This summer Brian Bovio got an invitation he couldn’t turn down - a chance to meet the president of the United States and talk business with him over lunch.

Bovio is the operations manager of his third-generation family business, Bovio Advanced Comfort & Energy (Turnersville, N.J.). In late July, he was invited along with four other small business owners to have lunch with President Barack Obama at Tastee Sub Shop in Edison, N.J.

“It was definitely an amazing experience,” Bovio said. When asked why he was invited, Bovio said that he probably “ended up on the radar” because of his company’s successful involvement with New Jersey’s Home Performance and Energy Star program. Bovio’s name may also have attracted White House attention because he is on the board of Efficiency First, a trade association that is currently lobbying on behalf of the federal legislation for a national Home Star program.


Bovio said his meeting with President Obama was labeled as the “Sandwich Summit” by the media. Along with the sub shop’s owners, Bovio joined another restaurant owner and a paper-tube manufacturer to sit down with the president and discuss the economy and challenges faced by small businesses.

The best part of the mini summit, according to Bovio, was the 35-minute closed session with Obama after the initial meet-and-greet. “All the press were escorted out, and we got a chance to just sit and talk with him about small business issues.”

“The real amazing part was sitting there with him without cameras. He wanted to know what pressure small businesses are facing today,” Bovio said. “He laid out his ideas with small business legislation and asked if we thought those things would help.” And, Bovio added, he was surprised by Obama’s sincere interest in hearing what he and the others had to say.

After the closed session, the press was invited back into the sub shop and Obama spoke from a podium surrounded by Bovio and the other business owners.

Bovio commented that it wasn’t until after the meeting when he saw photos that he realized that there were snipers on nearby roofs. He said all of the staff and Secret Service did their best to keep people calm and relaxed. Bovio added, “Afterwards I said to the guys who owned the sub shop, did you ever think this place would be the most secure place on the planet?”


Bovio specifically talked to the president about his interest in having the federal Home Star legislation passed since it would aid his business model. His company has already had enormous success under New Jersey’s own version of an incentive program.

According to Bovio, his company’s involvement with New Jersey’s rebate program has enabled it to bounce back during the economic downturn. His 10-person firm initially dropped down to six after a round of layoffs when the economy worsened. Now, however, Bovio Advanced Comfort & Energy boasts 18 employees and is looking forward to continued growth. “We were able to hire 12 people in the last year thanks to the state program,” Bovio said.

Bovio’s firm became BPI-certified in April 2009, and then its business quickly ramped up as it started to work with the state rebate program. According to Bovio, New Jersey’s program has already undergone repeated changes, but it currently offers homeowners a $3,000 instant rebate and a 10-year, 0 percent loan for up to $10,000. These incentives are available in return for a 25 percent reduction in a home’s total energy usage. And while Bovio can rattle off all the ins and outs of the programs without missing a beat, he admitted that it took practice to “get good at explaining it.”

“We had a little bit of a stumble in the beginning, then we got good at explaining it, and then things got crazy with the increased incentives,” he said. Now the incentives have been scaled back, but Bovio said, “It’s still probably the best program in the country as far as the incentives go, and it’s starting to move again.”

Bovio is also hopeful that a similar federal program will be passed. “If Home Star goes through, it would be huge for my business,” he said.

Publication date: 01/17/2011