- Written by: Molly Shaw
- Produced by: Caitlin Mugford
- Estimated reading time: 4 mins
For more than 80 years, residential and commercial customers have been calling on Armstrong Mechanical (Armstrong) for everything from basic plumbing to heating and air conditioning to new construction. For Armstrong, serving homes and businesses throughout West Texas is a four generation strong family tradition.
“My grandfather, E.H. Armstrong, founded Armstrong in 1934,” recalls Chris Carpenter, president of Armstrong. “He started out repairing and selling radios and appliances and eventually acquired a few cold-storage refrigeration jobs throughout World War II.”
Before long, Armstrong entered new markets throughout the Southwest. “The company’s early relationships with retailers, such as Furr’s, Piggly Wiggly and Safeway stores in West Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma, jumpstarted Armstrong’s commercial division,” recounts Carpenter. “My father added the plumbing division in 1969, followed by more HVAC services.”
Even after 80 years, the company is still family-owned and -operated. “My father, who entered the business in 1954, still comes into work every day,” shares Carpenter.
Strength in size and experience
While generations of the Armstrong family are still part of the company, so are many longstanding employees. Based in Lubbock, Texas, Armstrong now employs 120 professional plumbers, technicians and tradespeople.
“We’re fortunate to have really great employees who take pride in their work and we don’t have a lot of turnover,” reveals Carpenter. “Armstrong distributes annual service awards and this year, we’re giving out two for employees that have been with us for more than 35 years and there are others who have been with us for 25 years or more.”
Carpenter says Armstrong is blessed to have such a dedicated, experienced workforce that’s just the right size. “We like to think size is one of our strengths,” he explains. “We’re small enough to pay close attention to every customer but our depth of experience offers vast knowledge. We can handle any project, large or small.”
As a mechanical contractor, Armstrong serves the residential and commercial industries where the company initially developed and now medical and health care customers, as well as schools and higher-education institutions. “We cover about a 150-mile radius outside of Lubbock,” notes Carpenter. “Right now, our crews are pretty spread out, going south to Wink, Denver City and Levelland, Texas.”
Designing and building with tomorrow’s technology
Not only does Armstrong deliver a full range of mechanical services, subcontracting out just insulation, temperature controls and electrical, the company also is capable of performing design-build projects. “We’re at the tail end of a 480-bed student housing project for Texas Tech,” reveals Carpenter. “The campus is growing and this facility is an extension across the highway. All of the other buildings on campus are connected to a chilled and heated water system, but we had to come up with a different solution for this dorm because of its location.”
Normally, a construction manager would hand a mechanical contractor such as Armstrong a set of plans for the company to carry out, but in this case, Carpenter says Armstrong was involved from the early stages of planning and design.
“On projects of this magnitude, the owner has certain criteria,” he explains. “They work with an architect and engineer to get the basis of design and put it out to a construction manager that assembles a team. In this case, Armstrong went in with the construction manager and an engineer who works for us, to finish the design, price it out and start construction. We had a lot of design input from the start.”
Originally, the design team had the electrical and water on each floor. “We suggested putting the water piping on the first and third floor and the electrical on the second and fourth,” recalls Carpenter. “We knew this would save room and make the building less congested.”
Armstrong has also been a vital player in helping the construction manager implement industry-leading technology new to Texas Tech and the area. “This is Texas Tech’s first insulated concrete form [ICF] building,” shares Carpenter. “The water piping is also PVC and Uponor PEX, which is new to buildings at Texas Tech. The vents are a single-stack system that’s more efficient and cost-effective to install and the conditioning system is a variable refrigerant flow Mitsubishi City Multi System, which is not the first, but certainly the largest of its kind for Armstrong.”
Armstrong is able to stay ahead of the game in emerging technologies as one of the first to introduce such to Texas with the help of trusted industry organizations, such as the Associated Plumbing Heating and Cooling Contractors of Texas (PHCC).
“We’re involved in a number of PHCC’s apprentice programs,” reveals Carpenter. “They head to trainings in Dallas and come back and apply what they have learned and then, in a few months, go back for more training and the system works well.”
The company is committed to fostering a talented next generation of mechanical contractors in conjunction with PHCC. “The average plumber is older, so we need to start training the next generation, if we don’t, nobody will,” adds Carpenter.
With the right team to get the job done, Armstrong looks forward to busy years ahead. “We weren’t hit as hard as some areas by the recession, but we were affected and now it’s picking up,” notes Carpenter. “Architects and engineers are busy getting projects out there and there are a number of schools in this area looking to have bond elections for large capital improvements.”
After 80 years, Armstrong Mechanical is going steady and strong, backed by family ownership and longstanding employees committed to industry-leading performance and service.
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