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How I Made the Pivot to Renewable Energy

Robert L. Wallace isn’t afraid of the pivot.

The founder and CEO of Bithgroup Technologies thought it was time to pivot into the renewable energy industry in 2009. Six years later, BITHENERGY is a fast-growing company involved in some high-profile solar energy projects in Maryland and across the country.

Wallace, 59, also does consulting and business education. He took some time at his company’s Mount Vernon headquarters to talk about his businesses, the rapid growth of solar energy, and the success of his pivot.

What can you tell us about your different companies? They’re separate companies. They’re all under the Bithgroup umbrella. You have BITHGROUP Technologies, which is IT, BITHENERGY which is renewable energy and energy management systems, and then you have consulting, the EntreTeach Learning Systems arm, which is more of an executive-coaching kind of company.

How did you build those different businesses? I’m an engineer by degree and background. I was with IBM for many years, Procter & Gamble, DuPont. Done the whole corporate thing. About 20 years ago, I started an IT company, Bithgroup Technologies.

What about the energy business? About six years ago I started another company called Bithenergy that does a lot of solar and wind work. What people don’t know is when I was studying engineering at the University of Pennsylvania, my area of research was solar energy. This is back in the 70s. The only problem was, when I got my degree, you couldn’t find a job in renewable energy. In 2007, 2008, we saw an opportunity now that the nation was ready to invest in new technology, particularly renewable energy technology. So right now we design and we build large-scale solar projects and do some smaller wind projects.

How did you get from an IT company to putting up solar panels? When we pivot, one thing we look at very closely is how risky or difficult will that pivot be? And one way to minimize risk or difficulty is to make it a shorter leap. Our first leap was into energy management information systems. Why? Because that’s what we do in the IT business. We manipulate data. A bit is a bit. A byte is a byte. Once we got that beachhead in the energy sector, we looked at where else we could penetrate that would be less risky. The next logical one was solar energy.

Will readers recognize any of your projects? In Howard County we have the largest solar array in the county. It’s a 10-megawatt plant. We said, versus doing one big 10-megawatt plant, let’s build five 2-megawatt plants. When we do it that way, I can bring in different customers.

What’s changed in solar energy over the past six years? The technology has accelerated. What used to cost me a dollar to build five years ago, six years ago, now costs me 20 cents to build. Efficiency has improved. What was maybe 40 percent efficiency, we’re now talking 60-70 percent.

Does that help you compete even as oil prices are low? We were concerned about fracking and the impact that would have [on energy prices]. But I can tell you, the hockey stick analogy — where you hit an inflection point and then growth becomes exponential — I believe in this industry we are either at that inflection point or close to it. And because of that, I believe even with fracking, even with the global price of oil being depressed, I believe we’re beyond the point of return.

What challenges did you have starting up in solar? When we started in this business, we spent a lot of effort and resources educating people, especially banks. We’d have a zillion meetings, no money. They were interested, but because it was new, they didn’t understand it. I began dealing with private equity investors. These were men and women who were quick, who could read the market pretty fast, and they got it. And I tell you who also got it: the utility companies. Utility companies have requirements to start producing more power from renewable energy sources.

What else are you doing that excites you? President Obama said, "I want my military bases around the world to diversify the sources of power generation they use to renewables." The government put out an RFP to do that. We bid on that contract. We won as a sub to a big company, and we won as a prime to a small busines. The other thing that’s significant is we’ve built a number of solar plants on landfills and brownfields. Right now we’ve estimated there’s about 5,000 or so landfills, brownfields in the U.S. What would happen if we put solar in all of those places Landfills have no other use b esides solar. It’s pretty exciting.

Get Contact Information for Bithgroup Technologies, Inc. www.bithgroup.com

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NAACP 2015 FREEDOM FUND BANQUET

Robert L. Wallace and Major General Linda Lee Singh pictured at the NAACP Freedom Fund Banquet. Singh was appointed as the 29th adjutant general of Maryland back in January. She is responsible for the daily operations of the Maryland Military Department and is a senior advisor to the Governor of Maryland.  As Commander of the Maryland National Guard, Singh was a key leader in controlling the 2015 Baltimore Riots.

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BITHGROUP CELEBRATES THE 10TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE REGINALD F. LEWIS MUSEUM

   10 Years of Maryland African American History and Culture

This celebrations drifted us back to the 1920's-1930's.  Zoot suits, spats, fringe, boas, feathers minks, pearls and lots of sparkles filled the Royal Theatre for Jazz with pianist Ellis Marsalis.

Visit the Reginald F. Lewis Museum online at http://lewismuseum.org/  and consider membership.

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Baltimore, Tarnished by Riots, Tries to Rebuild Its Economy

Youths walk down a Baltimore street on April 30, 2015, during the period of unrest.Photograph by David Goldman — AP

FORTUNE.COM

BY Claire Zillman                                    @Clairezillman                        OCTOBER 10, 2015,  9:00 AM EST

n the wake of the unrest provoked by the death of Freddie Gray, Baltimore’s elected officials and small businesses are pulling together to give the city’s reputation a makeover.

Baltimore couldn’t ask for a better salesman than Robert Wallace. The CEO of energy engineering and technical services consulting firm Bithenergy, Inc., grew up in the city. He attended Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, a public high school, before enrolling in the University of Pennsylvania and later Dartmouth and has launched three companies including Bithenergy, all of which are located in the city.

But since protests following the death of Freddie Gray engulfed the city in April, he’s run into a bit of trouble with his pitch.

Bithenergy’s headquarters were in the direct path of the protestors, but it was left untouched. “There was very minimal impact there,” he says. “What the protests have impacted is the image of the city.”

Wallace told Fortune that he’s having trouble recruiting new talent. “If I had an opening [before the protests] and I interviewed 10 people I may have had three or four interested in taking the job ” he says. Now, despite his hard sell—”There are concerts right outside our office and restaurants and entertainment venues,” he says—that number is down to one or two.

“As a city, we have to work on overcoming that,” he says.

Despite those challenges, Bithenergy is thriving. The company—which has installed and maintained more than 20 solar energy systems, amounting to more than 33 megawatts of solar energy in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic Maryland, Virginia, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania—is No. 1 onFortune‘s 2015 Inner City 100 list, a ranking by theInitiative for a Competitive Inner City of the fastest growing companies in urban areas. With revenue of $7,283,800 in 2014, Bithenergy reported a 2,973% five-year growth rate. It’s one of four Baltimore-based companies on this year’s list. Brand agency Planit, Inc., events company P.W. Feats, Inc., and web development firm SmartLogic also made the cut.

Fast-growing companies like Bithenergy are prized commodities in every city, but they are especially cherished in Baltimore, a city that erupted in protests this spring following the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, an African American man, who died in April from spinal cord injuries that he sustained while in police custody. The Maryland governor declared a state of emergency during protests in the wake of Gray’s death, and businesses suffered $9 million worth of property damage as long-simmering tensions in Baltimore’s impoverished neighborhoods related to structural racism, police brutality, and lack of education and economic opportunities boiled over.

Following such a high-profile incident, you’d expect job hunters to be wary of Baltimore, as Bithenergy’s Wallace describes. But William Cole, president and CEO of the Baltimore Development Corporation, insists that, when the city as a whole is considered, the “exact opposite” has been the case. The city has received “more inquiries from companies interested in growing or relocating here” and major construction projects are “moving faster now than they were before.”

Before and after the Freddie Gray-related protests, several notable companies have moved to Baltimore or struck deals that reiterate their desire to stay.Danish jeweler Pandora moved its headquarters, along with 250 employees, to the city from the nearby suburb of Columbia, Md. early this year.Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank, whose company is based in Baltimore, has snapped up real estate around the city, including a recent deal for 43 acres of waterfront property in the city’s Westport neighborhood. In March, Amazon opened a 1 million square-foot distribution center at the site of a former General Motors plant that closed in 2005.The city and state gave the e-commerce giant more than $43 million in tax incentives to lure the company—a deal that required Amazon to hire at least 1,000 people. In July, Amazon said it had hired 2,500.

Despite those flashy deals, the city is plagued by a high unemployment rate. It was 8% in August, the most recent month data is available.

That’s 2.9 percentage points above the national average. Then again, considering that the city’s unemployment rate stood at 11.8% in August 2010, Baltimore has come a long way.

You cannot separate Baltimore’s economic problems from the mounting social challenges many of its residents face. “We still continue to struggle with the chronic problems we’ve had for decades—drugs and a [high] crime rate,” Cole says.The city reported 211 homicides in 2014, 24 fewer than the previous year’s total of 235, which had been a four-year high.

Some of the city’s local employers are trying to address these factors on their own. Johns Hopkins is the city’s largest employer and was criticized during the protests for not serving all of Baltimore. In September, Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins University and the Johns Hopkins Health Systemlaunched a program to address the city’s economic divisions by hiring local companies for its design, vendor, and construction contracts and by committing to hire at least 60 employees per year from Baltimore zip codes with high joblessness or poverty rates. The institution is also participating in a program called Live Where You Work, which provides employees with grants of up to $36,000 to buy homes in the city and is intended to build a demand for more small businesses—restaurants, drug stores, dry cleaners—within Baltimore’s borders.

Baltimore’s city government has also tried to encourage employment with incentive programs like the one it offered Amazon. Very often, though, cities can do very little to ensure that a company hires existing local talent, Cole says. In the wake of the protests, Baltimore’s Small Business Administration announced that it would make $1 million available in loans to help businesses that had suffered physical damage during the riots and to strengthen the city’s small business community overall.

In May, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake also launched a campaign called One Baltimore, a coalition of business, nonprofit and religious leaders to address the problems that the protests laid bare. Wallace of Bithenergy is a member of the group and, this past summer, he participated in an initiative to encourage local businesses to hire students from Baltimore’s high schools as interns. Wallace typically hires two or three interns for paid summer positions; this year he hired five.

“Businesses like ours are so critical to the survival of an urban center,” Wallace says. “If we can expose these young people to potential opportunities, it connects the dots between the choices they make today and their quality of life down the road. If we can connect those dots, they’ll make better choices and be much better off.”

http://fortune.com/2015/10/10/baltimore-economic-reputation/

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34th Annual Leaders & Legends Awards

Robert L. Wallace Receives the CRMSDC Chairman's Award

CHAIRMAN'S AWARD

The Chairman's Award for innovation and Inspiring Leadership is given to thought leaders with bold vision and demonstrated passion for diversity and inclusion.  These inspiring leaders set the bar of excellence in the marketplace and have created a legacy of creative programs and solutions.  These awardees are role models in their communities and they inspire people to reach higher, dream bigger, and achieve greater.

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BITHGROUP Technologies and BITHENERGY Employees Volunteers at Our Daily Bread run by the Catholic Charities

October 26, 2015- Six employees from BITHGROUP Technologies/BITHENERGY, Inc. volunteered at Our Daily Bread on Monday, providing assistance preparing and serving lunch to about 700 guests.  The team included a company executive, managers and an administrative assistant who all worked together and with other volunteers to serve.  According to BITHGROUP volunteer, Stephen Bradford, “volunteering at Our Daily Bread was a rewarding opportunity to provide a needed service to our local community.  It afforded us the chance to work closely as a team and bond as a working family.  I feel fortunate to participate in making a difference in someone's day.”  BITHGROUP Technologies encourages its employees to get involved in community service activities and supports a variety of community service outreach events in Baltimore City and other parts of the state annually. 

In 2007, Catholic Charities opened the Our Daily Bread Employment Center (ODBEC), which seeks to improve the lives of people in need by providing resources to help them achieve self-sufficiency through employment and housing.  The facility includes a soup kitchen/ dining room that serves more than a quarter million meals to the hungry of Baltimore City each year. They serve nutritious lunches every day of the year and breakfast to seniors and individuals with disabilities each weekday. - Learn more about Our Daily Bread.: http://www.catholiccharities-md.org/our-daily-bread/make-a-difference-volunteer.

About BITHGROUP
BITHGROUP Technologies is a leading IT services company.  The company has over 23 years of experience working with local, state and federal government clients in developing IT solutions.  Its expertise includes enterprise services health information systems, energy management information systems and identity services. Please visit www.BITHGROUP.com for more information.

About BITHENERGY
Headquartered in Baltimore, Maryland, BITHENERGY, Inc. is a leading supplier of the engineering, design, construction, and maintenance of renewable energy systems.  Ranked 49th out of 400 Top Solar Contractors and 8th out of 50 Top Solar Developers in 2014, the BITHENERGY team has successfully integrated over 150 renewable energy solutions in various states and has successfully developed, financed, and integrated over 2GW of solar projects both nationally and internationally. 

Media Department: Marketing and Communications 2015 All Rights Reserved/Privacy Policy

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BITHGROUP Technologies graduate summer intern Martine Nikiema Mandela Washington Fellow talks about working to improve things in her country Burkina Faso

My name is Martine Nikiema. I am a citizen of Burkina Faso, which means “the land of upright people.” It is a landlocked country sandwiched between Ghana, Mali, Côte d’Ivoire, Togo, Niger, and Benin and is at the heart of the West African savannah.

The purpose of this article is to amplify the voices of my fellow countrymen and women who are fighting for democracy and the rule of law. Six months ago, I was privileged to be one of the Mandela Washington Fellows and to participate in the 2015 Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) representing my country. It was a real honor for me to be selected from a pool of over 30,000 continental applicants to travel to the United States and participate with other young leaders in YALI.

In the weeks following the announcement of the Mandela Washington Fellows, I wondered why I had been selected, since I never saw myself as a charismatic leader.

Last June I left my country to begin a new chapter in my life that would include big challenges, each of which I was determined to see as an opportunity. On the plane, I looked in tears at my country and our people. The biggest question that sprang to my mind was how and when my country would see the needed social changes it craves: food for children, better education and justice for all, human rights, and gender equality. I am optimistic because my people are hardworking and brave, and because I believe in a better future. Every day my people do their best to to improve their living conditions. But it takes good leadership to make these changes happen. How can they reach these objectives if there are not good leaders to guide them?

I spent my first six weeks at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, learning business and leadership skills. That period made me look back on my past life and what I have done in my community, fighting for better education by helping children in rural areas get light through solar energy. After six weeks, I finally understood that leadership does not necessarily mean taking huge action, but rather taking any action that changes the lives of people for the better. And good leadership is a determining factor in the process. A leader is a team player and a good listener who gives people a chance to speak and hears their voices. He or she is able to inspire others and guide them to continue their journey with more hope for success. I started at that moment to believe in myself, but I also realized that I still have a long journey to be an effective leader. My main objectives became:

  • Empowering hopeless youth who no longer believe in justice.
  • Inspiring females to continue their education in order be a change-maker in their community.
  • Getting donations and support to provide solar lamps to children in remote areas.


Upon completing my course at Dartmouth, I travelled to Baltimore to participate in an internship with Bithgroup Technologies, a renewable-energy developer. During my six- week internship, I continued working on my objectives. I was in a hurry to return home and share my experience with my family, friends, and community, and to start my dream of being a good leader.

 Citizens of Burkina Faso protest against the recent coup in Ouagadougou. (© AP Images)

Citizens of Burkina Faso protest against the recent coup in Ouagadougou. (© AP Images)

 

On September 16, 2015, less than a month before elections, a military coup changed the situation in my country. The president, the prime minister, and two other ministers were arrested by the presidential guard (RSP). The citizens of Burkina Faso protested to denounce this anti-democratic and terrorist act — fighting by using their voices for peace, human rights, and democracy.

Their relentless resistance against the oppressor finally won them the much-needed victory they longed for for over half a century. Despite the death of 15 people and the wounding of 200 more, this victory is a watershed in the democratic process of my country. It will help heal many years of military brutality and impunity, as well as gross abuses of human rights. My country has regained its sovereignty and dignity. Today I am proud to be a citizen of Burkina Faso. I am even tempted to call it — like the United States — “the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

This victory is obviously not to the advantage of some regional powers and leaders who continue to torture their people. The military in most African countries do not serve their people but are at the service of the elites. The army in Burkina Faso gave an example of patriotism when they fought back to protect their citizens against the presidential guards. They will go down in history as paragons of an authentic national army on the African soil.

I am grateful for the opportunity I was given by the U.S. government to learn skills of leadership and be part of the solution for the transformation of African societies and particularly of my home and beloved country, Burkina Faso. I know it is incumbent upon us, the next generation, to be an example for all countries facing challenges. Our future depends on us, we the people; our destiny is in our hands, and we cannot allow anyone to destroy it.

I can use my voice to educate, inform, and defend our interests and to show the world the true meaning of democracy. Each population has the right to choose their leaders through legitimate elections. I raise my voice to say to nations that believe in democracy and the rights of individuals and countries to determine their own destiny: This is the time to take action. Time for more freedom, more democracy, and more justice. We, the people of Burkina Faso, are ready to face anything to reach our goals. I raise my voice to ask you to stand with us for justice.

The views and opinions expressed here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the YALI Network or the U.S. government.

Click on the link below for the original article.

https://youngafricanleaders.state.gov/my-voice-for-burkina-faso/

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Baltimore, tarnished by riots, tries to rebuild its economic image

by Claire Zillman
 @clairezillman
OCTOBER 10, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT

In the wake of the unrest provoked by the death of Freddie Gray, Baltimore’s elected officials and small businesses are pulling together to give the city’s reputation a makeover.


Baltimore couldn’t ask for a better salesman than Robert Wallace. The CEO of energy engineering and technical services consulting firm Bithenergy, Inc., grew up in the city. He attended Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, a public high school, before enrolling in the University of Pennsylvania and later Dartmouth and has launched three companies including Bithenergy, all of which are located in the city.


But since protests following the death of Freddie Gray engulfed the city in April, he’s run into a bit of trouble with his pitch.


Bithenergy’s headquarters were in the direct path of the protestors, but it was left untouched. “There was very minimal impact there,” he says. “What the protests have impacted is the image of the city.”


Wallace told Fortune that he’s having trouble recruiting new talent. “If I had an opening [before the protests] and I interviewed 10 people I may have had three or four interested in taking the job ” he says. Now, despite his hard sell—”There are concerts right outside our office and restaurants and entertainment venues,” he says—that number is down to one or two.


“As a city, we have to work on overcoming that,” he says.


Despite those challenges, Bithenergy is thriving. The company—which has installed and maintained more than 20 solar energy systems, amounting to more than 33 megawatts of solar energy in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic Maryland, Virginia, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania—is No. 1 on Fortune‘s 2015 Inner City 100 list, a ranking by the Initiative for a Competitive Inner Cityof the fastest growing companies in urban areas. With revenue of $7,283,800 in 2014, Bithenergy reported a 2,973% five-year growth rate. It’s one of four Baltimore-based companies on this year’s list. Brand agency Planit, Inc., events company P.W. Feats, Inc., and web development firm SmartLogic also made the cut.


Fast-growing companies like Bithenergy are prized commodities in every city, but they are especially cherished in Baltimore, a city that erupted in protests this spring following the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, an African American man, who died in April from spinal cord injuries that he sustained while in police custody. The Maryland governor declared a state of emergency during protests in the wake of Gray’s death, and businesses suffered $9 million worth of property damage as long-simmering tensions in Baltimore’s impoverished neighborhoods related to structural racism, police brutality, and lack of education and economic opportunities boiled over.


Following such a high-profile incident, you’d expect job hunters to be wary of Baltimore, as Bithenergy’s Wallace describes. But William Cole, president and CEO of the Baltimore Development Corporation, insists that, when the city as a whole is considered, the “exact opposite” has been the case. The city has received “more inquiries from companies interested in growing or relocating here” and major construction projects are “moving faster now than they were before.”


Before and after the Freddie Gray-related protests, several notable companies have moved to Baltimore or struck deals that reiterate their desire to stay. Danish jeweler Pandora moved its headquarters, along with 250 employees, to the city from the nearby suburb of Columbia, Md. early this year. Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank, whose company is based in Baltimore, has snapped up real estate around the city, including a recent deal for 43 acres of waterfront property in the city’s Westport neighborhood. In March, Amazon opened a 1 million square-foot distribution center at the site of a former General Motors plant that closed in 2005. The city and state gave the e-commerce giant more than $43 million in tax incentives to lure the company—a deal that required Amazon to hire at least 1,000 people. In July, Amazon said it had hired 2,500.


Despite those flashy deals, the city is plagued by a high unemployment rate. It was 8% in August, the most recent month data is available.

That’s 2.9 percentage points above the national average. Then again, considering that the city’s unemployment rate stood at 11.8% in August 2010, Baltimore has come a long way.
You cannot separate Baltimore’s economic problems from the mounting social challenges many of its residents face. “We still continue to struggle with the chronic problems we’ve had for decades—drugs and a [high] crime rate,” Cole says. The city reported 211 homicides in 2014, 24 fewer than the previous year’s total of 235, which had been a four-year high.


Some of the city’s local employers are trying to address these factors on their own. Johns Hopkins is the city’s largest employer and was criticized during the protests for not serving all of Baltimore. In September, Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins University and the Johns Hopkins Health System launched a program to address the city’s economic divisions by hiring local companies for its design, vendor, and construction contracts and by committing to hire at least 60 employees per year from Baltimore zip codes with high joblessness or poverty rates.

The institution is also participating in a program called Live Where You Work, which provides employees with grants of up to $36,000 to buy homes in the city and is intended to build a demand for more small businesses—restaurants, drug stores, dry cleaners—within Baltimore’s borders.


Baltimore’s city government has also tried to encourage employment with incentive programs like the one it offered Amazon. Very often, though, cities can do very little to ensure that a company hires existing local talent, Cole says. In the wake of the protests, Baltimore’s Small Business Administration announced that it would make $1 million available in loans to help businesses that had suffered physical damage during the riots and to strengthen the city’s small business community overall.


In May, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake also launched a campaign called One Baltimore, a coalition of business, nonprofit and religious leaders to address the problems that the protests laid bare. Wallace of Bithenergy is a member of the group and, this past summer, he participated in an initiative to encourage local businesses to hire students from Baltimore’s high schools as interns. Wallace typically hires two or three interns for paid summer positions; this year he hired five.


“Businesses like ours are so critical to the survival of an urban center,” Wallace says. “If we can expose these young people to potential opportunities, it connects the dots between the choices they make today and their quality of life down the road. If we can connect those dots, they’ll make better choices and be much better off.”


Youths walk down a Baltimore street on April 30, 2015, during the period of unrest.

 

 

 

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The Daily Record - Leading Women Award Winner: BITHGROUP Technologies, Inc.

The Daily Record - 2015 Leading Women Award Winner: BITHGROUP Technologies, Inc.

Amber Green
BithGroup Technologies Inc.

Click on the link below to see this year's full winners list.

http://thedailyrecord.com/leading-women/winners/?utm_source=WhatCounts+Publicaster+Edition&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=2015+-+LW+Winners+-+10%2f9%2f2015+&utm_content=Click+here+to+see+the+full+list+of+winners.+%0D%0D+We+congratulate+this+year%27s+winners

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