Staying in business for 100 years is certainly something to celebrate. While Bard Mfg. Co. Inc. is doing plenty of that this year, the company is also looking forward.

“As an equipment manufacturer, we find we need to be as innovative with the control systems running our air conditioners, heat pumps, and furnaces as we are with the traditional innovations we build into our units,” said Bill Steel, president and CEO of Bard. “Regarding the future, the demand for green, climate-friendly technology will continue to increase.”

Bill is one of three fourth-generation family members involved in the management of the business. Joining Bill is Scott Bard, vice president of sales administration, and Pam Bard Steel, marketing communications and president of the Bard Family Foundation.

HVAC Company History

In 1906, Dale Bard left his home in northwest Ohio and headed to California to find work, helping to rebuild the area after the great San Francisco earthquake. He returned to his hometown of Bryan, Ohio, several years later with perfected metal working skills. In 1914, Dale Bard started a company in Bryan that specialized in heating and plumbing contracting. That business would one day become Bard Mfg. Co. Inc. Early manufactured products included patented oil furnaces, metal roofing cleats, sheet metal ductwork, and wheelbarrows for export to Africa.

As with many companies during World War II, Bard turned over much of its production capacity to assist the war effort by manufacturing military coal-fired furnaces, Chrysler tank parts, and B-29 Bomber trim-tab controls. It was around that time that Bard had its darkest moment. On Dec. 28, 1944, a fire completely destroyed the Bard factory and there was no insurance to assist in rebuilding. Fortunately, for them, most of the company’s machinery was protected from fire damage by the insulated ceiling that had collapsed on the equipment.

To compound matters, in the days leading up to the fire, Dale Bard had suffered a debilitating stroke and subsequently passed away, never knowing his company had burned to the ground. His son, Randolph Bard, made the decision to rebuild the company and began manufacturing Bard furnaces in the basement of another local family business, Ohio Art, creator of the Etch-A-Sketch, until the Bard factory was rebuilt.

As gas gained popularity, the company added gas furnaces to its product offering. Residential air conditioners became a regular part of the Bard product line in the early 1960s. The technology developed and ultimately led to the development of the commercial wall-mount models that Bard is known for today, which includes specialized climate control solutions for the telecommunications, educational, and modular building markets.

Family Run

After looking around at their own families, some might find it difficult to imagine a family-owned operation working for this long.

“Our board of directors, the majority of which are nonfamily members, determines executive level succession. Each family member must work outside of the business and be successful for a set amount of time if they want to be considered for a management position. Once considered, family members are moved through different departments in the company to learn about each area of the business and determine where their talents will be best utilized,” Pam Bard said.

There are fifth-generation members currently working in the business full time or during the summers while going to college, but it’s too early to determine the generation’s long-term interest level and commitment to the business.

“The term ‘family business’ is often a misnomer, and there would be no Bard Manufacturing today if it wasn’t for the dedicated effort, insight, and leadership of nonfamily employees, which includes those on the front lines making sure we meet delivery promises, the strategic direction provided by the executive management team, and the valued input provided by our outside board of directors,” Bill Bard said.

There has been much celebration for owners, employees, and customers during this 100th anniversary year. Bard hosted an appreciation breakfast for customers and vendors at the AHR Expo in New York and a special 100th anniversary sales meeting was held in San Antonio, celebrating the independent sales organizations that have contributed to the success of the company.

“Bard represents the ethics of a century gone-by and is poised with the resolve and fortitude that will carry the company forward for many more generations,” said Paul Quigley, vice president of sales and marketing.

The company will continue to have one eye on the future while they celebrate the past.

“One of the biggest issues affecting Bard Manufacturing, and everyone in our industry, is the increased amount of regulatory overreach by federal agencies. Bard actively supports AHRI’s [Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute’s] efforts to increase energy-efficiency standards in a reasonable matter that is technically feasible and economically justified,” Pam Bard said. “Recent product developments have focused on proprietary innovations in our telecommunication, classroom, and modular building markets. Future innovation will include new designs driven by the new federal energy-efficiency standards.”

Publication date: 9/29/2014

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