James Spencer and a small group of colleagues in New York started EverPower in 2001 after years in the fossil fuel business. They invested their life savings and worked the kind of hours that come with literally betting it all on a new business.
Now, more than a decade later, the renewable energy business has moved and grown in size, with 52 employees spread out across three offices and a headquarters in Pittsburgh.
It's an evolution that has forced Mr. Spencer to adjust his leadership style.
In the early days, it was easy to see if a new employee had the fervent dedication to renewable energy that could compensate for a paltry paycheck and uncertain future. With more than $1 billion worth of projects now developed and salaries competitive with other major sectors, Mr. Spencer said the makeup of his employees has changed.
"I occasionally will wonder why I'm not getting a return email at 10 p.m. on a Saturday night," he said. "But if everyone was the way the founding members were, we'd probably be burned out."
EverPower has offices in Pittsburgh, New York and California, but its headquarters moved here in 2007 because of the proximity to the wind farms and operations that have helped the business grow. Mr. Spencer wanted his company to be within three hours of its major projects along the Allegheny Ridge.
Two other possibilities were considered: Philadelphia and Columbus. Pittsburgh's history of energy development, bench of engineering talent and proximity to major universities made it the crowning bid.
The company now commands about 35 percent of the state's wind market, and Mr. Spencer has emerged as a local advocate for renewables, writing opinion pieces and speaking about the energy source in media outlets.
Even as he's grown his venture from a New York City startup to a full-fledged Pittsburgh company, Mr. Spencer said he's tried to hold on to the enthusiasm of those first uncertain years.
"We don't have the same concerns about making payroll, but I try to think about those early days because it keeps you balanced," he said.
-- Erich Schwartzel: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1455