Solar energy company among latest investments for South Dakota Equity Partners

Feb. 24, 2020

This paid piece is sponsored by South Dakota Biotech.

A growing solar energy services company is the latest investment for South Dakota Equity Partners, a fund that was developed to invest in companies in the state.

GenPro Energy Solutions, based in Piedmont on the edge of the Black Hills northwest of Rapid City, has doubled in size the past couple of years as its renewable energy solutions have become more affordable and as demand has increased.

“We’re growing everywhere,” said CEO Dwight Patterson, who founded the business in 2003 as a solar water-pumping distribution company.

“Renewable energy is taking off all over because it’s one of the most cost-effective ways to deliver energy. It’s no longer a feel-good decision. It’s a financial decision.”

GenPro provides development, design, manufacturing, procurement and installation services for solar, lighting, power generation and control solutions.

“We’re doing a large solar project at a university in South Dakota – Black Hills State – which will be the largest project of its kind in South Dakota,” Patterson said.

“And we do a lot of residential renewable energy. That’s growing by leaps and bounds in South Dakota. We’re focused on bringing the best solutions we have available in areas that make financial sense, and we hope to take advantage of doors that open as this technology continues to gain traction.”

Commercial work in South Dakota is limited by current state regulations, he said. But GenPro does business worldwide.

“The technologies we buy are literally manufactured all over the world,” Patterson said. “Different parts really shine depending on where it is.”

GenPro’s nearly 60 employees serve more than 200 energy-related dealers in North America and support active projects as far away as Africa, South America, Asia and the Middle East.

“The ‘holy grail’ in the industry has been if we can find an energy-storage solution, to put this energy into in order to use it on demand and do that affordably and competitively,” Patterson said. “That technology is now there.”

GenPro typically works with utility companies to help supply raw power that ultimately is delivered to homes and businesses. It also has helped communities develop municipal solar farms, powering services such as wastewater treatment and serving as an economic development tool. Other large projects provide power to standalone entities such as a large sawmill.

“We’re literally a full-service organization from top to bottom,” Patterson said.

An investment from South Dakota Equity Partners was finalized recently to help the company support its growth.

“It made sense on multiple levels from the top down,” said Blaine Crissman, a partner in South Dakota Equity Partners.

“Eighteen months ago, I believed wind and solar had to be heavily subsidized to be competitive, but as we dug in, solar is now cost-competitive with natural gas and coal. So the projects are making more sense, and there’s increased demand nationally.”

The $21 million South Dakota Equity Partners fund launched in 2018 as a first-of-its-kind public-private investment partnership in South Dakota. It’s governed by an independent board and invests only in South Dakota companies.

“GenPro is one of those under-the-radar success stories that is helping our state make a name for itself in renewable energy,” said Joni Johnson, executive director of South Dakota Biotech.

“But the availability of equity partners is essential, and that’s something that’s been harder to find in South Dakota until now. Being able to pair a company like this with investors like South Dakota Equity Partners is what it will take to continue to foster this industry in our state.”

GenPro “is great at what they do, has a great reputation, and they’re growing rapidly,” Crissman said. “Management is great, and they have also hired really smart people throughout the organization. When we looked at profit by project, they generate nice margins, and I think we can help them capture even more margin and expand their market.”

With its $2.5 million investment in GenPro, Crissman joins the board of directors and will assist the company with everything from hiring and strategic planning to monitoring financial performance.

The investment will help GenPro accelerate its growth, Patterson agreed.

“We are growing so quickly, we’ve needed a good partner that can support us in that growth,” he said. “We really had the same values and vision for the organization, and what Blaine felt South Dakota Equity could offer GenPro was right in line with what we needed. They bring a lot of strength to our financial team, and we’re very excited about where that’s going to lead.”

Since its first investment 18 months ago, the first South Dakota Equity Partners fund has supported five other companies in addition to GenPro:

  • SAB Biotherapeutics, a Sioux Falls-based biotech company developing immunotherapies.
  • Nanopareil, a Rapid City-based producer of ultra-high-capacity, single-use nanofiber membranes and 3D nanofiber scaffolds for the biopharmaceutical and biomedical industries.
  • Inanovate, a Sioux Falls-based life science company specializing in the development of blood tests for early detection of cancer and autoimmune diseases.
  • Property Meld, a software company in Rapid City that serves the property maintenance industry.
  • OverBuilt, a Huron-based manufacturer of heavy machinery, including car crushers.

South Dakota Equity Partners is looking for existing companies in need of growth equity, he said.

“These would be companies generating revenue, possibly already using bank financing, and the company needs additional growth capital along with a value-added partner,” Crissman said.

“So far, everything we’ve done has been as a minority investor, but I would really like a majority ownership in a growing business. Maybe it’s an owner who wants to retire and wants the company to stay in South Dakota instead of selling to an out-of-state company, where we could step in and support the existing management team and continue to grow the business in South Dakota.”

To keep up with the growing biotech industry in South Dakota, visit

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Solar energy company among latest investments for South Dakota Equity Partners

A growing solar energy services company is the latest investment for South Dakota Equity Partners, a fund that was developed to invest in companies in the state.

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