Monday, February 14, 2011

Chesterfield Business Tests Building Systems

Bill Wassum's hunch about adding a niche service to C&W Tesco Inc.'s operations in 2003 has paid off.

"I saw it on the horizon," he said about providing the service, called building-systems commissioning, that ensures building systems such as lighting, plumbing and heating, ventilation and air conditioning operate together as intended.

"No one was doing it in this area. I thought we should go after it."

Adding the niche service has meant hiring more workers and increasing sales at the Chesterfield County-based business.

Twenty employees — eight in the past three years — have been hired since 2003. "And we are keeping them busy," Wassum said.

The company, which also provides testing and balancing of building systems, grew 300 percent in sales between 2003 and 2009.

Much of that growth came from adding building-systems commissioning services. But part of the increased revenue is a result of the company's in-house training program, Wassum said.

"We have positioned ourselves trainingwise and philosophywise to take advantage of the market. We have worked hard on seeing problem jobs to the finish."

Bob Randall, energy manager for Stafford County Public Schools who also did testing and balancing of HVAC systems for 20 years, describes C&W Tesco as "an old-school company."

"They do very good quality work, and they are very easy to get along with," he said.

Bob Fagel, senior project general manager for Centennial Contractors Enterprises Inc. in Reston, looks to C&W Tesco to resolve issues he might have regarding building systems. Centennial is working on a contract at Fort Lee.

"They are very professional in everything they do with us," Fagel said. "We look at them as part of our team when it comes to working on mechanical projects with the government. They are very much responsible for some of the success we have had here at Fort Lee."

Providing employee training is key for C&W Tesco, Wassum said.

"We have a class for employees every two weeks. We teach from the technician's training manual," he said. "We have managed to certify all but six employees."

Certification will become even more important in the years ahead. The National Environmental Balancing Bureau and the Associated Air Balancing Council will require that every job have at least one certified technician on site beginning in 2012, Wassum said.

"We have been doing that since 2003," he said.

Ray Burroughs, estimator for Atlantic Constructors in Chesterfield, uses C&W Tesco for tough projects. "They are reliable, and their estimating is always on time," he said. "They provide quality proposals."

C&W Tesco's clients include federal, state and local governments as well as retail, commercial and industrial companies. The firm does 90 percent of its work in Virginia but has taken jobs across the country and also in Warsaw, Poland.

"We are certified worldwide," Wassum said.

He thinks biotechnology will become a growing market for C&W Tesco, which recently became involved with the Virginia Biotechnology Association.

The biotechnology corridor from Tidewater through Charlottesville is a big market for testing, he said.

Two of the company's employees recently completed classes offered by the National Science Foundation in a type of biotechnology testing. They also have taken classes in the testing of fume hoods, which can detect toxic gases.

"We are currently getting our certification in that," Wassum said.

The company is exploring the market demand for its biotechnology services overseas.

"We will go anywhere that we are qualified to do the work," Wassum said.

Wassum started the company in 1983 with Carol Comstock as C&W Air Balancing, providing testing and balancing of HVAC systems. Comstock left C&W in 1984.

Tom Howard became an owner in 1995 after C&W merged with his Virginia Test & Balance company. John Papazian did the same in 2004 when his company, Tesco, merged with C&W, and the company changed its name to C&W Tesco.

By Joan Tupponce
Richmond Times-Dispatch

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