If you remember watching the 1995-96 State Champion Amsterdam Rugged Rams football team then you should also remember that team’s senior quarterback, Chris Covell. Chris is the same age as my oldest son Matt and they became close friends in middle school, sharing a near-fanatic devotion to the Yankees, the football Giants and the Boston Celtics. Frank Derrico told me he made Chris the QB of that State Championship team because the kid knew how to lead. Boy was he right about that.
When Chris left AHS, he still had dreams of becoming a professional baseball player but after playing football during his freshman year at Buffalo State, he realized he was not going to be a professional athlete and he also realized he was not going to stay at Buffalo State. He ended up at Northeastern, where he got his bachelor’s in business administration and where he met his future wife, Kerry. When he graduated, he and Kerry decided to travel the world until there money ran out and then come back home and make a life for themselves.
They settled in Saratoga and Chris got a job selling industrial lighting. Excuse the pun but within a few months of being in that job, the light bulb turned on in Chris’s head. He recognized that as energy costs grew the incentives for business to invest in improved energy efficiencies would grow with it. At the age of 23, he decided to start his own company, one that specialized in helping businesses make the most efficient lighting decisions possible. That meant helping each customer take advantage of every possible energy tax credit, utility incentive and technological advancement available and managing the lighting upgrade from start to finish. The beginning years of the 21st century was a perfect time to be in that business, as the volatile Middle East situation caused energy prices to soar. Within ten years, Chris Covell’s company, SmartWatt Energy Inc. grew from a three-man office in Albany, NY into a nationwide powerhouse doing $50 million in sales annually with 250 employees and 18 locations throughout the US.
SmartWatt has made INC Magazine’s list of fastest growing companies several times. Its also appeared on the Capital District Business Review’s Best Companies to Work for compilation. Every time the company makes a sale, another business saves energy and money, the US becomes a bit less dependent on foreign oil and the air we breathe becomes a bit cleaner. I tell people who knew Chris as a kid (his parents Rich & Leah owned Covell’s Furniture on Route 67) about what he’s accomplished and most are amazed that they’ve heard nothing about it. Heck, the only reason I know about his success is that my son Matt was one of SmartWatt’s very first employees and now serves as one of Chris’s VPs. In fact, Chris has brought in a few of his old Ram football teammates to work at SmartWatt. I love learning how native Amsterdamians have accomplished great things. Stories like these can be used to inspire others (especially our young) to challenge themselves and pursue their dreams, so if you know of any others, please share them.
Happy Birthday Chris and congratulations for what you’ve accomplished with your amazing company.