Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Trane’s expansion is complete and moving day arrives

Trane expansion nears completion

On a tour of the completed Trane building Tuesday Virginia District Manager David Pierson was busy with last minute details. The move into the new building will begin this week and is expected to be fully operational by the end of January according to Mr. Pierson.

The new 23,000 square foot building sits on property owned by Jess Newbern, III the principal of Newbern Properties, LLC. The building has a spectacular view of the city from the second floor corner room that will be used for customer presentations.

Newbern-Trane began as a franchise in the mid-1970s. Through the years Newbern expanded the 1870’s farmhouse that sits on the corner of Frontage Road and Highland Farm Road to accommodate his growing business. The historic home is easily visible from I-581 approaching the Hershberger Road exit.

He eventually sold the franchise to Trane in 2000 combining with Virginia Trane in Richmond. American Standard picked it up in the 1980s and Ingersoll Rand bought it in May of 2008.

Newbern proudly led my exclusive tour through the building even pointing out the lactating room for young mothers. Belinda Church, Mr. Pierson’s executive assistant and training coordinator said there were currently two women who would use it.

Newbern had a hand in designing the building that boasts photovoltaic solar panels that convert the energy from direct sunlight into electricity. Roanoke’s Ray Craighead was the architect.

Jason Bingham with David Pierson

Jason Bingham former Roanoke City School Board member is Vice President for Trane North America’s Central Territory. He explained how “the power of this organization is its culture. When you get a culture that is this strong [staff] fights for it … it’s self-propelled – it’s that flywheel concept.” Bingham takes this culture to the 14 states in his territory.

“[Virginia Trane] is number one against many of the businesses of other major cities outside of Virginia.” Three of the five leaders in the Trane North America organization are located in Virginia. “It shows that they know how to train leaders,” Bingham said.

The guiding principles and mission originated in Roanoke with Jess Newbern. “He’s always there and keeps tabs on it,” said Bingham. “He’s really good at leading you to where you need to be and making you think it’s your idea,” chuckled Church.

Bingham travels about two days a week. His office is in his home and was adamant about never leaving Roanoke. With a wide grin Bingham said his wife told him that he “could move if I wanted to and could come back and visit [her] anytime.”

He’d like to rejoin the school board some day when his travel schedule becomes more stable.

Bingham estimated the number of employees at 75 with the expectation to hire 5 more. Trane itself has plants in Wisconsin, Colorado, Tennessee, Kentucky, Florida, Georgia and Minnesota.

Other divisions under the Ingersoll Rand umbrella include air compressors, commercial and residential building security, Schlage that makes doorknobs for homes, home automation systems, air power tools and to a lesser degree industrial refrigeration. “We have factories all over the globe,” said Bingham. There is some manufacturing in Mexico but most products are manufactured in the United States.

Club Car Golf Cart

The new building will house mostly office space and serve the commercial side of Trane while the older Trane building will serve as a distribution center and warehouse for residential equipment and parts. The buildings sit adjacent to the former second fairway of the city-owned Countryside Golf Course. Ironically in the service garage of the new building sat a golf cart by Club Car. Club Car is another division of Ingersoll Rand.

Newbern said he would be interested in the adjacent city-owned golf course property if the storm water issues could be resolved.

Tommy Lawhorn controls automation of the new building

In the service garage was a large Trane heating and cooling system that will serve to “show off the type of equipment they represent,” said Newbern. Next to the system Tommy Lawhorn sat at a computer that controlled the building’s temperature, humidity, lights and alarm system. The whole building is computer controlled.

After the move the old farmhouse will be vacated and the building that houses Newbern’s office will become a training/learning classroom for employees.

Posted By Valerie Garner

Categories: Business

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