By K.J. Williams
The Daily Reflector
FARMVILLE (February 22, 2012) — Innovation and employee loyalty led to Mestek Inc. earning the distinction of the Pitt County Industry of the Year.
Employees of the Farmville company were informed Tuesday, and the award was presented later in the evening at the Pitt County Development Commission’s annual Existing Industry Appreciation reception at Rock Springs Center.
Last year’s winner — Carolina Medical Products Co. — also is based in Farmville.
Mestek manufactures heating and cooling products, including gas-fired unit heaters, hydronic unit heaters and rooftop furnaces under the Sterling brand at its 365,000-square-foot manufacturing facility. The facility opened in 1974 and now has 177 employees, 68 of whom have worked there for 25 years or longer.
“It’s a proud day for Mestek, for all of us,” plant manager Emerson Hobgood told the gathering of employees.
Ed Gallagher, commission chairman, said the company’s “highest standards of quality and continuing commitment” were key factors in the commission committee’s decision to honor Mestek.
James Hicks, who has worked at Mestek for 29 years, said he’s proud of the company.
Willie Wooten, who has worked there 33 years, said the “general attitude of upper management,” along with the pay rate and benefits, were reasons for the length of his employment.
And Juanita Williams, who has worked at Mestek for 10 years, said, “We all feel like family here.”
Scott Poag, the commission’s existing industries coordinator, said Mestek responded to a tough economy with innovation and staff training on-site with Pitt Community College to improve efficiency.
“That’s really paid off for them,” he said. “They’ve developed superior products that haven’t been in the market before.”
“Their commitment to the community, their ability to withstand today’s economic challenges and continue to thrive is what stood out.”
Hobgood said the company keeps its employees working year-round, whether Mestek is preparing to fill orders for heating or air-conditioning systems.
“We have worked tirelessly to cross-train people to work in more than one job,” he said.
At the facility, the focus is on finding an underserved niche. Mestek is working on an order to provide about 200 replacement rooftop furnaces under the Sterling name, smaller units for a fast-food franchise.
“We try to find that corner of the market where we can fill the gap,” Hobgood said.
Other Mestek locations make different sizes or products for heating and cooling systems.
At the Farmville facility, workers have the equipment to fabricate sheet metal components in-house. Sections of heat exchangers are punched out and welded together, said Greg May, value stream manager.
“We can receive a heating order today and we can ship it today or tomorrow,” Hobgood said. “It’s this type of thing that we have to do to get a leg up on our competitors.”
Mestek also is working to market SpacePak, its small-duct, high-velocity central air conditioning system. The system is compact and energy efficient, maintaining the same temperature throughout a structure. It also can be used for heating with some additions.
Most of the company’s business for that product is centered in the northeast and midwest where the systems aren’t based on ductwork underneath the structure as they are in this region. However, it could be an option here for older structures where the system needs to be completely replaced.
SpacePak, which is one-tenth the size of conventional systems, was featured on an “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” show last year.
Contact K.J. Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org or 252-329-9588