Cool deal for one of South Flor­ida’s first air con­di­tion­ing con­trac­tors

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Money - By Ron Hurt­ibise

If you walked into an air-con­di­tioned South Flor­ida home or busi­ness in the 1940s or 50s, chances are Hill York made it cool.

And it’s no coin­ci­dence that the air con­di­tion­ing com­pany, cre­ated in 1936, grew along with the re­gion’s pop­u­la­tion. After all, air con­di­tion­ing is what made Flor­ida tol­er­a­ble for year-round work and life.

But just as the state is ever chang­ing, Hill York’s days as one of South Flor­ida’s largest and old­est lo­cally owned pri­vate com­pa­nies have come to an end.

The com­pany has been ac­quired by For­tune 500 com­pany EMCOR Group Inc. fol­low­ing 82 years of lo­cal own­er­ship, ac­cord- ing to a news re­lease. Terms of the deal were not dis­closed.

Hill York em­ploys about 250 peo­ple across South and Cen­tral Flor­ida, in­clud­ing of­fices in Mel­bourne, Sara­sota and St. Peters­burg, plus its Fort Laud­erdale head­quar­ters.

Now fo­cused on sales and ser­vic­ing of com­mer­cial air con­di­tion­ing sys­tems, Hill York will be a strong fit for EMCOR’s U.S. Build­ing Ser­vices op­er­a­tions, the lead­ers of the two com­pa­nies said.

“EMCOR Build­ing Ser­vices is ex­cited about the syn­er­gies, ca­pa­bil­i­ties and cus­tomer re­la­tion­ships that Hill York brings to the or­ga­ni­za­tion,” said that com­pany’s pres­i­dent and CEO Michael P. Bordes. “We look for­ward to

of­fer­ing clients an ex­panded foot­print through­out the state of Flor­ida and an even greater ar­ray of value added ser­vices.”

Hill York’s pres­i­dent and CEO Robert “Chip” Laf­ferty over­sees the com­pany both of his grand­fa­thers helped to cre­ate.

His grand­fa­ther on his fa­ther’s side, Robert S. Laf­ferty, bought the com­pany in 1945 when it was based in Mi­ami and ap­pointed his top sales­man, Charles Daniels, to run the Broward branch that was opened in 1949. Daniels ul­ti­mately mar­ried Chip Laf­ferty’s mom, and the com­pany’s head­quar­ters was moved from Mi­ami to Fort Laud­erdale, where it has re­mained in the same build­ing at 2125 S. An­drews Ave.

Among its early prod­ucts was a res­i­den­tial win­dow air con­di­tion­ing unit with a wood ve­neer fa­cade that was meant to blend in with the decor in a typ­i­cal home’s liv­ing room.

Even­tu­ally the com­pany pulled out of the res­i­den­tial mar­ket and fo­cused on the com­mer­cial side.

Bor­row­ing tech­nol­ogy used by dairies to pas­teur­ize milk, Daniels upped South Flor­ida’s cool fac­tor when he de­vel­oped a sys­tem that used the heat from ocean wa­ter to re­move heat from ocean­front high-rise con­dos and ho­tels. The wa­ter-source heat pump sys­tem en­abled oc­cu­pants of in­di­vid­ual units to con­trol their own tem­per­a­tures for the first time, ac­cord­ing to a 1969 story in the Fort Laud­erdale News.

“It rev­o­lu­tion­ized how to air con­di­tion build­ings,” Chip Laf­ferty said. “We prob­a­bly in­stalled air con­di­tion­ing sys­tems in all of the ocean­front build­ings from Mi­ami Beach to Palm Beach.”

Chip Laf­ferty be­came the third gen­er­a­tion mem­ber to lead the com­pany after his dad, Robert S. Laf­ferty Jr., ran it for 50 years.

To­day the com­pany sells, in­stalls and ser­vices sys­tems of all sizes. Clients in­clude the Greater Fort Laud­erdale Broward County Con­ven­tion Cen­ter, Semi­nole Hard Rock Ho­tel & Casino, Nova South­east­ern Univer­sity, and sev­eral hos­pi­tals, Chip Laf­ferty said.

De­spite the own­er­ship change, Hill York ex­pects to un­der­take air con­di­tion­ing projects in South Flor­ida for the fore­see­able fu­ture.

EMCOR Group, with 75 com­pa­nies in its port­fo­lio, typ­i­cally does not change the name or per­son­nel of the com­pa­nies it ac­quires, said Shan­non Terry, vice pres­i­dent of mar­ket­ing for EMCOR Build­ing Ser­vices.

Chip Laf­ferty said he looked for­ward to re­main­ing with the com­pany. “I love air con­di­tion­ing,” he said. “You can’t get me out of here with dy­na­mite.”

SUN SEN­TINEL FILE PHOTO

Shown here in this Fort Laud­erdale News ad from the 1950s, lo­cal fam­ily-owned AC con­tract­ing firm Hill York has been ac­quired by EMCOR Group Inc., a For­tune 500 in­dus­trial-scale me­chan­i­cal and elec­tri­cal ser­vices com­pany.

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