Solar panels made by formerly incarcerated people in South Bend will soon be available across the country. Local manufacturer Crossroads Solar recently signed a multiyear agreement with global distributor Krannich Solar.
“We have a national contract that I often describe as if you make cookies at home in your kitchen and Whole Foods picked them up,” CEO Patrick Regan said.
The deal is due in part to the Notre Dame-Navy football game — Regan said a man who had visited the Crossroads plant happened to meet the CEO of Krannich Solar at a pre-game event.
“They didn’t know each other, and they were talking about this little company called Crossroads Solar,” he said. “The CEO of Krannich calls me up the Monday morning [after] and says, ‘We need to talk.’”
Founded in 2019, Crossroads produces solar panels for small-scale enterprises such as homes, businesses, schools and RVs.
Regan said the company’s customer base has been mostly regional, but the Krannich deal allows its panels to be sold to installers nationwide. It also gives Crossroads direct access to Krannich’s customer base in other states.
“I would never find these people as one guy sitting at a desk,” Regan said. “I’ll get a list from them, and I can say, ‘I’m going to go to Iowa for two days,’ and just call on Krannich customers.”
The deal means scaling up to a second shift and hiring a new crew of formerly incarcerated workers — Crossroads exists primarily to employ returning felons.
“It’s one of the greatest fears a person faces after being released — is somebody going to hire me?” Crossroads employee Justin Stewart said. “They gave me a chance just on what I told them about what I can do and what type of person I am.”
“I’ve been there for two months and I’m still learning something new every day — it just keeps growing and growing,” he added.
With the global supply chain still in flux, Regan said the distribution deal is “daunting” — the company will need the capital to buy large enough quantities of product that it can ride out the next crisis.
But, he said the deal will help investors gain confidence in Crossroads and help the company expand.
“Could be, we go from one old guy’s idea and more guts than brains to three shifts and working it up,” Regan said.