Obama Goes Alternative for Stimulus Signing

| Tue Feb. 17, 2009 4:55 PM EST

This is change.

Barack Obama was in Denver on Tuesday afternoon to sign the $787 billion stimulus package--a.k.a. the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The occasion was historic. Less than four weeks in office, Obama had won approval of a serious piece of legislation--a tremendous blast of spending and tax cuts designed to boost the collapsing economy. And Obama was laying down a marker: he was promising this measure would save or create 3.5 million jobs. This was a big deal. He was defining his presidency.

What was also intriguing was the atmospherics of the signing. Obama put his John Hancock on the law at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. And as part of the signing ceremony there, Blake Jones, a leader of Namaste Solar Electric, a Boulder-based company that designs, builds, and installs solar panels for homes and businesses, introduced Obama. Namaste had installed solar panels on the roof of the museum, and earlier in the day, Jones had given Obama a tour of the panels.

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Namaste is definitely a Blue State sort of outfit. It is worker owned. It is alternative. It took its name from a Sanskrit greeting meant to convey a spirit of interconnectivity and widely used in yoga studios. It's not your normal Chamber of Commerce company. By the way, Jones used to work for Halliburton. In a way, he represents the change the nation has gone through, from Bush-Cheney to Obama, from Halliburton to Namaste.

From Entrepreneur.com:

Each of Namaste's 27 co-owners receives the same compensation, has equal voice in decision-making, and is afforded the same opportunities to participate in company ownership, says Namaste president Blake Jones, who reluctantly adopted his title to give customers and the media a sense of company leadership....

Namaste staff members have the option to pay into the company to become co-owners, and the company offers low-interest, short-term loans for this purpose. To date, no one has declined the co-ownership opportunity.

"We want everyone to be owners from day one and to know what it's like in all aspects of the business, including the burdens," Jones says. "Since we are all masters, we decide what happens with our profits, dividends, bonuses and investments. We make the 'big picture' decisions each week in a three-hour meeting."

From an interview The Daily Green conducted with Jones:

Where did your progressive company model come from?

When three of us started Namaste Solar Electric, we were wondering if people would think it was harebrained. We don't have a blueprint, and in many ways we are a business experiment. We wanted to do things differently — the majority have worked, while some haven't. We attracted a superstar team passionate about solar and doing business in a different way.

We look at profit and things holistically. But even if you only measure profit conventionally, we are number one in Colorado, and have installed twice as many systems as anyone else. We want to prove that this concept works, and that by measuring your business holistically you will contribute to a great bottom line.

From an interview Jones did with Lime.com:

LIME: You've gone from working for Halliburton to building renewable energy projects in Nepal to installing PV panels in Boulder, Colorado. Tell us a little bit about how you got where you are. Why did you leave the oil industry for the renewables industry?

BLAKE JONES: It was interesting to go to the complete opposite side of the fence. When I graduated from college, I was so excited to go to Halliburton and get into oil and natural gas, because I thought oil and gas made the world go round. While I still think oil and gas are fine, and they do make the world go round, the imbalance of power they create—too much political power, too much economic disparity between countries—can't be sustained. We need a better-balanced portfolio. So I looked around and saw there were a bunch of new renewable energy technologies out there, and that's where I wanted to go.

Jones and Namaste are certainly part of Obama America. It was rather fitting--and telling--that they played a role in the president's first big win.

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