CRANSTON, R.I. — Taco Inc.’s new $22 million Innovation and Development Center is a testament not only to the growth and development of Taco’s nearly 500 employees, but also to the Cranston, R.I. community.

Industrial Innovation

Company leaders officially opened the two-story, LEED Green Building certified, 24,037-square-foot addition on June 21. “The new Taco Innovation and Development Center is a wonderful showcase for our industry, where members of our professional community will learn about the latest technology and applications our industry has to offer,” said John Hazen White Jr., president and CEO, Taco Inc. “It’s also an enriching environment where Taco employees will continue to increase their knowledge and enhance their personal and professional lives through training and education classes and programs.”

The original Taco Learning Center was opened by John Hazen White Sr. in 1992. The facility offered job specific employee education, professional HVAC training, and numerous other educational opportunities. As the industry continued to blossom, White Jr. began to consider necessary improvements to keep Taco’s employees and customers up to date with the company’s evolving systems and advanced technologies. After careful consideration, he forged ahead with plans to build an advanced learning facility that could train and inspire generations.

“We really ought to remember three objectives: train all people to do their jobs better and learn higher-level jobs; expose them to a better quality of life; and have them learn about government and citizen responsibilities so they can participate,” he said. “Today, those values still stand steadfast.”

The facility’s expansive classrooms are equipped with advanced multimedia hardware, offering a variety of visual capabilities including streaming content, live telecasts, and more.

The learning space serves as much more than just an HVAC classroom, as employees can even earn college degrees within the space, said John Barba, contractor training manager.

“We run classes nonstop for all of our 500 employees — and it’s not just HVAC content as we offer courses in English as a second language, citizenship, naturalization, how to complete tax paperwork, civics, weight loss, cooking, yoga, and more,” said Barba. “In fact, through a partnership with a local college, you can earn a master’s degree in business at the Taco facility.”

The entire building’s comfort system was designed using Taco’s Hydronic System Solutions software. The software helped size the building’s pipe and equipment, calculate total loads and flows, and generate schedules. LoadMatch® single pipe and LOFlow® radiant cooling systems were installed as real-time demonstrations for the energy savings, reliability, and comfort.

The Innovation and Development Center’s mechanical room features a host of hydronics technology including energy-efficient boilers and chillers, variable-speed pumps, geothermal and energy recovery systems, solar heating systems, and more — all controlled by an iWorx building management system. Workhorse TC and TA pumps, vertically aligned KV and KS pumps, variable-speed drives, solar pumping stations, heat exchangers, and air-dirt separators all manage the building’s comfort.

These system components can be seen in action throughout the building through viewing panels in walls, ceilings, and floors, making the entire facility a hands-on “living lab.”

Community Commitment

White Jr. is the third member of his family to operate the company, which was formed in 1920, when Elwood White, White Jr.’s grandfather, purchased the Thermal Appliance Co., located in Elizabeth, N.J. The company moved its operations to the greater Providence, R.I. area in 1926 and opened the doors to its Cranston, R.I. facility in 1942.

Growing up in the area, and in the business, White Jr. has vowed that Taco will continue to call Rhode Island home. “When my father opened the original Taco learning center in 1992, he said, ‘Business has an obligation to the community and to the people who work here, and elsewhere, to be sure that they have a chance to realize the great American dream,’” said White Jr.

While some have questioned White Jr.’s decision to pour $22 million into the Rhode Island facility, the Taco leader never faltered on the resolution.

“Some people have said, ‘Wow, that’s quite an expensive investment; how do you justify that cost?’” said Barba. “But, John White Jr. responded, ‘It would be more expensive if I didn’t do it.’

“He’s received sweetheart deals worth millions of dollars to pick up and move. But, with those offers on the table, he went back to the factory floor and recognized people that have been working for the company since he was a kid. He said, ‘How can I look these people in the eye and tell them they’re losing their jobs and their livelihoods because I want to move down South so I make a few more dollars.’ He said ‘I can’t do it. We’ll find a way to make it work in Rhode Island,’ and that’s exactly what he’s done.”

For more information on the Taco Innovation and Development Center, visit

Publication date: 10/22/2012