New president named at 70-year-old Southern Air

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Print this page by Joan Tupponce
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Paul Denham, the new president of Southern Air, had
been executive vice president. Courtesy Southern Air

Lynchburg-based Southern Air this year is marking its 70th anniversary with the appointment of a new president, Paul Denham.

Denham, who previously served as executive vice president, has more than 25 years of experience in the industry. He succeeds Ronnie Kidd, who is the company’s CEO.

“It’s been a very smooth transition,” says Ben Wilkinson, vice president of business development. “Paul is a professional engineer. He worked his way up through the company. He started as a project manager.”

Engineer George Costan founded Southern Air in 1946. Over the years it has grown from a residential heating company to a full-service design/build mechanical and electrical contractor.

The company employs 750 to 800 people, depending on the time of year, and averages $115 million in sales volume annually. “We focus on slow, controlled growth,” Wilkinson says.

He credits that growth to Southern Air’s attention to detail and focus on customer service.  “We take care of our customers. We service what we sell, and we make sure it’s right. We have a lot of repeat customers. Our service retention rate is over 90 percent.”

Southern Air has a 60,000-square-foot fabrication facility in Lynchburg and construction offices in Roanoke, Mechanics­ville, Charlottesville and Bluefield, W.Va.

The company also has service locations in Winchester, Newport News, Fredericksburg, Harrisonburg and Greensboro, N.C.

Most of the company’s business comes from commercial and industrial customers, but it also handles residential replacement work in Lynchburg and Charlottesville.

Wilkinson says Southern Air was the first Lynchburg-area  contractor to start a four-year, state-approved apprenticeship program.

“One of the problems facing the industry today is finding qualified individuals that want to get into the construction industry,” he says. “Our apprenticeship program is trade specific. All of the instructors are certified by the state. People in the program work during the day and go to class at night. Up to 80 employees go through the program every year.”

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