SPECIAL TO THE Press
BERLIN - Sal Calvo was in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. visiting his oldest son when a customer, a Connecticut manufacturer, called him with a problem.
“Both compressors are down,” the customer said. “I need help right now.”
The company’s foreman, said Calvo, “got over there and 20 minutes later we got their compressors running.”
For Midstate Air Compressor, this is standard operating procedure. One of a handful of brick-and-mortar air compressor companies operating in the state, Midstate offers turnkey air compressor solutions for the automotive, manufacturing, pharmaceutical, dental, laboratories, construction, firefighting and diving industries. Their products include reciprocating, rotary screw and centrifugal air compressors. Parts include separators, filters, heat exchangers, valves, pistons, crankshafts, chillers and vacuum pumps.
According to Dun & Bradstreet, annual sales are over $341,000. The Connecticut Better Business Bureau gives the company an A-plus rating.
Sixty to 70 percent of Midstate’s business is done in the manufacturing sector.
“That’s where our lifeline is,” Calvo said. “Compressed air is vital to manufacturers because of the pneumatic controls for machines and equipment. If you shut the compressors down, you send everybody home. Another 15 or 20 percent of our business is breathing air for fire departments, refilling bottles, and climate control for the Town of Berlin. The schools and facilities use compressors to run their climate control systems.”
Calvo, 47, and his wife, Carol, have different job responsibilities.
As president, Carol, former owner of a consumer consulting company, handles taxes, payroll and financial work. Sal, as vice president, said he “takes care of the outside work.”
Midstate opened its compressor business on Deming Road in 2010.
“We operated out of 850 square feet,” said Sal Calvo. “Our business grew and in two years we had outgrown that location.”
The unit next to Midstate became vacant, so the Calvos acquired it, making necessary renovations. However, by 2015 the company needed even more space. So, when the painters’ union and trade hall on the Berlin Turnpike became available in late 2015, Midstate purchased the building. The company had received a grant from the state Department of Economic & Community Development, which helped them buy a larger, state-of-the-art facility and hire additional workers. Currently, Midstate has 16 employees.
After much internal work the building was ready for business in May 2016.
“In the old place our people were sharing offices,” said Carol Calvo. “When we moved into this building people pretty much got their own space.”
Best of all, the Calvos said, the facility is in Berlin. Residents of East Berlin, two of their sons attend school in town.
“Berlin is really the center of the state,” Sal Calvo said. “All the major highways are here. The turnpike is a major thoroughfare for business. We take care of 14 buildings for the Town of Berlin; people here seem to like us and we certainly like them. It’s great for us to be part of the community.”
Before 2010, Calvo was living in Plainville and a volunteer firefighter. Two of his fellow firefighters were working in compressed air. On their advice he took a position as a service tech in the compressed air industry.
“There’s no school for air compressor mechanics,” he said. “My sister and I had purchased three family homes in Plainville. While renovating them I learned about plumbing and electrical work. It was a great fit for my skill set.”
Midstate has three components: sale of equipment, servicing and parts.
“We try to get involved with the customer at any one of these three stages,” Sal Calvo explained. “We might begin by selling a customer some parts; eventually, he’s going to need some service. If we do the service work, we may also be able to sell him a piece of equipment. This process is often driven by age of the equipment or the company’s need for expansion.”
According to Calvo, Midstate’s success depends on how well the company takes care of its customers. “We see ourselves as problem-solvers,” he said. “We’ve listened to what our customers tell us they don’t like about our competitors.”
Randy Clair, facilities manager at Acme Monaco Corp. in New Britain, knows what Calvo means. The manufacturer had a compressor go down in the middle of the night.
“Our air compressor company didn’t pick up the phone,” Clair said. “We run three shifts here around the clock. So, we had people standing around. Rebecca (Karabin-Ahern, company president) took the reins; she found Sal in the phone book and called him. He called her right back and took care of the problem. Recently, we put in a new compressor we bought from Midstate.”
Clair said he expects the compressor will save Acme Monaco approximately $10,000 a year.
Calvo says Midstate’s bond with customers like Acme Monaco is strong.
“We may be a small,” he said. “But, we have the presence of a large company. When it comes to our customers if we can work with them, both companies can be successful.”