Taking the heat

Heatex America finds growing demand for its products

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Print this page by Joan Tupponce

The move to 4G technology by companies such as AT&T, Verizon and Sprint is a big plus for Heatex America, which manufactures and sells heat exchangers. “It’s a huge part of our business,” says President Connie Loughhead. “With 4G the electronic components that run the antennas are placed in cabinets. There is a tremendous amount of heat in the cabinet. We put in heat exchangers to remove the heat and give the product a longer life span.”

Loughhead started Heatex America in 2004 to distribute Heatex products in North America. It is a subsidiary of the Swedish corporation Heatex AB, a $40 million company with just under 200 employees. Heatex products are used in a variety of applications including schools, hospitals, industry and electronic cooling.

At first, Loughhead was importing heat exchangers from Heatex AB’s plant in Sweden. “When we started, the intent was to grow the company so we would eventually manufacture products [here],” she says.

The company started making products for North America in 2008 after a growing demand for heat exchangers maxed out the Swedish plant’s production capacity. “The [demand] was coming from America so it made sense to put a manufacturing plant in the U.S.,” Loughhead says, adding that in 2010 Heatex America expanded its sales to South and Central America.

What sets the company apart from its competitors is its custom-made automated production process. “We designed a machine that would minimize the manual labor required,” Loughhead says. “One individual can run four machines and also do assembly work.”

Last July, the company moved from a site in Buena Vista into a new 39,000-square-foot facility in Natural Bridge Station in Rockbridge County. In 2011 Heatex America produced 25,000 to 30,000 of the 145,000 heat exchangers sold worldwide by Heatex AB. From 2007 to 2010, Heatex America revenues grew 50.3 percent. In 2011, Heatex America saw another 50 percent jump in revenues.

Loughhead started her career in the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning industry in 1996. She was the only employee of Heatex America when the company started eight years ago. Today, Loughhead has 16 employees. “We have the intent within two years to be up to 30 employees,” she says.

She sees growth in several areas, including Central America. Last year, Loughhead traveled to Costa Rica to consult with a producer of powder detergent who was concerned with high-energy costs. Heatex America was able to provide a heat exchanger that helped lower the company’s energy costs. “Now their return on investment is huge,” she says.

Brazil is another hot spot for the company. The country is investing in its infrastructure to meet the demands of hosting the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016. “We’re seeing a tremendous amount of growth in Brazil,” Loughhead says. “We set up a sales office there in the fall of 2010.”

Heatex America continues to gain customers that want to benefit from government energy conservation mandates and incentives. “Virginia is one of the leading states for tax incentives,” Loughhead says. “In Canada, Calgary and the Quebec province have mandated that a heat exchanger is required for all new construction. All of that plays into our growth.”

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