After years of operating in too-cramped quarters on Oakland Park Avenue, the owners of Speer Mechanical – all 150 or so of them – decided it was time to expand.
The nearly 86-year-old, employee-owned mechanical contractor finally settled on a 68,000-square-foot building at 5255 Sinclair Road, formerly the home of CM Media Inc. – but it wasn’t for lack of trying to stay put.
“We were landlocked in our location on Oakland Park Avenue,” company President Dennis Shuman said. “We had tried for many years to acquire some contiguous or across-the-street properties and were just unsuccessful.”
This included overtures to Hostess Brands, which owned a site directly across the street from Speer Mechanical’s headquarters since the late 1980s, Shuman said. Not long after officials with the wholesale bakery giant declared they weren’t interested in talking about selling the land, the company filed for bankruptcy, he added.
“We just happened to get a flier across our desk that this property on Sinclair had become available,” Shuman said. “We wanted to stay in the north part of Columbus, and we were pretty adamant about staying in Columbus.
“We’re advocates for Columbus. If Columbus isn’t strong, then the region isn’t strong.”
Three months of talks led to a closing on the deal in November 2012.
The new building is 20,000 square feet larger than the former headquarters for the company, which was founded in 1927 by electrical engineer Julian Speer.
“It gives us expansion opportunities, which we did not have at the other facility,” Shuman said. “We’ve got plenty of property here.”
An open house at the new location was held last week.
Moving from one apartment to another or one home to another may be a pain, but it’s nowhere near as complicated as relocating a firm that offers design, construction and service on major mechanical systems for commercial, industrial and institutional clients.
For one thing, Shuman pointed out, the company has ongoing projects, including handling the HVAC upgrades as part of extensive renovation work for Ohio State University’s Sullivant Hall, that have to take precedence; the sheet-metal shop fabricating ductwork for the campus building had to keep operating.
One thing about moving to the new building was simple.
“We used our own engineering staff to do the heating and air-conditioning renovations and also look at the energy consumption the building was using and put in as many energy-saving steps as we could,” Shuman said.
“These are many of the same services (Speer Mechanical) provides customers every day,” a press release about the move stated.
The enterprise that Julian Speer started initially distributed fans to circulate air in commercial buildings, Shuman said. In 1932, as a means of surviving during the Great Depression, Speer reinvented the firm to add mechanical contracting.
Prior to moving the fabrication shop in the late 1980s followed by the administrative offices in 1991 or so to Oakland Park Avenue, Speer Mechanical had operated since the mid-1950s in what is today the Charity Newsies building on Indianola Avenue in Clintonville, Shuman said.
Speer Mechanical is wholly owned by its core of 150 employees, a process that began in 1974 and was completed 14 years ago, Shuman said.
The workforce, which grows at times to as many as 350 people, includes technicians, engineers, pipefitters, plumbers and administrative staff.