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CEO, Keiter

He’s Building on a Tradition of Giving Back to the Community

Scott Keiter

Scott Keiter has made the construction company that bears his name one of the fastest-growing ventures in this sector regionally.

And to position his company to achieve that kind of growth, Keiter (pronounced ‘Kiter’) knew early on that he would have to focus most of his time and energy on business, making connections, developing talent, putting the right team in place, and fashioning a blueprint (yes, that’s an industry term) for success.

“As we built the business, the most precious resource was time,” he said. “Anyone who creates a business knows what it takes — it’s every waking hour, so there’s not much time left behind. And then you introduce a child or two, and there’s even less time.”

But he also knew that, once he had the foundation of his business down and was building on top of it, he would eventually shift some of that time and energy toward the community and start to get involved on a number of levels.

And he has followed that blueprint as well, devoting time and talent to everything from an advisory role at Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School’s carpentry program to becoming a trustee at Look Park, to involvement with the Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce (GNCC) on many levels, including something called the ‘Keiter Card.’

“He said, ‘I’d like to do something, because we have, fortunately, gained business throughout this horrible period. So I’d like to do something to support the community.’”

This is an initiative to match the value of gift cards sold by the chamber and accepted in more than 100 businesses — one that has put thousands of dollars back into the Greater Northampton economy in late summer, during back-to-school sales and tax-free-weekend time.

In the beginning, it was called the ‘Double Your Money Northampton Gift Card Promotion,’ but eventually it took the name of the company and the philanthropist behind it, making this both an economic driver and an effective branding initiative.

The program, started in 2021 and expanded each year, allows consumers to purchase a $25 Northampton gift card and receive $50 in actual spending power, said Vince Jackson, executive director of the Greater Northampton Chamber, adding that it has provided a real boost for that region’s many small businesses and become somewhat of phenomenon in Paradise City.

The Keiter Card

The Keiter Card has been described as a ‘win-win-win,’ benefiting the Keiter company, the local economy, and small businesses that accept the cards.

Indeed, as he talked about the card, Jackson referenced everything from how quickly they sold out each of their first three years, to how mothers would bring in their children collectively (it’s one Keiter Card per customer) so they could spend part of their allowance on a card, and then talk about where they would go and what they would spend it on.

But while heaping praise on the card and its impact, Jackson saved some for the company and the person behind it, especially as he recalled the circumstances of how it came about.

Flashing back to late summer 2021, when the economy was really starting to open up again after the pandemic, Jackson recalled a conversation he had with Keiter.

“He said, ‘I’d like to do something, because we have, fortunately, gained business throughout this horrible period. So I’d like to do something to support the community,’” Jackson recalled. “So he came up with the idea of donating $10,000 to the chamber, and for everyone who bought a $25 gift card, he would match that amount, up to $10,000.”

For year two, Keiter doubled the amount to $20,000, and in year three, he increased it to $25,000, with the chamber donating another $5,000 to make it a $30,000 matching program. For year four … Keiter leaked to BusinessWest that he will again be donating $25,000 to build on the momentum that’s been generated.

Meanwhile, Keiter, working in tandem with his wife, Jill, continue to expand their involvement in the Greater Northampton area while at the same taking their business to the proverbial next level.

Success in both realms helps explain why Keiter will soon have his name on something else: a Difference Makers plaque.

 

What’s in a Name?

Returning to the subject of the Keiter Card, Jackson said it’s an example not only of Scott Keiter’s genrosity and commitment to the community and its small businesses, but also of how he’s developed into a successful business person, refining several talents, including, in this case, branding and marketing.

Indeed, to purchase a Keiter Card, one first has to say that name, said Jackson, adding that, when needed, those at the chamber will help the buyer along.

“Sometimes they need help with the pronounciation — some will say ‘Keeter,’” he explained, adding that, with each transaction and each card, the Keiter business gets some additional exposure.

Scott Keiter with, from left, Evan Latour, Zak Martinez, and Sean Houlihan

Scott Keiter with, from left, Evan Latour, Zak Martinez, and Sean Houlihan, Smith Vocational Agricultural High School graduates now working for the company.

And it has already been making a name for itself in the region as a growing company, now with 85 employees, focused on both residential and commercial construction. With the former, the company tackles new construction, but mostly renovations. And with the latter, it has developed a deep portolio of clients, including many higher-education institutions, including Smith College, Mount Holyoke College, Amherst College, Elms College, and Western New England University. It also counts many businesses and municipalities on its client list.

The business recently spun off Hatfield Construction, which focuses on earth work and site work, as a wholly owned subsidiary of Keiter, and last month, it announced that it had appointed Jim Young, a business consultant and former president of Paragus Strategic IT, as president of Keiter, leaving its founder more time to focus on the proverbial big picture instead of day-to-day operations.

“We’re excited to open a new chapter for the company and focus on growth and development and building on the successes that we’ve already had,” said Keiter, who will assume the title of CEO. “Jim will help me leverage my time so I can remain focused on looking forward, being in the role of a visionary, and guiding the direction of this organization.”

The business plan calls for continued, sustainable growth and further expansion into Hampden and Berkshire counties, he went on, adding that the company has established itself in those markets and wants to build on that presence.

As noted earlier, for the first several years he was in business, Keiter had a singular focus, to get that venture on solid footing and put an aggressive growth plan in place.

As the company’s name, reputation, and portfolio of clients and projects grew, he began to shift some of his time to the community, although the main focus has still been his business.

 

Concrete Examples

Keiter has chosen to get involved in realms where he can lend expertise, and also where he can make a difference.

That includes Smith Vocational, where he has served as an advisor to the carpentry department while also bringing a number of its students into the company through its co-op program, with several of them eventually being hired by the firm.

“We try to get them out to do everything that we do,” he explained. “We try our best to get them out on our projects, where they can work side-by-side with our staff. In fact, we’ve hired a number of them; they’re some of our best employees.”

Keiter’s involvement also extends to Look Park, which he described as a “treasure,” one of the city’s best assets.

But it’s with the Keiter Card that he is making a greater name for himself in the community, literally and figuratively.

And he said it came about through twin desires — to help small businesses in the community and build his brand.

“I had an epiphany one day,” he recalled. “We were comtemplating how to allocate some marketing money, and I wanted to find a way to create a win-win, or what Vince [Jackson] calls a ‘win-win-win.’

“What this card does is give Keiter some good exposure, but it’s also supporting our community, and it’s also supporting the local economy and retailers,” he said, adding that the idea was to build on the chamber’s existing gift-card program, which was “keeping the money local.”

Douglas Gilbert, vice president of Commercial Lending at Florence Bank, another of those who nominated Keiter for the Difference Makers award, put the initiative in perspective, noting that “Scott’s generous support of the Northampton gift-card program has been vital to the program’s success and provides purchasers with a significant financial incentive to support participating area merchants.”

Jackson agreed, adding that the program’s impact has grown each year.

“In 2023, the GNCC experienced year-over year growth of 10% in Northampton gift-card sales, 13% growth in gift-card units, and 22% growth in redemptions — all driven primarily by the excitement and impact of the Keiter Card promotion,” he said, noting that the cards have sold out in a matter of days each year. “That growth in redemptions in significant and signals immediate spending, giving an exceptional boost to small businesses during a traditionally slow sales period.”

Summing up Kieter’s involvement in the community, as well as his success in business, Jackson started by saying the chamber no longer refers to those who join its ranks as members. Instead, it calls them ‘investors.’

And some businesses have earned the designation ‘prestige investors,’ he went on, adding that these are the ones creating jobs, getting involved — in the chamber and in the community — and making an impact.

Keiter — both the company and its owner — have certainly earned that designation, said Jackson, adding that his involvement in the region prompted the chamber’s leadership to present him with a Community Service Award in 2023.

“They’re doing all the right things, practicing good citizenship and promoting economic development along the way,” he noted. “They’re sharing the wealth and rewards that they’ve been blessed to have, and that’s admirable.”

 

Playing His Card

Jackson told BusinessWest that Keiter cycled off the chamber’s board of directors recently, and that it’s a tradition to give departing board menbers a gift, usually something of the ‘gag’ variety.

In this case, those at the chamber wrapped up a Keiter Card and presented it to him, imploring him to spend it wisely and spread the wealth around.

While that card was a gift to him, the Keiter Card program has been a gift to the community —both its residents and its businesses. It is a gift that has become, as Jackson said, a true win-win-win.