go to some other gathering. After the Governor made her rounds, she was walking towards us and I grabbed her aid and said, we need a minute or two, and he took my camera phone and said, "you got two minutes" and started snapping pictures for me.
I introduced the person I was with from Manistee County first, but the Governor's face lit up when she saw me becauce she knew who I was. We had spent time together at the Michigan Energy Fair before she gave me and my Team a tribute for our work with building and renewable energy. After the first photo, she turned to me and said "and how are you?" I got a big smile on my face because she remembered me (which is rare because of all the people who she meets everyday). Her aid came up to say they have to go, and the Governor put up her finger because she needed a little more time to talk. I said "Governor, do you remember who I am?" her response was "It's Adam right?" I could hardly talk for a moment, but then I gained my senses and went to talking business. I told her how Hybrid Homes was doing and that we are hiring people and making it a point to hire local talent as much as possible wherever we are working at in the state. It was a cool experience, one that has left me on a high because it lets me know that I am at least making an impact if I am getting invited by the Governor to represent the State's green building industry.
As I floated away from the Governor on my cloud, I saw my 'cronies' and landed next to them. Jennifer Alvarado introduced me to a person I have heard a lot about but have never had the chance to meet..Jim MacInnes, President and GM of Crystal Mountain Resort. Jim is a neat guy! He and I talked for a long time about our views on preserving this planet. He is very wise and in-tune with energy conservation and using renewable energy. If anyone has ever heard him talk, you can tell he has a passion for the environment. I have spent a lot of time at Crystal Mountain this year at conferences and meeting clients there and I have been keeping an eye on what they are doing there. Since I had Jim in front of me, I asked him a question that a few others have asked him before, "Jim, are you going to load that place up with solar panels?". His response was one that I had hoped he would give, "Adam, we are working on consumption first at Crystal Mountain, we are proud that we have started to upgrade our insulation in places and using other technologies." I stopped him in mid-sentence to shout "YES!, now you are talking my language". See, for those of you who do not know me yet, you will find out that I love renewable energy but also speak about places that have energy consumption issues. The reason is, I feel that we should not waste any energy, whether it's renewable or not. We must first strive to use less energy, then add renewable energy to complement the low energy consumption. That is the direction Crystal Mountain is heading. I like Jim a lot and look forward to our new friendship. We are now talking about putting a Hybrid Home in the Crystal Mountain Community to showcase the future of home construction and to make a very powerful statement to the thousands of people who go there every year.
At this point, I was high as a kite and it was almost 4 pm. I still had to drive up to Traverse City to get to a meeting. I walked out with Jim and Jennifer and talked some more with them in the parking lot. You can see how an event like this goes, it is no different than anything else with regards to meeting people. You never know how you are going to feel after you attend an event like this, but I can say that I am very happy I went to the RPS signing, it could not have went better.
Stay tuned to my next blog. I will talk about The Conference on Michigan's Future Energy, Economy and Environment.
This conference will be held at Crystal Mountain in November and I have been asked to speak there. Although it is a busy time of year for me, I have agreed to be there to speak about making new and existing homes more energy efficient, using renewable energy, and also about my quest for an affordable zero energy home. Check out the list of speakers on the link above, I have, and I am amazed. You may not know some of the names, but I do, and I will tell you that I have never seen a more powerful, passionate, and educated speaker line-up anywhere. I am so impressed, that Hybrid Homes has now sponsored the event! I will write more about why I think people should attend this event at Crystal Mountain in my upcoming blogs....