Centrifugal compressors deliver high flow air capacity by efficiently transferring energy. They are used in a variety of applications: from gas turbines, oil refineries, air-conditioning, pneumatics, venting, pipelines, manufacturing and much more. Graves County is the epicenter of the centrifugal compressors. It all began when Ingersoll-Rand, a centrifugal compressor manufacturing company laid off its service department to solely focus on being Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM). That’s when the former service department workers began building a unique aftermarket service and parts industry.
Universal Compressor Solutions specializes in the production and repair of aftermarket centrifugal air compressor parts. Their team has many years of cumulative experience and expertise in this field, and their mission is to provide an excellent product — on time, every time. Their customers are the aftermarket repair companies that were started by former Ingersoll-Rand service department employees. In other words, their customers are often former co-workers. They are friends and neighbors.
“Our customers go all over the world to service centrifugal compressors,” said Todd Pearson. “They bring us broken assemblies to re-engineer. A company could go and buy a newly manufactured part or OEM, but lead times can be weeks or months to receive. That is why the aftermarket repair business is so important. We’re always aware that time is money and the clock is ticking. A broken assembly means no air is being transferred. It could shut down an assembly line or shut down an energy plant. No air, means no product. No product means no money is being made. In our world, time really is money.”
Recently, they re-engineered an assembly that was costing the end-user a half million dollars a day in lost production. For Pearson, when he looks at a broken part he sees more than the assembly. He sees idled production and idled workers. He knows that there are people waiting and depending on the Universal Compressor Solutions team.
Monte Davidson sits in his son Brian’s freshly painted office and tells how Universal Compressor Solutions, LLC was formed. After working for another local compressor business for 11 years, he quit to help a friend in need. Davidson had been the first employee hired by his former boss. They had been close. The employer had allowed Monte to bring a young teenaged Brian to work during the weekends and summers, to learn the trade. Leaving wasn’t easy, but when a friend is in need, according to Davidson, you do the right thing. In 1999, he purchased the business. His wife Gina put the building blocks in place to form today’s Universal Compressor Solutions, LLC with Todd Pearson, Monte, and his son Brian as equal partners.
Today, Universal Compressor Solutions, LLC joins other Graves County entrepreneurial companies that have formed like a phoenix rising from the ashes of layoffs and manufacturing closures that occurred over a decade ago. Since then, Graves County has become the hotbed for compressor technologies and aftermarket solutions. With 14 companies located along or near US Hwy 45 North, they’ve created an impressive industrial corridor, built utilizing the unique and highly-technical skills of the former Ingersoll-Rand workforce. The cluster of companies proudly claim Graves County as the Air Compressor Capital of the World. Davidson considers himself as a member of a rare group of men that possess the specific knowledge and abilities to do what he does best: re-engineer rotating assemblies of air compressor parts.
The business was doing well, when one of their customers challenged them with an idea.
“We were just a little shop,” said Davidson. “I never imagined that we’d ever be more than that. But the growth experienced by our customers meant that we needed to grow too. They challenged us to get out of our comfort zone. Because they had been so loyal to us, it was a challenge we couldn’t ignore. It would have been wrong if we hadn’t been willing to take a chance and invest in ourselves. They depended on us.”
In 2015, the company relocated from a 5,000 facility to a 12,000 square foot facility under a lease with option to purchase agreement. With assistance from Purchase Area Development District’s Business Lending Services, Universal Compressor Solutions received low-interest, publically-financed loans from the Economic Development Authority and from USDA Rural Development to purchase the building plus 10-acres of land. They converted the space into a bright facility for their employees. According to Davidson, once the decision was made the process was, “Flawless.”
Several organizations were involved in the project including FNB, Graves County Economic Development, Graves County Fiscal Court, Murray State University Small Business Development Center, and the Purchase Area Development District.
“By giving us the attention that everyone did, they gave us the confidence that we didn’t have ourselves,” said Davidson. “Their excitement about the possibilities gave us the courage to do it. Before any dollars were committed, the energy everyone brought changed my outlook. Local people stepped up to the plate to make this happen.”
“We were very impressed that people wanted to see this happen,” said Brian Davidson. “Their commitment to our company was invaluable.”
On Thursday, May 19th the employees of Universal Compressor Services, LLC stood before the customers who challenged them, elected officials who encouraged them, and agencies that supported their growth. They ceremoniously cut a blue ribbon marking the milestone.
According to Brian Davidson, they closed the loans in March, which happened to be the biggest sales month the company had ever experienced. The potential that everyone had hoped for, had become reality.
For Pearson, it means they have the capacity to continue to support the growth of their customers. “We take pride in our work and in our ability to deliver quality parts.”
“We want to share our success with this process,” said Monte Davidson. “I have confidence that all the right business tools are in place to help local entrepreneurs, like us. Graves County is moving forward. And we’re excited to be a part of that momentum.”
© Purchase Area Development District and PADD Perspectives, 2016.
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