BMS Direct “Goes Green”

In 1973, James R. LaPrade stepped into Schewels furniture store one day and noticed the employees sitting around a table applying labels to a mass mailing. Quickly realizing that he could offer a service that would make this process more efficient, he seized the opportunity.

“He (Dad) took it home . . . he and my mom processed it, took it back the next day and said ‘Hey, we can keep doing this,’” said James E. LaPrade, son of the founder and now president/owner of BMS Direct. “Schewels was actually one of our first customers.”

Today BMS Direct is not a husband and wife team, but a thriving company with nearly 67 employees, and over 300 clients. Their mission is to develop lasting relationships with clients by offering the highest quality direct mail marketing and printing services. Some of their primary services include invoice and statement processing, direct mail and printing services.

By last year, the company had grown so much they had to expand and add new office space.

“We’ve been growing and adding personnel, and we were out of offices,” LaPrade said.

Also in 2016, BMS Direct made the big decision to “go green” by incorporating solar technology at the facility on Millrace Drive.

“I have been a big solar fan and renewable energy fan for years…I actually put solar on my house,” LaPrade said. “I believe in the technology. I believe in the future of the technology.”

Being passionate about the future of solar, LaPrade started looking into different options, trying to figure out the best one for his company.

“We’ve got an 80,000-square-foot building that we heat and cool,” LaPrade said. “When you pay $6,000 to $9,000 dollar electric bills a month, you start thinking, ‘How can I cut that cost down?’” His solution was to consider solar options.

Solar panels basically convert sunlight into electricity. The direct current (DC) electricity from the panels travels through an inverter that converts the energy into alternating current (AC) electricity, which eventually feeds into the meter from the power company. The power company can then monitor what portion of the bill is being generated by solar power and what is being generated from the grid.

“During the day, when the sun comes up and starts generating power, you’re producing power throughout the day until the sun goes down,” LaPrade said. Recognizing the benefits of solar power, and desiring to be “good stewards” to the environment, BMS Direct decided to install 722 panels on the roof.

“We ultimately decided that this was an investment we were going to make,” LaPrade said.

BMS Direct has supplemented approximately 45 percent of their total energy by using renewable energy, and although they only began using solar in July 2016, they are already seeing positive results.

“It’s a pretty considerable amount of savings,” he said. Although the panels do have a 15-year warranty, they are expected to last at least 25 years.

“Long after the system’s been paid for, it will still be producing power for us,” LaPrade said. They anticipate a pay back after a little over six years.

“We’re still in the infancy stage, but we are seeing savings each month,” LaPrade said.

Additionally, the company’s “going green” efforts have gone beyond the installation of solar panels. They recycle all their paper products and have also installed LED lights and motion sensors throughout their facility.

“We have sensors for our entire building, so if you walk into an area, no longer do you come in and cut on 400 lights in the morning. They are cut on as you are using that space,” LaPrade said. “That was a dramatic change in the amount of electricity usage.”

In the future, LaPrade thinks we will see more businesses and even residential homes taking advantage of solar power.

“It has been cost prohibitive in many cases over the years, but the cost per kilowatt hour has really come down as the technology has improved,” he said.

“I really think once you continue to see energy cost rise, and the solar panel cost and cost of materials come down, I really think you’ll see a migration.”

Aside from the obvious pros in using solar energy, there are many tax benefits, benefits for the environment, and an increase in property value.

“Making the public aware about the benefits of renewable energy is just huge,” LaPrade said. “Solar is an investment and an asset.”

Since you cannot see the panels from inside of the building, they hung pictures of the panels and have mounted the inverters for employees to see.

“We know it’s up there working, you just don’t see it on a daily basis,” LaPrade said.

And since the system equipment is also unseen, they put a monitor in their lobby to give more of a visual. Anyone passing through can actually see how much power the solar panels are generating.

“You can visually see the impact that you’re making,” LaPrade said. “We can tell how much fuel we’re offsetting by not using gasoline. We can tell how many lightbulbs we’re saving through the use of our solar. So, we can see the impact on a daily basis—and that’s pretty rewarding.”


By Megan L. Horst

Lynchburg Restaurant Week 937w