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This profile was last updated on 10/10/13  and contains information from public web pages and contributions from the ZoomInfo community.

Owner

Phone: (219) ***-****  HQ Phone
Email: b***@***.net
Local Address: St. John, Indiana, United States
SunRise Solar Inc
10455 W 93Rd Ave
Saint John , Indiana 46373
United States

Company Description: 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...   more
Background

Employment History

Board Memberships and Affiliations

Education

  • business administration
    IUN
75 Total References
Web References
Roofer Bill Keith started a ...
www.cnn.com, 23 Aug 2012 [cached]
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.
Keith 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. His first year, Keith said he barely made enough to scrape by -- about $39,000 in sales.
"It wasn't enough to cover expenses," Keith recalled.
But he 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. He looked around for companies that could help him manufacture the fans, concentrating his search in his own backyard. He eventually found a company that could help and needed the extra work about 90 miles away in Warsaw, Indiana.
He 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. Even his 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.
"He said he was with the Obama transition team looking for small companies," Keith recalled. He later met with the man who told Keith, "we want to interview you, vet you."
Romney accused of hypocrisy for Solyndra Durbin: 'Wrong' to condemn Solyndra loan 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 said.
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. He asked Obama what he 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.
...
Keith'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.
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"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 wife.
At these events, lawmakers talked about "how I created a solar product, how it's good for the environment, for business," he said.
"(I) won't say they were putting words in my mouth but they had a lot of talking points," Keith said. "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 Bill Keith with Rep.
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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.
SunRise Solar started exporting fans all over the world. While his 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 fans run. It's not that he hasn't tried. He initially used a company in Michigan but they stopped manufacturing the kind of panels he needed. Then Keith 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. Reluctantly, he 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.
Keith 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 admits 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 said.
Unless he can show specific manufacturing documentation by August 29, Keith said he 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 said he will have to shutter his business.
"These guys are going to put me out of business," Keith said. "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
Keith said he has never received government financial assistance and is taxed in the 40 percent bracket. He said he has sat by and watched companies like the now bankrupt Solyndra run through taxpayers' money and not return on the government's investment.
He said he doesn't want a handout -- just a helping hand. So he 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 administration.
Under the subject line his e-mail to Nelson, Keith wrote, "Hanging on for life here."
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Keith asked in the e-mail. "Please ... I'm pleading with you."
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That was nearly a month ago and Keith is still waiting. CNN 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.
"When Obama came in office, there were a lot of small business owners who said
WE CAN LEAD // NEWSROOM
wecanlead.org, 5 Oct 2009 [cached]
"Comprehensive climate legislation will benefit our planet and economy and, if done right, signal the rebirth of American manufacturing," said Bill Keith, founder and CEO of Indiana-based SunRise Solar, Inc.
directory
www.stjohnin.com, 4 April 2007 [cached]
William Keith
SunRise Solar Attic Fan - In The NEWS
www.sunrisesolar.net, 25 Jan 2009 [cached]
Bill Keith, president of SunRise Solar, said the fans cost an average of $500, and the average homeowner will save from $75 to $150 on his or her annual energy bill through its use. He said he connected with VanDenburgh because one of the other House members remembered when he testified before the General Assembly about renewable energy two years ago.
The products already have a federal tax credit of 30 percent, he said.
If passed, VanDenburgh said she believes the bill would create more jobs in the state, and Keith agreed. He said it would help his company grow, which now employs 24 people. He said it could add 15 to 20 more jobs within the next year and also would have a trickledown effect for roofers and those in heating and cooling businesses who would install the fans.
"I'm glad the state is looking at converting blue-collar jobs to green-collar jobs," he said.
Although the business was started in 2000, Keith said the fans already are used all over the world and throughout the country, such as at Honolulu International Airport, various schools in Hawaii, the governor's mansion in Michigan and at the University of Georgia.
...
ST. JOHN | Bill Keith never expected to be in the spotlight, but he and his business, Sunrise Solar Inc. are getting the chance on ABC TV news -- twice.
A former roofer, Keith is president of the St. John-based company that manufactures and sells solar powered roof fans, a green product that removes hot air from attics using solar power. In 2007, Keith was honored as an Energy Patriot by U.S. Sen.
...
"Bill Weir's producer called me and asked questions and said they wanted to highlight us because we're a green company growing in a slowing economy," Keith said Wednesday. "The crew flew in from New York Sunday evening, and they shot the piece Monday..."
Weir, his producer and three others filmed the segment for several hours at Sunrise Solar's manufacturing facility in Warsaw, Keith said.
"I thought that was that, and then (Tuesday) I got an email from Weir saying they were so smitten with the story that they will do a little smaller segment on World News, and they'll come out and shoot more for a 'Spirit of America' piece next week."
That second piece is slated to air Jan. 21 as part of the World News report.
It's all been a "heady, whirlwind" experience, said Keith, 45, of St. John, who said the publicity gives his company great exposure and adds to the widening publicity that began with the Lugar award.
"It's been from not getting people to call us back to -- wow," he said. "This is overwhelming. We're trying to grow the company by being responsive. I never expected this kind of attention."
The company that has a total of 23 employees, including 18 at its manufacturing plant, four in the office and Keith, doubled its 2007 revenue to $2 million in 2008 and should see similar growth this year despite the poor economy, Keith said.
But the national media exposure also does more than give Sunrise Solar publicity, said Keith, a happily married father of four.
"We've had many local stories about the company, but I can't attribute any sales to anyone reading about us," he said.
...
I discussed them this week with St. John resident Bill Keith, president of SunRise Solar, which markets the solar-powered attic ventilation fans he invented.
Keith is a Hoosier through and through. He's trying to get a solar panel manufacturer to locate in Indiana so this important component can support jobs in his own state.
Ideally, of course, he'd like to see a solar panel manufacturer locate in his own county, but Lake County high tax rates make it more difficult to lure factories here.
And if Gary succeeds in its effort to fight the property tax caps, businesses there could see maximum property taxes of 5.5 percent of the property's value -- hardly an incentive to create jobs there.
Keith told of opportunities to move his business elsewhere.
Folks at the University of Notre Dame suggested he move his business to a Montana town so desperate for jobs at its abandoned military base that his business wouldn't have to pay taxes.
And one time, fed up with weather like this weekend's deep freeze, he expressed interest in moving his business to Greenville, S.C. The mayor there called Keith personally to say he was sending a stack of information 2 inches thick and to invite Keith and his wife to dinner and a show in Greenville so the Keiths could get a taste of the cultural life there.
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Keith said.
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Keith is a Big Fan of Solar Energy in Region
...
Bill Keith thought it would be cool to sell solar powered attic fans as part of his remodeling business. But when he learned the product he had been selling was no longer available, the former roofer decided to create his own solar fan.
Little did the St. John resident know he would be in the forefront of the "green" construction industry and nationally recognized for his innovation. "I find myself in a tidal wave of 'green' building," he said, noting the rising cost of energy is fueling a transformation in renewable energy products.
He was named a Fellow in the Society of Innovators for 2007-2008. The society is sponsored by Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana Northwest to recognize innovation and innovators in the region.
Like so many entrepreneurs, he was a man with a dream, working from his garage.
Last December, he passed his first $1 million in sales, and his product is being sold in just about every state and several countries, most recently Spain.
...
Bill and his brother formed a roofing and remodeling company right after high school. Bill then graduated from IUN with a major in business administration, and went to work for a regional bank. After work, he would change into a pair of jeans and help his brother in the remodeling business.
"The bank wasn't ready for me," he laughed. Within in a short time, he returned to the roofing business full time with his brother. He bought new trucks, changed the name and grew the business.
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Bill is a founding member of the Indiana Renewable Energy Association.
SunRise Solar - About Our Company
www.sunrisesolar.net, 15 Jan 2013 [cached]
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. His answer….the SunRise Solar-Powered Attic Fan.
Bill Keith's success and determination has attracted national media coverage, and has drawn the attention of the White House. Bill Keith 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. He 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. Bill Keith 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 in 2009. Bill Keith 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.
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Bill Keith 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.
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Under Bill Keith's leadership SunRise Solar has received many awards and notable interviews including:
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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.
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