COMOX VALLEY – Twenty years ago, when Gordon (Gord) Adams started his business in the Comox Valley, he didn’t know he was starting a family dynasty.
Now when he looks at Vent Air Heating and Refrigeration, he sees a thriving company with 11 employees and eight vehicles. He also sees family: the company employs three generations of the Adams-Russell clan.
When he started his grandsons were 1 and 5 years old; now they are part of the company. Jesse is a journeyman Sheet Metal Mechanic and Dylan is finished his first year of schooling, working towards becoming a journeyman as well.
Also on the team are Theo and Tracy, Gord’s son-in-law and daughter. Theo has been with the company for approximately 15 years and is Gord’s right hand man. Tracy has recently joined the family dynasty and works part time in the office.
A lifelong commitment to sheet metal work runs in the family. Gord, himself started working with sheet metal in Alberta as a teenager. He has put 43 years into the industry. In 1999 he saw an opportunity to pour his expertise into his own business. The local HVAC/Plumbing company he had worked for closed its doors. He made the decision to take a chance on himself.
“I invested in my own future,” Gord recalled. A Master Journeyman, he visualized a business staffed by professional, journeyman mechanics that would serve the growing population of the valley. He also wanted the satisfaction and flexibility of working for himself.
“It was slow at the start,” he admits. To generate business, he approached some of the valley’s most reputable general contractors and offered his experience. He also travelled south to Parksville and north to Campbell River, proving his company’s expertise by installing all types of HVAC systems: residential, multi-family and commercial.
“We appreciate the many contractors who have stuck with us over the years. We have established good working relationships with a lot of great people. Without them we would not be in business today.” Having his own fabrication shop allowed Gord to produce custom work when needed, which increased the company’s value to contractors.
Vent Air’s reputation grew with the increasing demands for construction in the central and north island. In keeping with his vision for quality work, Gord sought out qualified tradesmen and established an apprenticeship program within his company. He currently has four apprentices working their way to obtaining their certification.
On the current crew are multiple certified tradesmen and a fully qualified gas fitter for gas installation of furnaces, fireplaces, BBQ boxes, on demand hot water heaters, etc. At present the company is working on an 84-unit townhome project in Cumberland and providing top quality HVAC as well as all the gas work.
One dramatic change Gord has seen over the past two decades is increased focus on energy efficiency. “Energy efficiency in equipment is improving all the time, especially in the last six to seven years. Houses are tighter and people are more concerned about efficiency and saving money.”
Examples are use of heat pumps that both heat and cool buildings; high-efficiency gas furnaces that utilize 90 per cent or better of generated heat; and condensing hot water tanks for on-demand hot water.
Many of the new products are Wi-Fi enabled, so homeowners can monitor or adjust settings from their cell phone, computer, or tablet.
Vent Air Heating and Refrigeration specializes in heating, cooling, ventilation, gas and refrigeration. HRV (Heat Recovery Ventilators) systems are the most popular and most economical to run for ventilation today. Heat pumps make the most sense when it comes to heating/cooling homes. Energy efficient and economical to run, they provide heat in the winter and air conditioning in the summer.
Despite all the technological improvements, Gord recognizes that the work his company does is mostly out of sight and therefore often out of mind. Something people only think about when the need arises.
He is now looking forward to retiring in the next few years, handing off the company to the next generation. “I’m happy with how its grown over the years. I feel like we’re set for many years ahead.”