- Written by: Jeanee Dudley
- Produced by: Eric Colby
- Estimated reading time: 4 mins
In 1932, Hans Jorgensen was an automotive mechanic in Fresno, Calif. When the local fire marshal asked if he would be interested in refilling fire extinguishers, Hans took on the endeavor as a viable side business. Over the years the business grew. By the end of the decade, Hans’ business involved more fire protection work than automotive service.
The business was lucrative and the new Jorgensen Company (Jorgensen) was born. Years later, Hans passed the business along to his sons, Al and Don Jorgensen. The brothers fostered growth for the family business up until 1994, when they passed the business on to its loyal employees.
Today, Jorgensen operates through an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP). Most recently, Darrell Hefley has taken over as company president. Darrell started working at the business in 1970 as a high school student. A manager had offered him a job in the warehouse. As the years passed, Darrell maintained a strong commitment to the business and worked his way through the ranks to his current position. Now he manages a team of 140 employees between six locations in California.
A strong niche
The business has a headquarters in Fresno, Calif., where it all began. Over the years, Jorgensen has required more space to operate and the company has five satellite offices in Bakersfield, Visalia, Modesto, Merced, as well as Sacramento, Calif. The business specializes in a slew of fire protection solutions, such as extinguishers, safety equipment and suppression systems. The company’s target market is almost exclusively commercial and industrial, aside from a few residential contractors here and there.
Jorgensen offers a broad range of solutions. Product sales and installations include alarm systems, sprinklers, plant safety systems, hazardous material mitigation equipment and tools, health and safety products, as well as cabinets, hoses, extinguishers and other accessories. The team provides and installs equipment and also goes as far as to train employees how to use them. As the years pass, the team also provides service and maintenance to systems, especially those in sensitive industries that require periodic inspection.
Over the years, Jorgensen’s strong capabilities and expertise have attracted clients in diverse sectors. “We are constantly involved in a broad range of projects,” Darrell explains. “In Oakdale, Calif., we are re-engineering the cooling tower systems for an industrial customer. That will be roughly a $30,000 job. Another project we just finished was going through and re-furbishing all the sprinkler systems for a convalescent care operation with more than 10 locations throughout the Valley. We also have ongoing work with several loyal customers in Bakersfield that keeps us busy.”
Jorgensen has maintained fairly steady business in recent years despite the economic downturn. The team encountered many challenges, but managed to adapt and keep the doors open. “Our service side of the business kept us going,” Darrell explains. “A lot of service companies went out of business, but we managed to hold steady. We did have some personnel cutbacks, but we also redistributed our labor, utilizing some of our installation technicians on the repair end of the business. We are diversified enough to alter our practices and aspects of the business enough to keep operating even when the market is lean.”
According to Darrell, the last quarter of 2012 was when the market started to turn around. Since then, Jorgensen has been growing steadily, reclaiming lost ground throughout California. Now, the crew has turned its collective sight on expansion. “We are steadily progressing throughout the recovery,” Darrell explains. “This year has been along the same lines as last year as far as progress. Our philosophy is to take things as they come and figure out solutions.”
Meanwhile, the goal is to keep quality employees busy. “We have been able to provide a business atmosphere in a location where people enjoy working,” Darrell notes. “Our employees are loyal and they work with us, because they want to stay with this company. We are very proud of that. Our favorite projects are the ones that allow us to utilize our dedicated labor force for a sustained period of time.”
The employees truly make the business at Jorgensen. While the cost of labor is one of the company’s greatest expenses, it is also the greatest investment. While rising costs, especially for fuel, have put pressure on the business, the management team does not compromise when it comes to experienced and professional work.
In the coming years, Darrell and his team do not have and grand projections for expansion. The business will continue to service clients in California and maintain a focus on providing safe, long-lasting solutions that protect clients and their assets from the threat of fire. While no longer owned by the Jorgensen family, Jorgensen Company maintains all of the service-focused benefits of a family business while exceeding expectations in the field.
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