Conditioned Air Systems (CAS) is a family-owned and operated air conditioning/HVAC business with a reputation for reliable service. Doug Magnus launched the north Georgia enterprise in 1983 after building a strong foundation within the industry and realizing that he could strike out on his own…
“He worked for another local heating and air company and his dad also worked there, so we grew up in that industry,” says Doug’s daughter Brooke Kalinauskas, Vice President of Advertising & Community Development for CAS. “He was 36 years old and just had a dream.” Thirty-four years later, Doug’s humble startup has grown into a 100-employee operation with a full, in-house fabrication shop.
Doug’s strategy for growth was straightforward—and effective. “He always told us he knew what not to do.” This meant staying away from shoddy service or shortcuts. “We strive for quality,” Brooke says. “We try to do things right the first time. And I understand that we don’t always do it right, be we try to stand by our word and fix it and treat others like we would want to be treated.”
The business remains a family affair. Brooke and her sister both work for the company and are strongly motivated by their father’s tireless efforts. “My sister and I, we have a dream to make our dad’s company go farther. We want to see it do well for him because he has worked so hard.” Brooke’s husband, Andy Kalinauskas, has also risen to the challenge and will soon become president. “He is a lot like my dad,” Brooke says. “He really had the determination.”
Running a family business based on reliable service is a 24/7 commitment. “It is not a 9 to 5 job and he [Andy] works all the time. But we have 75 people here and we consider them all family… You do it for them, really.”
CAS delivers a full service solution to a range of customers in multiple sectors. “We have commercial, industrial, residential, and we do service for all of those and also replacement—so [we do] pretty much everything.” The company’s service department is on call 24 hours a day so customers can always count on getting the help that they need. “We always have someone answering the phone.”
A full service fabrication shop sets the company apart. Unlike a typical HVAC business, “we do everything in-house,” Brooke says. The state of the art shop gives the team the ability to quickly and efficiently manufacture a quality product. “We are not doing it outside [so] we know it is quality before we send it out. We know it is properly designed and that is a big thing. A lot of times… companies will do it the cheaper, faster way, but that is not necessarily the best way.”
The shop boasts all of the tools and equipment needed to produce the rectangular ductwork needed for CAS’s projects. From material handling and assembly to shearing and welding, these machines deliver reliable, quality results. For example, workers can shear up to 10’ 14ga stainless with the shop’s Wysong 10’ 12ga shear or cut 14ga stainless steel with the shop’s 5’ Tennsmith shear. A 5’x 10’ Lockformer water jet cutter can slice through fiberglass liner at speeds up to 1200 inches per minute using 45,000psi. A next generation plasma cutter boasts a touchscreen console with surprisingly user-friendly programming.
CAS regularly takes on complex, demanding projects. Several of these complicated projects have been for the University of Georgia (UGA), which is located near the company’s Gainesville headquarters. The team installed the chill water, hot water system with positive and negative air systems in the university’s new Science Learning Center. CAS also installed the HVAC system in UGA’s indoor practice facility. At Cherokee County’s Dean Rusk Middle School, the team put in a four pipe chill water, hot water system with 370 ton chillers and system-wide DDC controls. “These are several of the ones that are more in-depth,” Brooke says of the projects. “They are not easy. They are not your basic job.”
In addition to fabricating and installing state of the art HVAC systems, CAS maintains an active presence in the local community. The company is involved with the United Way, Toys for Tots, and Eagle Ranch, which supports children and families in crisis, and company support often goes beyond monetary donations to include personal involvement. Take the local animal shelter, for instance. “We are very involved in the Humane Society. We have replaced some units for them. The guys have done it on the weekends in their own free time.” The team also helped build two houses for Habitat for Humanity last year and plan to do two more this year.
CAS has enjoyed substantial growth in recent years. In fact, the company’s service division has tripled in just the last decade, and Brooke credits the company’s people-centered mentality for the expansion. “A lot of it is just building relationships and being in the community [and] standing by your word.” Working hard to remedy any problem is also critical. “We realize that people mess up and people are people, but as my husband says, it is all about how you fix the problem.”
The company’s greatest challenge to growth is the lack of skilled labor. “Your workforce is harder to find,” Brooke says. “People don’t really want to work the trades.” She adds that the situation is lose-lose because, by shunning the trades, workers are missing out on a lucrative opportunity. “Some of these guys who do these trades make more than teachers and people with college degrees.” CAS has turned to subcontractors to overcome the labor shortage. But, the team is careful to supervise outside work to ensure quality.
In addition, the company is working with the Georgia Department of Labor to recruit more workers, particularly those who might otherwise be overlooked. “You can hire people who have been in rehab or things like that to give them a second chance and the Georgia Department of Labor has really helped with that, especially in our sheet metal shop.”
In-house training is another way to deal with the skilled labor shortage. “We have partnered with some of the technical schools in the area and do different mentorships with them,” Brooke says. Training new recruits has its advantages because “you can pretty much teach them how you want them to do it from the ground up. I think that is pretty helpful.”
The company has also put multiple employees through formal educational programs. “We are really big on education. We have sent several guys to school. We have offered GED programs. We do English as a second language. We really try to go over and beyond whatever they want to do.” At the moment, CAS is preparing to send a sheet metal shop employee to technical school so that he can become a service technician.
The team plans to continue growing the company at a slow and steady pace. “You [have] got to watch yourself. You can’t grow too fast. [You have to] make sure you do it the right way.” Brooke aims for single digit annual growth so that the company can keep up with the expansion. “I think you want to grow five percent,” she says. “You don’t want to grow 50 percent in one year because you want to be able to keep your day-to-day activities.” After 34 years in business and with hands-on family ownership, CAS has the experience and dedication to meet its growth goals—and keep customers happy along the way.