Sacramento Business Journal by Ed Goldman, Columnist
Date: Thursday, June 28, 2012, 8:45am PDT

Life Can be a Breeze — Without stretching the point, you could call Steven Grant a utility player — and not just because he’s the director of construction and project management for Foundation Windpower, an energy firm with some serious commercial clients up and down the state.

“The business model is pretty simple,” he says over coffee earlier this week. “We sell energy to businesses at a reduced cost. We develop the (wind turbine) project, build it, own it and operate it.” In short, the very definition of a turn-key operation.

Grant says Foundation’s business model goes something like this: “We find a facility that has an appetite for renewable energy, like Walmart’s distribution center in Red Bluff. Naturally, the site has to have access to wind. And it has to be located in an area where the political process (for permits) will move forward. We probably won’t be installing turbines in midtown.”

Grant, 58, a redhead with eyebrows and a mustache that Mark Twain might have envied, has a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from California State University Sacramento. He worked for Teichert Construction and Teichert Aggregates for about 12 years, designing and building a variety of projects, and earning a reputation for reliability (I know this personally; the Teichert corporation was a marketing client of mine for 15 years). But even a good reputation couldn’t stop the economic steamroller that caused the company to lay off scores of employees — including Grant, who lost his job in 2004 and almost immediately was snatched up by Teichert’s main local competitor, Granite Construction. He spent four years there building its Capay aggregate processing facility. “Then the economic downturn bit me a second time,” he says, and he was again laid off.

He joined Foundation Windpower in 2010. The company currently has turbines running in Rancho Cucamonga (the Southern California town whose name was a favorite punchline for the late comedian Jack Benny), Tracy and Fairfield. In the next six months, the company will have installed turbines that produce 14.4 megawatts of power in Madison (near Woodland) and Victorville, in the high (and windy) desert of San Bernardino County.

Reflecting on his current position and the bumpy road that took him here, Grant is philosophical. “When I got laid off the second time, I started thinking about what I wanted out of my life,” he says. “I realized I needed to put myself on a path to growth, to be an owner of a company, to earn more than wages. I was after large value.” He made it. Did I mention that Grant is one of Foundation Windpower’s seven owners?