Hal and Tammy Smith, co-owners of Halco, located in Phelps, NY, are this year's recipients of the Best in the Country award through the U.S. Department of Energy for Market Leadership, Energy Savings and Sales and Marketing Innovations with Home Performance with ENERGY STAR®.
(Phelps, NY) – When newly married Hal and Tammy Smith started a plumbing and HVAC service business out of the second bedroom of their mobile home in the Finger Lakes countryside nearly 30 years ago, little did they realize their dedication and hard work in building Halco would create a company the size and success it has become. In fact, from these humble country roots, Halco Energy is now recognized as the “best in the country” in a field of over 1,900 Home Performance with ENERGY STAR® contractors nationwide. The Home Performance with ENERGY STAR® Program is a national program maintained by the U.S. Department of Energy in conjunction with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Since 2002, the program has helped over 275,000 homeowners improve their homes’ efficiency, comfort and indoor air quality and lower their energy bills.
Where it All Began: Hal Was Just 12 Years Old
Looking back, it could be said the origin of Halco had a bit of divine help. As a 12-year old boy, Hal went on a church youth group field trip and was introduced to Pat Sattaneo, a full time plumber at the Cornell University NY State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, NY, who was serving as chaperone on the trip. Pat recognized a spark of ambition in young Hal Smith and took him under his wing. Shortly thereafter, Pat trained Hal doing plumbing work on weekends for friends, neighbors and co-workers.
Hal's First Job as a Service Tech.
Recognized as a prodigy who could grasp technical concepts easily and explain them simply, Hal attended two years of plumbing training at BOCES while in high school. Upon graduation, Hal began work as a service technician for Victor Plumbing & Heating in Victor, NY – complete with his own truck and tools! “I thought I had arrived,” confesses Hal. Soon, however, his driving ambition and work ethic moved him to want more, but he wasn’t sure how to go about it. Expanding on his training, Hal took four years of night school at Monroe Community College four nights a week to become expert at HVAC.
Halco is Created
Then he met Tammy, knew he had found his life partner, and his direction was suddenly clear. They married 31 years ago, moved into a countryside mobile home together and formed Halco Plumbing and Heating two years later when Tammy quit her full time job at Mobil Chemical to follow their dream. Over the last three decades, their partnership has produced a group of companies serving 23 counties, with annual sales nearing $20 million a year and employing over 140 people. They are devoted parents to three children, and serve as enthusiastic community leaders on various boards and charitable organizations.
Importance of Training
Hal and Tammy are constantly creating opportunities for the ambitious. Halco’s Training Center, in affiliation with the NY State Department of Labor, offers five NYSDOL approved apprenticeships in plumbing, HVAC, electrical, sheet metal, and energy efficiency technician culminating in preparation for the North American Technician Excellence (NATE) certification or certification as a Journeyman Electrician or Plumber. The Center also offers training on home energy performance with such organizations as the Building Performance Institute (BPI) and Comfort Institute.
Over the years, Halco has developed a strong relationship with the local BOCES programs (Board of Cooperative Educational Services) and consistently recruits their students into their internship program. Participants from the Liverpool, Cortland, Fairport and Spencerport BOCES come to Halco to learn the HVAC and Home Energy Performance indus
“Pat Sattaneo gave me an opportunity when I was twelve that changed my life. BOCES fine tuned my developing skills while I was still in high school. Tammy and I want to do the same for those who want an exciting, well-paying career,” says Hal.
Continued education and innovation been a constant for Hal. He has a wall of certifications displayed in his office, more than any of his employees. Throughout the sprawling Halco facility, photos of technicians and listing of their certifications abound.
The opportunities for employment and advancement have kept coming as the company grows. Between 1994 to 2007, the company expanded to provide complete mechanical, electrical, plumbing and sprinkler design-build services to the marketplace.
PBS Supply for Equipment and Supply Distribution
Hal and Tammy also opened a separate full-line, full-service residential/commercial distribution business in 2004 for HVAC, plumbing, electrical, indoor air quality and the general business market. Named PBS Supply, the moniker stands for Positively Better Service and just happens to incorporate the first letters of Hal and Tammy’s three children: Paige, Brock and Seth. Tammy serves as president of this $4 million venture, which supplies equipment and supplies to Halco and some of Halco’s competitors. “Many contractors who started with Halco are now owners of their own business, so it’s nice to stay in touch when they come in the door to purchase what they need,” says Tammy.
Halco Enters Home Energy Performance
It was in 2007 that the company started Home Energy Performance by Halco to participate in the NYSERDA Home Performance with ENERGY STAR® "whole house as a system" approach. Currently the company is performing over 70 home energy audits per week with a staff of 19 home energy advisors, with aggressive growth planned.
Halco Joins Dr. Energy Saver
In 2012, Halco Energy joined Dr. Energy Saver, a professional organization of dealers nationwide that supports home energy savings through pioneering products, software and other tools to help bring Halco’s commitment to excellence to a higher level. This year, Halco received an award as the number one dealership among the top Dr. Energy Saver in the country. In 2009, Halco Renewable Energy was formed, which designs and builds solar electric, solar thermal, wind electric, and geothermal heating systems for residential and commercial clients. This puts the final piece in place to first reduce the energy being used by the customer and then producing the energy needed.
In March of 2013, the company received an award from NYSERDA (New York State Energy Research and Development Authority) for achieving Top Contractor in NY State for the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR® program. In fact, it was NYSERDA who nominated Halco for the Department of Energy national award the company won in October 2013!
This November plans were finalized for the opening of an Ithaca, NY office at 1700 Trumansburg Road in December 2013 and a Syracuse, NY office in 2014.
Two years ago Hal and Tammy bought Victor Plumbing & Heating, which was the company Hal first worked for out of high school. Halco still provides service under the Victor name, (an acknowledgement of the fine reputation the company earned over the years). It’s another one of those full-circle developments that makes Hal and Tammy smile.
“We give all the credit for Halco’s success to our team of hard-working professionals who do their best day in and day out to over-deliver with the best service and products possible,” declares Hal and Tammy.
“Awards are one thing, but it really is the incredible outpouring of thanks we get from customers for the work we provide and the praise for the unbelievable team we have that is most satisfying,” says Tammy.
“And the fact we did it together,” adds Hal.
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