Looking Back Over Nine Years
The date was March 1, 2010. Mark Lowery and Ed Trotzke leased a small Jacksonville Beach office, with just four employees on the payroll. This pivotal leap of faith officially marked the moment JAX Refrigeration opened for business. Nine years later, with President Lowery and and Senior Vice President Trotzke still at the helm, JAX Refrigeration has become an industry leader with six departments and more than 200 employees.
From its humble beginnings, JAX Refrigeration has grown into a nationwide organization with multiple branches and in-house fabrication shop, centered around an employee wellness-focused headquarters in Jacksonville Beach. JAX Refrigeration has amassed a long list of accomplishments and awards over the year, including annual top rankings for philanthropy, best workplace, growing company and multiple ABC honors for Excellence In Construction. In just nine years, JAX Refrigeration Inc. has established itself as a leading industrial refrigeration and mechanical services contractor, rapidly expanding through diverse departments and a leading team of 200-plus employees. Founded in 2010, JAX has managed to not only survive, but grow through one of the worst recessions in history.
JAX started from scratch, with no customer list – just a few previous customers that had worked with founders Mark Lowery, PE, president of JAX and Ed Trotzke, PE, senior vice president. “We started the company in the middle of the recession,” recounts Lowery. “When we started, Ed was the only other employee at the time. We’ve been fortunate to find the right people to add to our arsenal. In 2012, things started to pick up and in the last few years business has been really good.” With little to no advertising, just the trusted brands people recognize, and a mascot named Fridgie, JAX’s business began to mount in 2010. JAX started lean and only took on viable projects. The first two years were a struggle – as with any startup – but we’ve now hit very progressive growth by doing so in a sustainable manner.
JAX has a diverse in-house skill set and this versatility has contributed to the company’s standing in multiple markets. The experience of our personnel, including numerous professional engineers, project managers and HVAC/refrigeration technicians, is second to none. Nearly all have worked for larger companies and have merged our years of experience. Before long, JAX went from relatively low volume with a few reliable customers to being licensed in more than 43 U.S. states and other foreign territories, with contractors calling on its expertise. We now have contractors coming to us for mechanical work and we determine our work load. In fact, JAX has been named one of Jacksonville’s 50 fastest-growing companies in the private sector, and made the prestigious Gator100.
Working Together as One
Today, JAX encompasses several departments. “Each company has been added to our arsenal in chronological order: JAX Mechanical, Mechanical Engineering and Solutions (MEAS), JAX Cool, Restaurant HVAC Specialty (RHVACS) Industrial and JAX Ind,” says Lowery. “Each department has been created to exploit synergies and create profit centers for different niche businesses. We were already providing these services, but many people we would call would forget and explain that they did not consider us for projects because there was no refrigeration work,” continues Lowery. “We wanted to be sure they saw this as a core competency.” MEAS, the company’s professional engineering group, formed out of JAX’s engineering-driven solutions. “We always wanted to provide the engineering solution first, then look at lifecycle cost and full value,” says Lowery. “We want to not only provide one solution, but the best solution. When Ekle Small, PE, agreed to join us, we wanted to create a way for Ekle to lead his own department. Thus, MEAS was branded.”
JAX Refrigeration specializes in engineering, design, installation and maintenance of industrial and commercial refrigeration and mechanical systems. JAX Mechanical is one of the most successful HVAC contractors in Jacksonville, but the company offers services all throughout North America, Canada, Puerto Rico and surrounding islands.
Room to Grow
To support this rapid expansion, JAX and its diverse departments needed room to grow. “We were fortunate to purchase the last piece of land available on A1A in Jacksonville Beach and place our 7,000-square-foot headquarters,” says Lowery. “This expansion has saved money in rent expenses and provided an asset for the company.” In addition, JAX has expanded its fabrication shop. “We expanded our fab shop to nearly 40,000 square feet,” notes Lowery. “We are able to prefabricate many of our pipe and skid assemblies. In fact, we constructed new desks, handrails, and other architectural metal items for our current offices in our fab shop.” JAX Mechanical and JAX Refrigeration support a range of customers across the food and beverage, process industries, cold storage and blast freezing, pharmaceutical, chemical and petrochemical markets. Our scope from a mechanical standpoint includes utility piping, plumbing and HVAC ductwork, mostly in the industrial sector and a bit of commercial. Within this, as a leading design-build firm, JAX Refrigeration is able to draw from all departmental resources to offer leading refrigeration contracting. Together the various JAX departments have delivered many unique award winning projects, including a specialized polymer piping project in which JAX received an ABC Excellence in Construction Eagle Award utilizing products from Aquatherm, a high-performance pressure pipe manufacturer. “We take plants where an HVAC contractor was trying to keep an area cool and we go in and use refrigeration-type coils and HVAC water systems to cross-reference our capabilities,” continues Lowery. “Our focus is on being more than a run-of-the-mill installer; we also provide engineering services as a true design-builder.” In the end, all of this amounts to a better solution for customers. “Along the way, we have people who are skilled at estimating and we’re able to see what the cost versus the total lifecycle value is,” says Lowery.
Cultivating a Positive Environment
With 200-plus employees and expanding across all departments, a state-of-the-art fabrication shop and a new corporate office in the works, JAX has grown by leaps and bounds. JAX remains focused on finding the right balance. As always, the key is to avoid taking on more than what is needed. We listen to our customers and this is why we have diversified. JAX executes a large amount of scope as a single source for most projects we’re executing, rather than multiple POs and vendors, but we have chosen to avoid venturing too far out of our comfort zone by staying within our engineering wheelhouse. JAX wouldn’t be where it is today without its dynamic, dedicated team. JAX houses a large number of professional engineers on staff and an expert project management team. We’re focused on helping our employees grow personally, as well as professionally. We offer a great deal of on-site training and encourage continuous education. This has created a positive culture and high employee retention at JAX.
Through its charitable foundation, JAXCares, Lowery says the company steps out of its usual work mode to give back to the community whenever possible. “It’s important to us to create an environment where we care about what we’re doing,” says Lowery. JAXCares works with organizations such as Dreams Come True, the Wounded Warrior Project and Do it for the Love. “There is a bigger purpose for all of us,” says Lowery. “We enjoy being part of something bigger than ourselves – whether that’s giving out stuffed animals to kids in the hospital or helping to raise money for a family with a sick loved one. Life is too short, so enjoy your work and payback.”
Lowery says if there’s one word he can use to summarize the company, it’s responsible. “We have a sense of duty and responsibility to the global community, local community, clients, customers and JAX family,” he says. “Overall, our employees have a great sense of pride and it shows in the work they do. This is why our retention rate with customers is so high. We value hard work, but we also encourage family time and try to treat our business as one big family; one that can make money, but also pay it forward to others.”
By looking to bring more value to the refrigeration and mechanical markets, and the communities it serves, JAX Refrigeration and the JAX family of companies grew from startups to industry leaders in record time.