Australian energy-efficiency firm makes Philadelphia move

Marcelo J. Rouco is CEO of Ecosave, an energy-efficiency firm.
Marcelo J. Rouco is CEO of Ecosave, an energy-efficiency firm.
Posted: January 26, 2014

Once Marcelo J. Rouco decided on Philadelphia as the location for the North American headquarters of his Australian energy-efficiency firm, Ecosave Inc., he went all in.

Last June, he paid $4.2 million for a small engineering firm in Bristol, DVL Automation, as a beachhead for his North American expansion. He also bought a Center City house and relocated his wife and two children from Down Under.

"Australia is a great place, but a smaller market, only 21 million people," said Rouco, 44. "So I expect the North American office to generate a lot more revenue than the Australian office."

Last week, Ecosave moved its 24 Bristol employees and six recent hires to new quarters in the Navy Yard. Rouco hopes to expand to 125 employees in three years.

Ecosave Holdings Ltd., which went public in Australia in 2013 and reported profits of about $1.1 million on $9.8 million in sales, provides energy- and water-saving services to commercial and institutional clients. It guarantees savings.

"If we don't deliver the savings we guarantee, we make up the difference," he said.

Rouco says Ecosave provides energy-efficiency services similar to big multinational firms such as Siemens, Honeywell, and Johnson Controls, though his firm will embrace smaller clients that the giants won't touch.

Ecosave finances the energy-efficiency measures itself, freeing clients from having to raise capital and allowing them to report the costs as an operating expense.

It also does the initial energy assessment free. "We do not charge for what is essentially an investment-grade audit," he said.

Rouco's background was in business rather than engineering. He came across a product that saved energy by reducing the voltage of fluorescent lighting systems and founded Ecosave in 2002. Over time, he hired engineers and turned it into a full-service energy-efficiency and water-savings firm.

"We started with a single lighting efficiency product, and now we're a full-service energy-efficiency and water-savings firm," said Rouco, who is a native of Argentina - his family emigrated to Australia when he was a teen.

Rouco's North American expansion began more than two years ago. He knew he wanted to plant a flag in the Northeast, where energy costs are higher and clients have more to gain. He scouted Chicago, Toronto, Boston, Washington, New York, and Philadelphia.

Rouco praised Gov. Corbett's Action Team, Mayor Nutter, Select Greater Philadelphia, and the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp. "for stroking the benefits of Pennsylvania and Philadelphia." Ecosave will be in a Keystone Opportunity Zone, which includes state and local tax benefits.

A big attraction is also to be part of the Navy Yard, which officials are fashioning as a center for energy research and development, including the Energy Efficient Buildings Hub, the U.S. Department of Energy project.

"We liked the idea of being at the beginning of what we hope will be the Silicon Valley of energy-efficient buildings," he said.



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