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Monolith Solar Names Seasoned Executive As New CEO



Chelsea Diana, Albany Business Review

Mike Hickey, who has led some of the fastest-growing technology companies in the Albany, New York, area, has been named CEO of Monolith Solar, the solar panel installation company.

The company has more than doubled its employee count this year to almost 150 people and has seen 300 percent revenue growth since 2014.

Monolith Solar was founded by Steve Erby and Mark Fobare in 2009. Erby and Fobare approached Hickey about the job about a year ago, when they realized they needed an executive with experience in building fast-growing companies.

"Steve and I were looking for someone who was capable of bringing us to the next level," Fobare said. "It might be a bit of an exaggeration, but our intent is to take the business and put a zero at the end of the revenue. There were a couple of names we floated around, but Mike popped to the top pretty soon."

Hickey, 55, brings to the company more than 30 years of experience, most recently as chief of staff at Siena College and interim CEO at the Center for Economic Growth. He refined his revenue-driving skills at two public companies.

As chief operating officer at MapInfo, Hickey increased annual revenue from $35 million to $168 million. He was a big part of the sale of the company to Pitney Bowes for $408 million in 2007. As president of Pitney Bowes Business Insight, Hickey grew the company to $400 million in annual revenue and 1,900 employees.

"I was reacting to opportunity. It's not like I was looking for a job. The more I talked to [Erby and Fobare], the more I appreciated and respected what they accomplished," Hickey said. "In this area, it's difficult to find a business with enough strength, momentum and size that is growing rapidly. That's where my skills come into play. It's to take a business and continue to grow it."

Monolith Solar is experiencing significant growth.

Earlier this year, Fobare said Monolith hired between 70 and 80 people to grow the business to 150 employees.

Since founding the business out of a garage in 2009, Monolith has installed solar across 1,300 projects that in total generate 44 million kilowatt-hours of renewable energy a year. That's enough energy to power 7,000 homes.

In the last three years, revenue has grown 300 percent. Fobare declined to provide a specific number, but said the company is profitable. Monolith had $12 million in revenue in 2014, according to a Business Review story from 2015.

"These guys were growing so quick, sometimes you can't see the forest through the trees," Hickey said.

Part of that involves working more closely with banks to create a portfolio of partners that Monolith can work with. Up to this point, Monolith has predominantly worked with KeyBank and M&T Bank. Fobare said they are talking to around six banks to add to that portfolio.

Monolith owns 24 solar farms upstate covering about 450 acres. The company’s business model currently is to buy land rather than lease.

"Part of the process is to shed light on what it is that we do, and what a low-risk situation it actually is," Fobare said. "To do that you have to educate [the banks], and education takes time."

To accommodate this growth, Monolith acquired property in the Vista Technology Campus in Bethlehem, New York, for $520,000 in December. That purchase came two years after Monolith announced it would build a $5 million headquarters at the site.

Hickey said there is no timeline at the moment that they want to make public for when they will build the new headquarters.

"There have been things out there that it will be built by this date or that date. The company has really put the priority on financing these projects," Hickey said. "As we sort through getting those projects, toward the end of the year, it will be a good time to take our head up a little bit and see, because we'll have to do something."

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