Let the sun shine: Lewiston roofing company to receive chamber award for solar work

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Officials at Industrial Roofing Companies don’t believe in always letting your roof just, well, sit there.

IRC recently installed a sea of 778 solar panels at a Massachusetts school and, through an innovative arrangement, the Lewiston company will own the panels and charge the school for electricity, enough to power one-fifth of its athletic complex, where the panels sit.

It’s cleaner power. For the school, it’s cheaper than electricity off the grid. The project also means local jobs in Lewiston-Auburn.

“We call that the triple bottom line,” Business Manager Mike Davis said.

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In 2011, IRC installed 185 panels on the roof of Lamey-Wellehan in Auburn, enough to supply about 50 percent of the shoe store’s power. It just finished installing 24 solar thermal panels on two dorms at Central Maine Community College. Panels will heat water for showers, saving about 2,000 gallons of heating oil a year.

On Feb. 9, the company will receive the Cool Chamber Award at the Androscoggin County Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting for its eco work.

Now made up of three sister companies, IRC got its start in 1945 as Bill’s Roofing and Siding Co., founded by Bill St. Hilaire.

“They were building a lot of tenement buildings back then,” said grandson John St. Hilaire. “He would go around and put aluminum siding on them, then he began putting shingled roofs on homes. It all just blossomed from there.”

John climbed up on his first roof at age 10. His father, Dick, gave him $2 at the end of the workday.

“I was very, very proud of that,” he said. “That made up my mind on my first day. At that point, I just couldn’t wait to get started.”

In 1990, brothers John, Rick and Jeff bought the company from their father. (Jeff has since left.)

John is president of IRC Industrial Roofing & Siding Co., Rick president of IRC Roof Management Services and Davis president of IRC Solar Roof Systems.

IRC employs about 100 people on Ferry Road. One of the largest commercial roofing contractors in the state, their workers travel around Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts for work.

“A lot of people are reactionary when it comes to roofs,” Davis said. “We often get calls, ‘I need a new roof, my roof’s leaking.’ No, here are your options.”

He said the service business is growing the fastest. That arm provides inspections, annual maintenance and “snow management,” which doesn’t always mean snow removal. Drains are cleared, snow is measured for depth and calculations are made about weight.

The solar business is seeing the largest projects, Davis said.

The panel install at the Belmont Hill School, a private school in Belmont, Mass., wrapped in mid-January and represented a first for the 67-year-old company: Entering a power purchase agreement.

There’s the benefit of going green, he said, and “It’s a way to hedge your energy bets. We know exactly what the sun is going to do every year.”

kskelton@sunjournal.com

Androscoggin County Chamber of Commerce 2012 annual award winners:

Business Leadership Awards: Agren Appliance (large company) and Baxter Brewing (small company)

Ray Geiger Award: Steve Closson, Androscoggin Bank

Ken Additon Business Advocate Award: Lewiston Career Center

Community Service Leadership Awards: L/A Art Walk and L/A Cash Coalition

Poland Business Award: Pike Industries

Public Service Leadership Award: Phil Crowell, Auburn Police Chief

Education-Business Partnership Award: Healthy Androscoggin

Cool Chamber Award: Industrial Roofing Co.

New Member Award: Center Street Dental

President’s Award: Northeast Charter & Tours and The Library Cafe

The annual meeting will be held Thursday, Feb. 9 at the Ramada Conference Center in Lewiston.

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