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SunRise Solar - About Our Company
Bill Keith, President
After nearly 25 years running a roofing company with his
brother Dan, Bill Keith
left to start a new company, SunRise Solar Inc.
to develop the SunRise Solar-Powered Attic Fan.
As a roofer, he understood the importance of proper attic ventilation, and wanted to offer an alternative to traditional electric attic exhaust fans.
answer….the SunRise Solar-Powered Attic Fan.
success and determination has attracted national media coverage, and has drawn the attention of the White House.
was invited twice by the White House to attend President Obama's meetings in Indiana, where he
challenged the President to reach out to small businesses that are innovating renewable energy products.
was a featured guest at Vice President Biden's Middle Class Task Force Summit in Philadelphia in March 2009, where SunRise Solar
was recognized for its efforts to reduce energy consumption and promote American manufacturing.
has also attended meetings with Energy Secretary Chu and others at the White House to discuss the challenges small businesses face in the renewable energy industry.
Bill Keith also served on a committee with the US Chamber's Global Intellectual Property Center in Washington, DC where he represented small business.
The Environmental Defense Fund in Washington did a study of SunRise Solar
also was asked to work with Indiana state legislators to offer a state tax deduction for solar attic fans - the bill passed in June 2009.
was interviewed by New York Times bestselling author Frank Luntz - his interview was shown to focus groups to determine what the public liked about Bill's story.
Under Bill Keith's
leadership SunRise Solar has received many awards and notable interviews including:
After 25 years in the business, Bill Keith, President of SunRise Solar, Inc. knew he would have success with his innovation - just not this soon and not with all of the national press that has surrounded it.
This "everyday Joe" had spent his
free time during the last 15 years in his
basement working on an energy efficient fan that could operate off of solar energy.
Since its introduction on the market, Keith
has enjoyed an overwhelming response with new orders for installations pouring in every day.
In the last year alone, Keith
has sold over 3,000 fans to homeowners and businesses.
Bill Keith, President of ...
Bill Keith, President of Sunrise Solar, Inc.
Manufactures the SunRise Solar Powered Attic Fan.
He launched his business from his 130 year old renovated home office next to his family home in St. John, Indiana.
Points North Energy :: News and Updates
Gen. Stephen Cheney (USMC) -- Andrea Wong, CEO of Lifetime Networks -- Leo Gerard -- Mayor John Hickenlooper -- Mayor Shirley Franklin -- Mayor Mike Bloomberg -- Rev. Lennox Yearwood -- Dr. Peter Wilk -- Dr. Rebecca M. Patton -- Martin Luther King III -- Dr. Rajendra Pachauri -- Professor Stephen Hawking -- Eddy Moore, AR Business Leaders for a Clean Energy Economy -- Bill Keith, CEO Sunrise Solar
Roofer Bill Keith started a ...
Roofer Bill Keith started a solar fan business nearly a decade ago
He aimed to make the fans using all American parts and labor
His success attracted the attention of the Obama administration
Now, a new trade policy could put him out of business
St. John, Indiana (CNN) -- With just his
dream, determination and hard work, Bill Keith
started a solar fan business nearly a decade ago out of his
garage in northwest Indiana.
The one-time roofer simply wanted to make enough money to care for his
family and to create a ripple effect for other workers, particularly in this economically depressed area outside Chicago.
vowed to create his
solar attic fans entirely out of parts made in the United States.
Using only the sun's energy, the fan pumps hot air out of the attic -- lowering cooling bills -- and doesn't have to be in direct sunlight to work.
first year, Keith
barely made enough to scrape by -- about $39,000 in sales.
"It wasn't enough to cover expenses," Keith
stuck with it and his
promise to buy American parts.
Keith's company, SunRise Solar
, steadily grew to the point that he
couldn't keep up with the influx of orders.
looked around for companies that could help him manufacture the fans, concentrating his
search in his
eventually found a company that could help and needed the extra work about 90 miles away in Warsaw, Indiana.
bought molded plastic in Indiana as well as fasteners, nuts, bolts and steel.
Wire for the fans came from workers in New Jersey, while the motors were from Pennsylvania and Chicago.
cardboard boxes were manufactured in nearby South Bend.
Keith had achieved his own small part of the American dream: He became a self-made small-business owner.
And in 2008, his
success attracted the attention of the soon-to-be next president of the United States
, Barack Obama.
That year, he
got an unexpected call from a representative of the new administration.
was with the Obama transition team looking for small companies," Keith
later met with the man who told Keith
, "we want to interview you, vet you."
Romney accused of hypocrisy for Solyndra
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Renting solar panels to save money
"Guy sat right there talking with me, said 'I really love your story and I'm going to push it up the rank,'" Keith
And that's exactly what happened.
Shortly after he
was inaugurated, Obama
held a town hall meeting in the economically devastated city of Elkhart, Indiana.
Keith and his wife were asked to come and -- prodded by his wife -- he stood up and told the president about his solar business.
planned to do to encourage small business owners like himself.
The question turned Keith into a White House solar superstar.
ABC, CNBC and other media came calling to tell the story of the roofer who built a solar company out of his
garage -- and he
did so without a government handout.
's success story provided good publicity for the White House which called again and again, using Keith to underscore the Obama
administration's goal of pushing America towards new sources of clean energy.
"'Can you come to Washington?
Can you come to Philly?
Biden doing this,'" Keith
said of the numerous requests he received from the administration.
"They were continually inviting me to these things called 'advocacy days' where they wanted me to meet with senators and congressmen," Keith
said, noting that he
attended many with his
At these events, lawmakers talked about "how I created a solar product, how it's good for the environment, for business," he
"(I) won't say they were putting words in my mouth but they had a lot of talking points," Keith
"I was happy to do it from that point of view.
It is friendly to the environment; it is creating jobs."
Bill Keith with Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Ind., pictured on the left, and Sen. Dick Lugar, R-Ind., on the right
It also was good advertising for Keith
, who could never have afforded the publicity these appearances offered.
Orders for the fans, which retail at about $500, came pouring in from places as far away as Hawaii.
"It grew to where our peak was $2 million (in revenues)," he
said, referring to sales in 2009.
started exporting fans all over the world.
home-based business employs only about 21 direct and indirect employees, it brought a much-needed economic boost to an area of the country hard hit by the recession.
Today, Keith's solar star appears to be on a collision course with another Obama policy that may put him out of business.
The irony is not lost on Keith
: A man whose profile and company soared because of the administration's energy policy is now falling apart because of a new Obama anti-dumping policy involving China.
While 95 percent of Keith's fans are American-made, he
has yet to find a U.S. company that can make the small customized solar panels that make his
It's not that he
initially used a company in Michigan but they stopped manufacturing the kind of panels he
turned to a New York company but the quality was so bad that he
was replacing the defective parts faster than he
could sell the fans.
Over the years he
begged environmental groups as well as the Commerce Department for help in finding an American company that could make the key solar component.
agreed to purchase them from a major company in the United States
, which bought their panels from another country and then had them customized in Hong Kong.
Eventually that manufacturer told Keith
to deal with the Hong Kong customizer directly.
said the U.S. Customs Department
has accused him of using Chinese-made solar panels, in violation of a tough import policy adopted in May at the behest of major U.S. solar companies.
The policy is intended to thwart China from undercutting prices and flooding the U.S. market with cheaper solar panels.
The U.S. Department of Commerce
is currently reviewing the policy, and is scheduled to make a determination in the fall.
Keith denies that any of part of his
solar fans are produced in China, but he
can't totally prove it.
According to Keith, the owner of the Hong Kong company that customizes his solar cells has stated in an affadavit that it buys the cells from the United States, Taiwan and Germany.
But Keith worries that testimony won't be good enough.
"The solar panel tariff is a broad-reaching tariff.
In my estimation it shouldn't be geared toward small niche markets like mine," Keith
can show specific manufacturing documentation by August 29, Keith
could be fined as much as 250 percent on his
solar panels -- an effective rate of $270,000.
If that anti-dumping fine is levied, Keith
will have to shutter his
"These guys are going to put me out of business," Keith
"I don't have any help.
I've been trying to get help, no one can help me."
The solar panel tariff ...shouldn't be geared toward small niche markets like mine.
Bill Keith, owner, SunRise Solar
has never received government financial assistance and is taxed in the 40 percent bracket.
has sat by and watched companies like the now bankrupt Solyndra run through taxpayers' money and not return on the government's investment.
doesn't want a handout -- just a helping hand.
went back to the well one more time, pleading with Greg Nelson, deputy director of the White House Office of Public Engagement who Keith
said had been his
contact with the Obama
Under the subject line his e-mail to Nelson, Keith
wrote, "Hanging on for life here."
asked in the e-mail.
"Please ... I'm pleading with you."
That was nearly a month ago and Keith
is still waiting.
sent three e-mails to the White House asking about Keith's situation, and received a reply from a spokesman late Wednesday afternoon.
The spokesman stated that the tariff "highlights the degree to which solar panel manufacturers have faced unfair competition from countries like China" and the president's move to impose a tax on Chinese-made goods is a way to establish "a level playing field with China for American businesses and workers.
The reply did not address Keith's situation.
came in office, there were a lot of small business owners who said
SunRise Solar News and Awards
Bill Keith's business office is akin to a mad scientist's lab.
Dozens of his
more than 45 models of solar-powered attic fans are stacked neatly in boxes prepped for globalwide customers.
Next to the fans are motors and other equipment from solar fans by competitors so he
can see their progress.
(Page 2) Bill Keith, president of SunRise Solar Inc., a St. John, Ind.-based maker of solar-powered ventilation systems, said there has been "a lot of chatter" among executives this week about the chamber defections.
Keith is not a chamber member but sits on the group's intellectual property committee.
"I fully respect the chamber, but I think they are missing the mark on the climate issue," Keith