Ron Brasel, president of Control Services, was named the Unified Group’s Member of the Year at the 10th annual Unified Group Owners’ Forum held in Puerto Rico. Pictured here are (from left) executive director Julie Bishop, managing partner and founder Jim Bartolotta, Allison Rodgers, award winner Brasel, managing partner and founder Tim Smerz, and Janet Kelleher.

BROADVIEW, Ill. - Contractors who work together in a noncompetitive atmosphere know there is a lot to be gained from the experience. This was proved again when the Unified Group held its 10th Annual Owners’ Forum in Puerto Rico. More than 55 members met to share best practices and discuss current challenges.

“I always learn so much at the forums,” a meeting attendee said. “The material is always relevant and the other members are so generous with information that can improve our company.”

Randy Patterson, a managing partner with Lake Pointe Partners LLC, gave a presentation about the economic climate’s effect on the HVAC industry, and how to grow sales and profitability in challenging times. Lake Pointe is a consulting firm dedicated to providing profit enhancement, corporate renewal, and turnaround consulting services to underperforming companies. With offices in Chicago and Shanghai, the contractor’s operational performance improvement services include international interim management, strategic sourcing, business development, and logistics and supply chain management.

“It’s truly a pleasure to see leaders within our industry commit to making a difference with their clients, their employees, and their fellow members,” said Jim Bartolotta, managing partner and one of the founders of the Unified Group. “The saying, ‘Groups accomplish more than any one individual’ is right on target with the Unified Group.”

While most attendees at the meeting expressed concerns of the uncertain economic times ahead, one member said his company is “not going to participate” in the economic downturn. Instead, it plans to find creative ways to overcome it.

The forum also included small roundtables of members getting feedback on their company’s 2009 strategic plans.

Formed in 1998, The Unified Group is an independent association of 52 of the country’s elite HVAC commercial contractors, representing over $880 million in revenue. The group specializes in helping its members increase productivity, profitability, and customer retention by providing training opportunities, exchanging information, sharing best practices, and negotiating purchasing agreements. It also serves as a network to pursue national and regional business opportunities.


The group honored Omaha, Neb.-based Control Services Inc., as its Member of the Year. Ron Brasel, Control Services president, was presented with the award at the Owners’ Forum.

“Control Services has been an outstanding member since day one,” said executive director Julie Bishop. “Ron has shown an unwavering belief in doing what is right, and doing what he says he’s going to do with no exceptions.

“He has been a true leader, both within his company and as part of The Unified Group.” Brasel has served on the membership committee and board of advisors for 2007-08. Control Services is the sixth company to receive this award.

Control Services Inc. is a major independent technology-based facility automation contractor providing integrated facility management, environmental control, access, security, and nurse call. The contractor’s turnkey services include design, installation, planned maintenance, and services for commercial, industrial, and institutional markets.

Ten years and going strong. Unified Group founding members include (back row from left) Denny Mann, Marina Mechanical; Mike Houghton, Dowling Corp.; Judy Wooten, GES, Inc.; Gerry Wiegmann, Wiegmann Associates; Fred Roser, Frantz, Inc.; and Thomas Roser, Frantz, Inc.; and (front row from left) Tim Smerz and Jim Bartolotta, Air Comfort Corp.

The Unified Group also honored the members of its 2007-08 board of advisors for their hard work and commitment.

“We really appreciate everything they have done these past two years for the board,” said Bishop. “They have gone above and beyond for the group and continue to set the example of what we need from our members.”

The board of advisors was comprised of four committees: membership, business opportunities, training, and purchasing. Each board member serves a two-year term, and in this role, they have a hand in guiding the direction of the group. They participate in conference calls, attend yearly meetings, seek insight from other members, and interact with vendors and prospective members.

For more information, contact Allison Rodgers at 708-774-0858, or visit

Sidebar: Ten Years Together

The Unified Group, a national network of independent mechanical contractors, is celebrating its 10-year anniversary. The group was formed in 1998 with 10 companies and one idea - to thrive independently in a group that would offer training opportunities and the chance to collaborate and share best practices with other like-minded contractors.

Out of the 10 original Unified Group companies, seven are still members: Air Comfort Corp.; Dowling Corp.; Frantz Inc.; GES Inc.; Marina Mechanical; Nashville Machine Co.; and Wiegmann Associates.

Tim Smerz is a managing partner and one of the founders of the group. “We’re fortunate to be made up of the best companies in our industry, with some really special people who are committed to making the Unified Group all it can be,” he said. “The relationships we’ve developed and the experiences we’ve shared have enriched our lives. It’s been an exciting and rewarding 10 years.”

The group was founded by a core group of quality-driven, independent mechanical contractors. Today the Unified Group has 52 members and it’s still growing.

Publication Date:01/12/2009