|Financing Business, Spurring Innovation|
|Sunday, 30 September 2012 9:25pm|
Nick Lehto’s pioneering home-heating system gets a boost from his Connecticut community bank
By Josh Fine
Throughout these recent uncertain economic times, community banks have continued to support America’s entrepreneurial innovators and job creators. One example is the story of Nick Lehto and his community bank, The Citizens National Bank of Putnam, Conn.
Lehto is an independent homebuilder who worked with his father and now owns his own company, Lehto Design/Build. Four years ago, he had a new idea he wanted to market—how to build more energy-efficient houses. His idea involved creating an extremely airtight envelope for houses by engineering a one-of-a-kind system of high-quality walls, insulation and triple-pane windows. This system costs slightly more than regular walls and windows, but it drastically reduces heat loss, eliminating the need for a large heater or boiler.
According to Lehto, a 2,000-square-foot house using his system will cost about $500 a year to heat, about four to six times less than the cost to heat a conventionally built house of the same size.
Now any sort of innovation that touts major savings usually encounters skepticism in the marketplace, particularly from consumers. This is where The Citizens National played a big role in boosting Lehto’s innovation.
Each year, The Citizens National Bank selects two or three of its business customers who are doing great things and promotes them in the surrounding community. In 2010, the bank decided to highlight Lehto and his father, Paul. The exposure was crucial because, as Lehto says, “It was The Citizens National Bank that ran [the ad], so it gives it more legitimacy in the eyes of the customer.”
After the bank’s ad on his company and heating system ran, Lehto quickly attracted a few essential first customers. Two years later, he has these crucial customer testimonials to back up his claims of cost savings. Now things are taking off, he says.
Phyllis DeVillez, one of The Citizens National’s banking officers, says highlighting Lehto and his father’s efforts was natural for the community bank to do. “Paul and Nick are a unique partnership between father and son in a green enterprise,” DeVillez says. “When speaking with them, you get a real sense of the energy they’ve invested into the design, and we felt it was a story worth telling.”
Reflecting on his newest business experience, Lehto says, “Don’t be afraid to try something new, even if you run into some obstacles at first.”
It’s good to know community banks like The Citizens National are still helping economic innovators like Nick Lehto overcome obstacles to succeed in the marketplace of new ideas.
Josh Fine, a student at James Madison University, was a ICBA marketing and communications intern this past summer.