North American Power
1 Marshall Street, South Norwalk
Kerry Breitbart, CEO
Green mission: ‘Beyond the power transmitted to homes and businesses, we believe in putting a greater power in the hands of our customers. Empowering energy users to make a decision that extends beyond their electric bill. A decision to help themselves while helping others, to make a difference for communities and charities in need, and most importantly, to make this world a better place. We will never lose sight of those values that have made us who we are today, in fact, we look forward to carrying those on in the bright future ahead. With additional products like natural gas and new territories on the horizon, our opportunity will continue to expand all the while ensuring that our company policies and energy choices further establish our commitment to a healthier, more sustainable future.’
North American Power is one of the nation’s fastest-growing renewable energy suppliers, recently earning a spot on Forbes list of America’s Most Promising Companies. Based in South Norwalk, the company currently offers local utility customers in Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, New York, New Jersey, Ohio and Pennsylvania the opportunity to switch to 25 percent or 100 percent renewable energy and provides national consumers a way to increase the nation’s energy independence with American Wind, a Green-e Energy-certified 100 percent renewable energy option for residential and business customers.
As an extension of its commitment to green energy, and in addition to Renewable Energy Certificate (REC) purchases made on behalf of its customers, North American Power purchased 127,000 voluntary RECS in 2011, which equates to 127,000,000 kWh of electricity generated from renewable sources, a purchase that avoided CO2 emissions equivalent to an estimated 9.8 million gallons of gasoline consumed. Underscored by a commitment to philanthropy, sustainability and financial independence, North American Power is built on an effective customer referral network that incentivizes customers to earn financial rewards for sharing its products.
“North American Power is committed to improving our environment and our nation's energy independence by supporting the development of renewable energy,” says CEO Kerry Breitbart. “By offering 25 percent renewable energy as our base-level product at a competitive rate, plus giving customers the option to choose 100 percent renewable energy, we are working to advance the green energy movement and increase our country’s energy independence, by motivating individuals to initiate change.”
“Like most people, I did not even know it was possible to run my home on 100-percent clean energy, while staying with my utility,” says Justin Ragusa, a North American Power customer, who became a residential customer some 18 months ago, choosing the standard 25-percent renewable energy product. “So when I was shown that I could do this and at a lower rate than my utility company, the choice was obvious. Not to mention I could help my favorite charity and actually earn referral money by telling my friends. Renewable energy is so important to our planet’s future. I am very excited to be able to take part in a clean energy revolution. Today, we have the technology, the ability and, more importantly, a growing mass of people demanding cleaner sustainable energy. My home, our businesses, and even my parent’s home all run on clean green energy.”
Shortly after becoming a residential customer, Ragusa switched his four retail outlets for his Connecticut-based small business, Gofer Ice Cream, as well as the company's warehouse, to renewable energy.
Deb Casey of Fairfield says she’s happy to be working with a company that provides her with 25 percent green energy as well as a savings in her monthly bill.
“I received their information in the mail about two years ago and it struck me as an interesting idea,” says Casey, who has three children. “I switched over because there was the opportunity to save money. It’s gone without a hitch. It’s a win-win. We are a high-energy user — something is always on running — so any savings is great.”
59 Field Street, Torrington
Sam Fairchild, CEO
Green mission: ‘What makes Optiwind different is that we make it possible for you to own your own wind turbine and place it right where you need the power.’
”Think Globally/Act Locally” was a signature slogan of the 1970s environmental movement. In 2012, one Connecticut company is putting metal, new materials and design technology to advance that idea in a whole new way.
Torrington’s Optiwind has developed a new wind power system that the company has begun marketing for onsite electricity generation. Onsite could be a farm, school, factory, hotel, distribution facility — maybe even a village.
Optiwind turbines are large structures by everyday Connecticut standards but are relatively small compared to the type of wind turbines typically found in large turbine wind farms. Currently the largest wind farm turbines can reach 600 feet in height, with 200-foot-long turbine blades. Even larger wind structures are on the horizon of some manufacturers.
The state of Connecticut’s venture-capital arm, Connecticut Innovations Inc. (CII), first invested in Optiwind in 2009 to help the company develop its first operating prototype, which is now located at Klug Farm in Torrington.
CII has invested $2 million in the company, $1 million through its Clean Technology Fund and another $1 million through its Eli Whitney Fund.
Says CII Senior Investment Associate Patrick O'Neill of the investments, "CII is very excited about the opportunity Optiwind represents not only for CII, but for the state of Connecticut in general. Optiwind has developed a remarkable new product that will help wean the United States off of fossil fuels while simultaneously create high paying engineering and manufacturing jobs in Connecticut."
Private VC firms have also joined in to power up the effort. Boston’s Charles River Ventures was an early investor while Stamford-based Centripetal Capital Partners came on board late last year.
Wind velocities are greater at higher elevations and the Optiwind turbine stands atop a 200-foot tower.
Onsite power generation by wind turbines is nothing new. The iconic image of a turbine to pump water on a Midwestern farm is etched into the American mindscape. But turning that wind into useable electricity is a far different matter.
The Optiwind design helps “accelerate” the wind by pushing the air off a large tube like structure, akin to a water tower, onto turbines mounted on its side.
The design of the Optiwind turbine allows the generation of electricity at what are considered Class 2 wind speeds: 12 to 14.5 miles per hour at the height of the turbines. (Class 2 wind may be eight mph wind on the ground, 10-11 mph at 33 feet above the ground, and 12-14.5 mph at 164 feet.)
Class 2 wind is common throughout most of Connecticut, with Class 3 on the shoreline and Class 4 in the Berkshire Mountains of western Massachusetts. Class 6 winds (nearly 20 mph at 164 feet) are typical on outer Cape Cod.
According to Optiwind Marketing Director Jennifer Boshart, the company “hopes to see another pilot installation happening by the end of the year,” with sales beginning to ramp up in calendar 2013.
While the company is not currently providing pricing of the systems to the media, Boshart says “The turbines are competitive with the grid, without subsidy.”
The company expects to concentrate on its 300 kW turbine, designed for sites that use up to 500 megawatts (500,000 kilowatts) of electricity per year at a per-kW cost of eight to ten cents. For comparison purposes a 2,000-square-foot office in New Haven used 1,200 kilowatts last month at a cost of roughly 22.7 cents per kilowatt after transmission and delivery costs.
HAMDEN — Students living in Quinnipiac University residence halls are competing to reduce their energy usage campuswide.
In the competition, students in the 13 residence halls will compete for three weeks to see which building reduces the electric and natural gas consumption the most.
Quinnipiac will maintain a dashboard so students can track their buildings' energy use.
The university is competing in the Campus Conservation Nationals 2012, and the collective reductions from the 13 residence halls will be weighed against 150 other universities across the country.
Newest funding round includes grants, loans
HARTFORD — The state’s Department of Economic & Community Development (DECD) has awarded more than $16 million in loans and grants for several brownfield projects throughout the state.
“Cleaning up Connecticut brownfields is an important component of our economic development agenda. These contaminated sites are a blight to their communities and significantly damper development and prosperity for adjacent sites,” said Gov. Dannel P. Malloy. “Investing in these redevelopment efforts is smart policy — we create jobs and thriving communities, expand our tax base, and clean up pollution in Connecticut.”
This round of awards includes $8,689,000 in loans and $7,500,000 in grants for projects encompassing commercial and industrial remediation and expansion; affordable, disabled, student and workforce housing; train stations and transit-oriented development (TOD); and mixed-use developments with hotel, residential and retail space. State officials estimate that the funding will leverage more than $300 million in additional private and public investment.
Funding will go directly to municipalities, businesses, developers and regional development agencies and can be used for environmental assessment, planning, design, remediation, demolition, construction and acquisition. The state also offers a third-party liability protection program for eligible developers of brownfields.
Grants awarded for local projects include $500,000 for investigation and remediation at 34 Lloyd St., New Haven; $500,000 for soil remediation at the former Housatonic Wire plant in Seymour; and $325,000 for soil remediation at the former Cel-Lastik property in Shelton.
“There is a renewed commitment for brownfield redevelopment in Connecticut, and DECD is leading the way,” said DECD Commissioner Catherine Smith. “In the last six months we’ve gotten more than $33 million in brownfield funding out the door to our cities and towns and other parties that are helping to capitalize on the economic potential of these sites. Cleaning up these sites so they are ready for redevelopment is vital to our efforts to spur economic activity and make our communities more vibrant and accessible.”
For more information about the application process or other brownfield redevelopment programs visit DECD’s Office of Brownfield Remediation & Development (OBRD) at ctbrownfields.gov.
Connecticut companies learn how going green and maximizing profits are no longer mutually exclusive
Connecticut officially began its “green” recognition efforts when the Department of Environmental Protection (now known as the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, or DEEP) inaugurated the GreenCircle Award Program in 1998. Since then, DEEP has recognized about 1,000 organizations with more than 1,450 separate projects that fulfill the mission description of what “being green” really means.
Last December, DEEP recognized 37 Connecticut civic organizations, individuals and businesses for their environmental efforts on the 13th anniversary of the GreenCircle awards program, which recognizes large and small voluntary efforts toward employing green technologies and methods. For a product or system to be considered green, it must have a positive short- and long-term effect on the environment and be environmentally friendly with regard to energy efficiency, recycling, safety and health concerns, and utilize renewable resources. One aim is to reduce the amount of carbon monoxide released by business processes, thereby lessening the greenhouse effect on Earth and its inhabitants.
“The ultimate aim of green technology is to preserve the environment, most specifically the climate of the Earth,” according to wedogreentechnology.com, a website that promotes green processes and technology. “It aims to prevent a runaway greenhouse effect from heating our planet to a point where it is uninhabitable. It is an aim of green technology scientists to have green products doing all the jobs in households and industry throughout the world, significantly reducing the amount of carbon dioxide that we release as a species. In doing this, scientists and engineers hope not to adversely affect the user too much.”
In manufacturing, green technology safeguards against environmental pollution by using chemicals and processes that do not negatively impact the environment. And there are many ways to effect that result, as several Connecticut companies have found.
Take the J.F. Fredericks Tool Co. of Farmington, for example. The company, which employs about 60 workers, manufactures precision aircraft engine and other parts for clients including Pratt & Whitney and Volvo. Fredericks earned ISO 14001 certification, which means that they maintain a standard, established by the International Organization for Standardization, that uses technologies that minimize effects on the environment, comply with current regulations governing the environment, and seek to improve their compliance. The ISO is a non-government network of national standards institutes in 161 member countries with a central office in Geneva, Switzerland, that coordinates application of those standards.
Over the last two years Fredericks has designed and implemented two successful environmental programs. The first project was a recycling program that eliminated the abundance of stored X-rays followed by the installation of a bio-remediating parts cleaner and degreaser.
“We’ve won three GreenCircle Awards from the state of Connecticut,” says Stacy Brennan, the company’s quality assurance specialist and ISO management representative. “The first one was for obtaining ISO 14001 certification for our procedures. The second was for a company-wide recycling program. The third one was for using bio-circle approved chemicals using green methods to clean parts that we manufacture.”
Brennan notes that the green parts-cleaners her company uses are not harsh on employees’ skin and don’t have an adverse effect on the ecology, either. She says the company’s employees have eagerly participated in green and recycling efforts, the latter of which provides them with incentives to recycle paper, plastic, aluminum and glass by returning any money collected to an employee pool for workers’ later use.
“A lot of our customers have requested that companies they work with become green,” says Brennan. “It took us about six months to implement the bio-circle cleaning process. We tested it first to insure that it would be feasible because it had to be able to clean the parts, and it did and it’s working out well.”
When people pass by the Assa Abloy building on Sargent Drive in New Haven, they know that Sargent products are manufactured there, as they have been in New Haven since 1864. But few realize that the company is the largest global manufacturer of doors, locks and security systems in the world and that its brands are recognized as a sustainability leader in the building products industry.
“Sustainability encompasses environmental, economic and social issues, the new triple bottom line that leading companies today must address,” says Aaron Smith, director of sustainable building solutions for Assa Abloy’s Door Security Solutions. “It also represents a broader new way to think about our footprint, products and stakeholders.” Many of the company’s customers today are involved in green building projects and expect to purchase from like-minded manufacturers that support green methods and technologies, adds Smith.
Assa Abloy and its Sargent brand products have sustainability targets for 2015 for water consumption, energy use, greenhouse-gas emissions, chemical handling and health and safety. In addition, for each year since 2006, the company has issued a comprehensive sustainability report monitored by the Global Reporting Initiative, a non-profit organization that promotes economic, environmental and social sustainability. The report is submitted to the United Nations Global Compact for review. Greenhouse gas emissions are reported each year through the Carbon Disclosure Project, an independent not-for-profit organization working to drive greenhouse gas emissions reduction and sustainable water use by business and cities. The company was also accepted as a member of the prestigious Regenerative Network, a business consortium of leading global green building product manufacturers and service providers.
Smith says his company’s products are best-in-class with regard to energy efficiency, materials and resources used as well as health impact on occupants of green buildings. One example of these efficiencies is the use of IP-based access control solutions, which reuse existing Wi-Fi or Power over Ethernet (PoE) equipment. This reduces or eliminates the need for security infrastructure, lessening both power requirements and materials used, and offers the lowest power consumption with a maximum of seven watts per lock — 50 percent less than typical PoE installations. In response to customer demand for healthy building products, the company is limiting the use of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) in the product line and now offers door-closer covers that are PVC-free. Additionally, all of these products contain high recycled content.
Even Schick-Wilkinson Sword, a division of Energizer Holdings Inc., took on the task of creating a green product when it recently unveiled its new Schick Xtreme3 Eco, the first disposable razor to use 100 percent recycled plastic in the production of its handle and 100 percent post-consumer paper in its packaging. The razor is shipped out of the company’s 99.9-percent landfill-free facility in Milford. The company estimates it will save more than 103,000 pounds of virgin plastic material and 15,500 pounds of virgin paper from going into landfills each year by using recycled materials in the new razor.
“We know consumers are doing their part to live more sustainably and we wanted to provide a simple way for them to do so with their shave,” says Suma Nagaraj, brand manager for the Xtreme3 razor. “We’re taking proactive steps to minimize the impact of our products and manufacturing processes on the environment and we’re continually looking for ways to improve. Creating this product was the next step in our journey.”
Schick chose to use post-consumer recycled plastic instead of other biodegradable or recycled materials to have a more immediate impact on the environment. The company used recycled common household items like hangers, buckets and pails that were crushed, grinded and processed to form plastic pellets that became the basis for the razor handle. The company estimates that the recycling effort will save enough plastic each year to reach the height of the Washington Monument more than 2,330 times.
“Sustainability is more of a journey than a destination,” says Mike O’Malley, director of program management and sustainability for Schick. “There’s always something that we could be doing. For many years, we wanted to launch a more sustainable razor. We overcame many challenges along the way. The result was the same exceptional quality and exceptional value razor that our customers know and love, is now better for the environment.”
Located in Shelton, Opel Solar Inc. has contributed another important part to the state’s green efforts: solar photovoltaics. The company designs and produces high-performance solar energy solutions for industrial and commercial applications worldwide developed by its engineering team in cooperation with University of Connecticut and the National Research Council of Ottawa, Canada. Opel Solar’s product line offers dependable, high-efficiency, cost-effective systems of solar trackers and concentrating panels that provide clean, scalable solar-power generating systems competitive with traditional fossil-fuel generating systems.
“We produce concentrated photovoltaics, the newest generation of solar panels,” says Patricia V. Agudow, Opel Solar’s vice president of administration, public and government relations. “Our solar tracker assemblies are manufactured in Connecticut and other states. Our products are green because they convert sunlight directly to electricity and feed into the power grid, so they have a direct impact on reducing the use of fossil fuels to generate electricity. The chip we use is composed of gallium arsenide, a waste product from the mining of aluminum. So that in and of itself is a green thing to do — taking waste and making it useful again.”
Agudow notes that his company has installed solar panel systems in an Aquarion Water Co. plant in Shelton, on a rooftop of Linden Street School in Plainville, and at Toray Plastics America in Rhode Island, the latter location touted as the largest solar field in the Ocean State.
“We’re always looking for ways to employ green methods,” adds Agudow. “Every time you build a plant and add a solar field, you create many jobs including those in engineering and construction, and you provide alternative energy and energy security as well.”
“Manufacturing is part of our DNA in Connecticut. It’s who we are,” says U.S. Rep. John B. Larson (D-1), a vocal proponent of Connecticut’s green programs. Last June Larson attended the unveiling of two new fuel cells manufactured by United Technologies in East Hartford to be used by the nearby Coca Cola Co. at its soft-drink plant. Larson says that fuel cell technology would be a potential game-changer in the way facilities could power and heat their operations and notes the impact the technology will have on reducing the burden on the power grid and global warming.
“As we transition into a 21st-century economy, I believe that green energy and infrastructure jobs are going to be critical to American prosperity,” adds Larson. “This is why I was proud to help Connecticut secure millions in green job training so we can create more energy-efficient buildings and continue to support new alternative fuel sources like natural gas and power systems like hydrogen fuel cells.”
Bonnie Del Conte, president and CEO of the Connecticut State Technology Extension Program (ConnSTEP), says her organization is focused on helping companies attain their goals for green technology and manufacturing methods.
ConnSTEP is a business consulting organization that helps small and midsize Connecticut manufacturing companies take advantage of expert business solutions to compete and grow profitably. It operates as a fee-for-service 501(c)3 non-profit and is one of 59 affiliate organizations connected to the national network of Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) organizations and is supported by the state’s Department of Economic & Community Development.
“Our board is weighted toward manufacturing but it has the diversity to bring in knowledge and best practices from such different businesses as finance, hospitals and health care,” explains Del Conte. “This gives us a broad perspective of views that are part of the supply chain in manufacturing and in implementing green processes. We’re on a really good path with green programs. The new administration is more business-friendly and focused on green technology and the environment. We’re moving toward concepts that will help speed green programs along as well as be good for the environment.”
Del Conte noted that green programs, in many cases, reduce costs for businesses when one factors in the anticipated returns.
“I think there could actually be a gain for most companies,” she adds. “We have a client that just launched a product helpful to businesses. Though there was a cost to implement the program, the payback that will come from the savings — whether it’s energy costs or waste reduction — will occur in a very short window and the return will start paying for the investment. Once that occurs, it’s all a gain after that.”
“If businesses expand and become aware and want to implement some green methods in their business, that’s a win-win for everybody,” Del Conte adds. “It will improve the economy and better the state’s environment.”
After enduring two major power outages last year, Connecticut companies have ranked the state's electric utilities lower in customer satisfaction.
In the annual J.D. Power and Associates 2012 Electric Utility Customers Satisfaction Study released February 15, New Haven-based United Illuminating Co. and Berlin-based Connecticut Light & Power saw their previous rankings with commercial customers sink.
Connecticut has the second-highest electric rates in the nation, so customers tend to rank in-state utilities lower in overall satisfaction. Last year was different because power outages caused by storms in August and October left nearly a million customers without electricity, sometimes for more than a week.
As a result, United Illuminating scored 610 this year out of 1,000, ranking 13th of 15 mid-size utilities in the eastern region of the country. This score was a drop from 617 in last year's report.
CL&P received a 611 satisfaction score, ranking it 11th out of 13 large utilities in the east region. The score of 611 was a drop from CL&P's score of 616 in last year's report.
BERLIN — Connecticut Light Power (CL&P) will pay $27 million to customers in atonement for the late October/early November power outage that left more than 800,000 customers without electricity for more than a week. CL&P parent Northeast Utilities had set up a $30 million fund to provide bill credits for customers who lost power in the wake of a freak October 29 snowstorm that interrupted electricity service throughout much of the state. CL&P's preparation for and response to the storm and subsequent power outage was met with public outrage and led to condemnations from local and state officials, including Gov. Dannel P. Malloy. The furor over the storm response led to the resignation of CL&P President Jeffrey Butler.
NU initially offered $10 million in bill credits to customers. But after Malloy said that figure was too low, the company increased the damages pool to $30 million.
Limo firm has lived the Hy life for more than six decades
Like father, like son?
Matthew Levine joined the family business, Hy’s Limousine Worldwide Transportation, almost four years ago. But he didn’t take a direct route. Before settling in as a third-generation proprietor of the West Haven company, Levine made a slight detour.
“I worked in marketing for a media company in New York after graduating [from college],” says Levine. “It was a great experience. I would recommend to anyone, if they’re thinking about [joining] a family business, to do something prior, get a different experience, before you go into it.”
Levine is now comfortably settled into the limousine-service business that his grandfather started in the 1940s and his father, Bob, steered into a thriving company considered among the tops in the industry, according to Limousine Digest.
“I guess growing up with it in the background, I guess I always had it in the back of my mind to give it a shot at some point,” says Levine, who was named a 2009 Business New Haven Rising Star. Among the factors that influenced his decision to join the family business was a desire to continue the legacy, he says.
“I have a lot of pride in what my grandfather and father started,” Levine says. “It’s rewarding, the sense of being able to continue that.”
The current fleet consists of about 100 vehicles. The company’s corporate clientele is its largest single group of customers. Transportation also is provided on a regular basis for events and venues such casinos, weddings, proms, funerals, cruises and other special occasions.
Last year the company just celebrated its 60th year of operation. It has come a long way from its humble beginnings, when Levine’s grandfather, Hyman (Hy) Levine, started it as a weekend business. Hy Levine had been operating a small used-car business in New Haven and also worked for the New Haven Register making newspaper deliveries. After tire-stripping a Register-owned limousine to help with the war effort, the newspaper asked Hy if he could use the vehicle. It became the first of his eventual fleet. The Levine family’s limousine company was established in 1951 as Hy’s Livery Service.
“We operated the business originally from our home in Hamden. We only had two vehicles,” recalls Bob Levine, Hy’s son and Matthew Levine’s father. “Originally,” adds Bob, “clients were entirely the funeral business, and occasionally a wedding.” Proms later became a significant part of the business.
Like that of his son, the family limo business has been a consistent part of Bob Levine’s life. He and the company were born in the same year.
“The family business has always been there,” Bob Levine says. He contemplated pursuing a law degree after studying political science in college. However, after his father became ill Bob, an only child, decided to return home.
“I came to the business in ’73” after graduating from college,” he recalls. By then the fleet had grown to eight vehicles. He helped grow that number to 28 over the subsequent seven years.
One of the biggest developments affecting the industry was the construction of I-95, he says.
“It was a chance for transportation to take an entirely different turn. Route 1 took forever to get anywhere.” With the highway (which opened in 1958 as the Connecticut Turnpike) came, among other things, increased demand for airport transportation.
While Connecticut Limousine originally took the lead in that service area, “that opened up the door for the rest of us,” says Bob Levine.
Following Hy’s death in 1982, Bob assumed full control of the business. All the while, his family was growing up: Matt has a sister and two brothers, one of whom is his twin.
“I originally hoped both boys would come into the businesses,” Bob says of the twins, the older of the Levine siblings. But when Matt decided to take the New York marketing job, Bob considered that his desire to pass the business on to his children might not materialize.
It was that New York hiatus, however, that cemented Matt’s desire to join the company started by his grandfather and nurtured by his father.
After receiving a degree in management from Syracuse University, Matt went to work for Wenner Media. He worked in marketing for that company, best known for its flagship publication, Rolling Stone magazine. The younger Levine spent about five years there, then decided to put his skills to use for the family business.
“His working for Rolling Stone and Wenner Media opened up a lot of doors,” allows Bob, who adds that the time away also helped his son grow in a way he might not have had he not taken the New York position.
“It helped his maturity level and gave him a chance to interact with a variety of people,” says Bob, adding that Matt has been a great asset to the business since returning.
“He began to take over a number of duties I was involved with on a day-to-day basis.”
Among the expansion projects Matt introduced and/or helped develop is its affiliate network, which connects Hy’s Limousine clients with limousine service at locations throughout the world.
“We want to expand our presence even greater than what it is,” Matt explains. “We view our business on a national and international level.”
That resourceful business connection is made possible through the kind of technology that was unimaginable when the company began, Bob notes.
“All over the country we have a new affiliate network that gives us business over the telephone or over the Internet,” he says, adding that some companies are reluctant to update their business plans to include extensive online interaction. “I think we have to embrace [the Internet] in some ways,” he says.
Hy’s Limousine embraces technology inside its vehicles as well, utilizing GPS devices and fleet tracking technology to enhance safety. Chauffeurs, the company touts, have “impeccable” driving records. In addition to being completely licensed, they are subjected to extensive background checks before becoming employed with the company. Their driving records are checked on an ongoing basis, and they are tested periodically for alcohol and drugs.
The fleet is varied. Since that first World War II-era limousine was secured, the selection has grown to include SUVs, passenger vans, mini-coaches, super-stretch limos, and coach and luxury buses.
With weddings, especially, Bob Levine has seen a change in taste over the years.
“It’s a case of multiples,” he says noting that “party buses” are largely preferred by wedding parties these days. “You’re putting eight people into a vehicle.”
Included among the SUV choices are Chevrolet Suburbans, Cadillac Escalade ESVs and GMC Denali XLs. The luxury limo buses can carry up to 25, and amenities include leather seats, a 42-inch LCD TV with DVD player and iPod adapter. Mini-coaches, as well as other vehicle choices, have equivalent offerings.
Many of those vehicle additions were initiated by Matt, who also upgraded the website when he joined the family firm. While he could foresee and make fairly accurate predictions about some aspects of the industry — such as the popularity of SUVs — with others he has to take a wait-and-see approach.
For example, the standard vehicle for most reputable limousine companies has been Ford’s Lincoln Town Car luxury sedan.
“That’s the majority of what we have and what we most use,” notes Matt. “Most people have come to expect the Lincoln Town Car. That’s the majority of what they see.” But that era is coming to an end.
“They’re not making it anymore,” Matt notes, adding that no decision on a replacement has been made yet.
“We have Cadillacs as well, and we may choose to take that route. It’ll be interesting to see what we go with.” That decision will likely be made within the next four or five months, after the auto industry’s new vehicles and 2013 models have been introduced, he says.
One aspect of owning a longtime business to which the Levines pay considerable attention is their responsibility to the community. Events and programs that benefit children are especially important to them, and they routinely make donations to school- and youth-oriented causes. They’ve also helped children realize their aspirations through the Make-a-Wish Foundation.
It’s just a way to give back to a community that has welcomed the business, says Bob Levine.
“Where we came from to where we are today, without question we’re very, very fortunate to be located in the greater New Haven area. That has been very good to us,” Bob says, citing clients such as Yale University and Yale-New Haven Hospital that have supported the businesses for many years.
By the same token, Hy’s Limousine has been repeatedly cited for its business successes. In 2009, for example, Limousine, Charter & Tour magazine listed it at No. 23 in its “100 Largest Fleets” issue. The company also has been on the magazine’s “Top 50 Limousine Companies” in the nation list.
As for what else is on the horizon for Hy’s Limousine, the company just might expand its corporate footprint.
Headquartered in West Haven, the company also has affiliate offices in New Britain and Fairfield. The Fairfield base was established after the company acquired Fairfield Executive Livery — another savvy business decision Bob credits Matt with making.
From these points Hy’s Limousine provides transportation throughout the state and to airports and other locations in the tri-state and New England areas. The affiliate network is utilized for additional clientele needs.
Regarding the Fairfield location, “Definitely a portion of our growth has come from acquisition,” Bob explains. He would like to expand more by bringing another company under the Hy’s Limousine umbrella.
“My greatest desire at this point is I’m hoping to have one more purchase — a sizable presence, one that would put us more statewide,” says Bob. “It’s the easiest, and probably the most viable means towards large growth. We hope for something from Fairfield County.”
An ideal candidate would be a business with about 20 to 25 vehicles that grosses more than $1 million in sales annually, he says.
“That would be a very substantial addition, something that provides growth.”