ATLANTA, GA — As this city welcomes hvacr persons from throughout the world for the 2001 AHR Expo, it is a good time to hear from a few hometown folks in the industry.

Strong and getting stronger is the description of the Atlanta-area economy from Frank Mutz, ceo of Unique Indoor Comfort, which has in its fold Moncrief Heating & Air Conditioning, a company that has been serving the area for 100 years.

“The Atlanta area is growing at the rate of 100,000 persons a year and that is expected to continue for the next 10 years,” said Mutz. “Every contractor — good or bad — is busy.”

Moncrief runs the gamut from residential to light commercial with 80 employees and 50 trucks.

Riding the Wave

One niche is a reflection of not only the growth in the Atlanta area, but the type of growth that is seen in other sectors. A number of times a year, the company will install hydronic heating systems in the $100,000 to $350,000 range for homes ranging from $3 million to $20 million.

Mutz said he hasn’t seen much of an impact in the Atlanta area over retail home improvement stores becoming more involved with contractors. “I don’t think it will work,” he said. He contended such arrangements might bring more dollars into the home improvement store, but often 95% of those dollars end up being paid out to the contractor, and not ending up on the store’s bottom line.

Unique Indoor Comfort’s management of contracting companies dates back to the 1960s, which to Mutt gives it more stability than today’s consolidators.

A blip on the economic upswing is noted by Tom Adams, vice president for business development at Georgia Trane. “There’s a bit of softness in the dot-com market that is impacting mid-town,” he said. “I’m just not sure how it is going to play out.”

He points to increases in office construction, noting that Georgia Trane is part of that mix, with large-scale projects currently underway with a multi-site telecommunications company and a project for the Federal Reserve Bank. One area where Adams is seeing a potential for rapid growth is near the numerous subway stations in the city.

Clouds On the Horizon

James Woolley, president of Central Heating & Air Conditioning, a residential service and renovation contractor in Atlanta, agreed that the market is good, even with some signs of a slight downturn.

“It is very healthy in all aspects,” he said. He noted that new construction has been setting records, but permits are showing a slight downturn. “Renovation is very strong because the economy is strong.”

The commercial sector remains strong, he said. Some areas of the city are slow in commercial growth while others “are very, very hot.”

Woolley called Atlanta “ground zero” for the consolidators and retail twists and turns. He noted that Service Experts has two of its largest retail contractors in the Atlanta area. And Home Depot, which works with an hvacr wholesaler and contractors, is headquartered in Atlanta.

So far, it is tough to measure the impact of those components. Regarding Home Depot, Woolley said, “This hasn’t been a major factor yet, but it is starting to grow.”

Publication date: 01/29/2001