Private company in Roanoke helps companies monitor and manage energy costs

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Don’t let the name fool you.  ADMMicro is positioning itself to become a big player in energy management. The Roanoke-based company already competes with some of the established goliaths in the industry and is winning Fortune 500 clients.  Target, Advance Auto Parts and Walgreen’s all turn to the company to rein in energy expenses.

The reason is threefold — ADM offers a cost-effective new product, a focused marketing strategy and an executive team with plenty of experience in energy. 

Four of the company’s founders worked with ADMMicro CEO, Don Howell, at American Electric Power Company (AEP) for more than two decades. Howell held both technical and management positions at AEP that taught him how power is monitored, metered and regulated. 

The group left the power company began ADM in 2002 with this mission: deliver affordable energy management systems to clientele that may not normally have the budget to make such a purchase. The systems include data analysis of electricity, natural gas, propane, or water consumption.

For instance, explains Howell, “We hit upon the idea of submetering. It allows us to go into a facility and micro-manage their electrical systems and devices.”

The development of ADM’s patented panel allows businesses to sub-monitor 12 to 36 electrical circuits. A business can track everything from its HVAC systems to freezers to lighting in real time.  By marrying monitoring, management and control systems in a single panel, Howell says manufacturing costs can be kept low, making the system cost-effective and very competitive.

O’Reilly Automotive, Inc., one of the largest automotive aftermarket parts, tools and supplier retailers in the United States, is a happy ADM customer.

After installing its energy management system, the company eliminated more than 33 million pounds of CO2 emissions from 1,600 of its 1,830 stores in 2007.  “It’s rewarding to know that the energy savings that help to reduce the cost of operating our stores are benefiting the environment as well,” says Mike Young, director of construction for the Springfield, Mo., company.

The cost of an ADM system varies.  Every business customer solution is unique; designed and configured to address specific energy needs. ADM executives say an average number is hard to come by, but most clients can expect to see a payback on their investment in 18 to 24 months and an energy saving of more than 40 percent in five years. 

As part of its marketing strategy, ADMMicro has set its sights on the so-called “small box” retailers — businesses with 1,500 to 30,000 square feet of space.  This niche includes specialty retail, fast food, convenience stores and government buildings.

The company’s start-up during a time of increased interest in green technologies and rising energy costs helped it gain venture capital.  In fact, ADMMicro’s concept was so strong in the opinion of Joe Tatum, president of TradeWinds Capital in Roanoke, that he decided to join the board and developed the fledgling company’s business plan. “… We had a great deal of confidence in the technology and the experience of the people attached to ADMMicro.” Today, Tatum serves as an executive vice president and managing director for ADM. 

With clients across the country and more than 5,000 installations under its belt, ADMMicro has grown from a handful of employees to 48 and plans to add 15 to 20 more workers in the next year.

Europe is calling as well.  Discussions are under way, says Tatum, with companies in the UK to launch pilot programs that could open European energy markets to the Virginia company. 

As utilities move toward “smart grid” capability, Howell says submetering will allow companies to take advantage of real time market-based pricing, or demand response, to capture optimum rates and rebates on power.

An evolving Roanoke-area economy attracts new retail players

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