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Business Observer Thursday, Jul. 30, 2009 13 years ago

Tampa firm keeps its cool during recession

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Tampa-based Simpson Mechanical Inc., only 18 months from seeing its annual revenues plunge from nearly $10 million to under $5 million, is on the rebound.

Tampa-based Simpson Mechanical Inc., only 18 months from seeing its annual revenues plunge from nearly $10 million to under $5 million, is on the rebound.

Now the company, through its retail division Simpson Air, is indeed in rare air: It's an air conditioning service company that is growing revenues in the recession, albeit slightly. It was also the only the HVAC company to be named as a finalist for the Greater Tampa Area Chamber of Commerce's Small Business of the Year Award.

The other companies up for the award in the 21 to 50 employee category include Infinity Business Systems, ChappellRoberts, Pegasus TransTech, and Specialized Services Group Inc. Finalists were announced July 29.

Simpson Air's story mirrors the Gulf Coast's boom and bust.

Paige and Garry Simpson founded the company out of the back of their garage in 1999. Originally focused on the installation of air conditioning, the couple found a solid niche in the flourishing new housing market. By 2006 the company had grown to more than 40 employees and $9.2 million in annual revenues.

By 2007 however, the new housing market was no longer viable, and annual revenues slipped to $4.5 million. The company cut its employee count from 42 to 23.

Simpson Air, however, grew its revenues 11% in 2008, to $5.1 million and added back nine employees. The company is projecting $5.8 million in annual revenues in 2009.

The Simpsons spent at least $35,000 on a business overhaul in late 2007 when the market began to collapse, going from installing to servicing air conditioning systems. Recognizing the bust early was a key to coming out of it early.

The company launched a new Web site, started target marketing, and took out more ads. The company also had a wealth of potential service customers in the houses where they previously installed systems.

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