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Hightowers Petroleum Is Fueling the Future

The Middletown-based energy company is innovating to lead the way on renewable fuel.

by Sarah M. Mullins

Hightowers Petroleum, the Middletown-based company that buys and sells oil and gasoline, might be a family business founded by Steve Hightower in 1982, but he wasn’t the first in the family to be an entrepreneur. His family has had a history of starting businesses since 1957.

Hightowers Petroleum recently landed funding to expand its wholesale fuel distribution business services in North America into renewable energy, including non-petroleum jet fuel and electrical vehicle (EV) charging stations. Ken Cartwright, COO of Hightower EV Solutions, says the move was a conscious pivot toward clean energy. “We’re following the hockey puck,” says Cartwright. “As society is looking more toward cleaner energy solutions, we created Hightower EV Solutions as a national charging station infrastructure provider.”

This turnkey EV approach encompasses everything from EV station planning all the way through maintenance. Hightowers handles site evaluation, construction, commissioning, maintenance, and ongoing service for the duration of the contract.

Clients cross all industries, from hotels wanting to add parking lot charging stations for guests to healthcare providers wanting to offer the same service for patients. Hightowers already has national contracts and projects with hotels, healthcare providers, universities, airports, and gas stations. While European markets have adopted electrical vehicles ahead of the U.S., Cartwright says this country is on its way to catching up. “We’re beginning to see double digit growth in terms of year-over-year EV car sales,” he says. “The data complements those sales in terms of potential demand from an electrical grid standpoint.”

Companies are anticipating these trends and getting ahead of the demand, which is driving Hightowers to fund new innovations. President and CEO Steve Hightower says finding alternatives to fossil fuels are crucial. “Global warming is a real thing, something the world needs to be paying attention to,” he says. “And while I’m convinced that there will be fossil fuels and liquid fuels for decades, we should be looking for alternatives.”

Steve Hightower (center) and family members lead Hightowers Petroleum. // Photograph by Arrasmith and Associates

Hightower says it’s been challenging to secure funding as an energy business, but he recently secured funding from an unnamed investment firm to provide the necessary capital to allow Hightowers to move beyond its traditional downstream wholesale business. “The industry is structured to not allow the small guys to get into the big game,” he says. “You just have to knock on enough doors and look at the entire world as your marketplace, not just Middletown and not just Cincinnati.”

Hightower says the company is moving ahead to focus on upstream business opportunities, which include trading natural gas, liquefied natural gas, and crude oil. “That’s where our volume can actually quadruple,” he says. “Trading these fuels is traditionally coveted by major oil companies or very, very large trading companies. We’ve been able to put ourselves in a position where we can play in that market. That’s where the growth is going to come from.”