Case Studies

James B. Donaghey Inc. Mechanical Contractors

A Gulf Coast Gold Standard

James B. Donaghey established James B. Donaghey Inc. Mechanical Contractors (JBD Inc.) in 1921. Before long the small plumbing enterprise expanded into central air installations and then into larger-scale HVAC systems, because throughout its many iterations JBD Inc. has remained open to new technologies and committed to the client’s needs. J. Bradley Donaghey and Maynard Sanders succeeded Mr. Donaghey in 1975, and now the new generation of Judson Sanders, Bob Clapper, Bradley Sanders and Joe Valle’e is positioning the company for the future.

“We were founded as a plumbing company and then a heating installation division was added in the 1930s,” says Judson Sanders, president of JBD Inc. “A central air conditioning system division was added in the 1950s, and in 1958 we added a sheet metal shop to provide a complete mechanical installation for commercial and industrial clients.”

JBD Inc. owes a great deal of its reputation to the proven professionals who continually exceed customer’s expectations. The company began investing heavily in construction and engineering talent early on to ensure the company’s growth into the complete mechanical contracting market and emphasize the principles of safety and comprehensive supervision.

A team of talented professionals undertakes every project, coming together to use state-of-the-art equipment and to build long-lasting relationships with clients. JBD Inc. maintains headquarters and a sheet metal fabrication shop in Mobile, Ala., as well as secondary branches in Biloxi, Miss., and Pensacola, Fla. The wide reach of these satellite offices ensures that clients from Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle are always just a phone call and a few hours away at most.

JBD Inc. reinforces its reputation as one of the Gulf Coast’s leading plumbing, piping and HVAC contractors by living up to its promise of providing professional service, using quality products and, most importantly, instilling a sense of complete confidence in JBD Inc.’s mechanical expertise.

Shifting Gears

JBD Inc.’s engineering talent also facilitated the company’s expansion into the design-build world of mechanical contracting, and the company now numbers among only a handful providing a truly full-service installation package. If a suitable solution can’t be found using off-the-shelf options, the JBD Inc. team will design and fabricate one from scratch. JBD Inc. can then install, commission and service the equipment throughout its lifetime.

Dealing with just one contractor for a variety of HVAC and plumbing systems means clients can call upon the same talent that designed the equipment for emergency repairs, eliminating inefficiencies, lag time and downtime between repairs. The full-service approach has garnered the company a loyal following of clientele in high-pressure commercial and industrial markets, including hospitals, casinos and various military installations, where equipment failure can have serious and costly repercussions.

Then again, JBD Inc. is no stranger to tackling challenging projects. In fact, the company prides itself on delivering the impossible to clients. “We helped install the HVAC and plumbing systems to one of the first casinos ever built on the Gulf Coast,” recalls Joe Valle’e, a  vice president at JBD Inc. “All the client told us was that he needed to get the casino up and running in three months.”

The client effectively gave JBD Inc. carte blanche to ensure the casino was operational, rush-ordering materials if necessary and allowing JBD Inc. to beef up its crew with as many professionals required to make sure the job didn’t just get done, but that it was done properly and professionally. The client awarded the project to JBD Inc. on a Friday, the firm started work on Saturday and it finished with a grand opening 100 days later.

“We lived in our trailers for those 100 days, but we did deliver,” notes Valle’e.

After the project was finished, Grand Casino actually touted JBD Inc.’s HVAC installation in its advertising campaigns as shown by the Grand Casino billboard below.

An Appetite for Ambition

Bob Clapper, a vice president at JBD Inc., most recently led the company team to put its mechanical expertise to work at the University of Mobile, a Baptist college nestled just a 10-minute drive from historic downtown Mobile, Ala. The college was founded in 1961 as Mobile College and a four-story administrative building was completed in 1963. The building was later renamed Weaver Hall in honor of the college’s first president and the building continues to serve as the institution’s primary administrative hub.

“The existing HVAC system was installed in 1963, and even though it had been patched up and repaired over the years, it was time to completely replace it,” expands Clapper. “We went into the basement and gutted everything, installed all new equipment and had the building back up and cooling within three weeks.” The project is just one of many JBD Inc. has successfully completed for the university, as the company previously completed work to the campus gymnasium and various dormitories while it was still known as Mobile College.

Another recent project to retrofit a building’s system that was originally installed by JBD Inc. was the recent renovation of the 34-story GM Building for the Retirement System of Alabama. The building was originally built as a headquarter building for the First National Bank of Mobile. The building was recently completed renovated as an upscale office building that would be managed by the Alabama Retirement System. Judson Sanders notes that “the second generation installed the mechanical systems in the building and now the third generation has completely renovated those same systems.”

Even with such showcase projects, JBD Inc. did feel the recent economic downturn and the company scaled back to focus on its strengths. Even so, Bradley Sanders, the third vice president of JBD Inc., believes a turnaround is eminent. “We had a few fairly large projects along the Gulf Coast canceled after the [Deepwater Horizon] oil spill and the economic uncertainty, but I think we’re really well-positioned to see a lot of work,” admits Sanders. “I’m actually more worried we might have too much to handle on our plates when it does.”

JBD Inc. has built a strong foundation by upholding unparalleled standards of professional behavior and reliable workmanship over the years. As the company nears its 100-year anniversary, James B. Donaghey Inc. Mechanical Contractors team will continue to build lifelong relationships with clients.

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