David Grong
"Refrigeration is refrigeration." It is that basic belief that has caused Carlson & Stewart Refrigeration (CSR) of Marshall, Minn., to embrace installation and service work that ranges from industrial plants of up to several thousand tons using ammonia to small supermarket refrigeration cases running on HFCs.

"It doesn't make a difference as long as we do a good job," said the company's president, David Grong, who recently assumed additional responsibilities in the industry with his election to a one-year term as chairman of the International Institute of Ammonia Refrigeration (IIAR).

"I know the chairmanship will be a challenge and time-consuming," he said, "but I can do it because I have good people at Carlson & Stewart and within IIAR."

Grong heads a company that has grown from a local appliance repair business into a contracting business with a wide range of refrigeration projects in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, and Wisconsin. The geographical stretch caused the company to add an office in Sioux Falls, S.D., two years ago.

The company was started in 1938 by Roy Carlson as Carlson Sales & Service. In 1948, Carlson's nephew, Bud Stewart, joined the business and it was incorporated in 1958.

Grong, Stewart's son-in-law, came on in 1975 after a stint as a pilot in the United States Air Force. He combined on-the-job training with a degree in mechanical engineering technology from Southwest State University in his hometown of Marshall, which today is a town of about 13,000.

The company's range of refrigeration expertise encompasses facilities for poultry, meatpacking, dairies, beverages, and bakeries as well as supermarkets.

The company has 23 employees (excluding office staff) with about half working on service and the other half on installation. Industrial and commercial are split about 50-50. Overall, installation is about 65 percent of CSR business.

Grong said his natural bent is toward the ammonia side of the business, and he began attending IIAR annual conferences more than 20 years ago with his father-in-law.

He recalled that a number of years ago at one such conference he was sitting in the corner of a meeting of the IIAR Piping Committee when the chair asked him if he would be willing to take minutes. He agreed and ended up doing so for several years. Along the way he found himself becoming a member of the committee and later its chair. That started the process that has now led to the chairmanship of the entire IIAR.

He noted that IIAR has 60 objectives, both short range and long range. So for his year in the top job, he said, "My goal is to take the plan that we established and do my best to see that it is accomplished. I want to take the momentum of the volunteers that comes out of the annual meeting, and make sure the momentum keeps going."

Publication date: 05/08/2006