Bettering the Built Environment

Nelco Mechanical

With over 100 years of continuous operation, Nelco Mechanical Limited is a multi-trade contractor with a great deal of responsibility – that of supplying many of the “hidden” systems that keep the buildings we occupy everyday functioning the way they should.

The ability to offer top of the line services begins with a loyal and passionate staff who believe that the work they do today will make a difference in the future. Nelco Mechanical/Electrical has a dedicated workforce that has been working together for a substantial amount of time. The average Nelco tradesperson who starts an apprenticeship will stay and build their career with the company, and the typical Nelco employee today boasts anywhere from 15 to 20 years’ experience.

Before reaching that point, however, Nelco puts its employees to the test to make sure they have what it takes to do a quality job in the industry. This process ensures that each and every client will reap the benefits of a qualified, highly trained worker who will complete a quality job every time. “We view an apprenticeship as a privilege, and that’s what we pound into these young people,” explains Harry Vogt, President of Nelco Mechanical/Electrical. “It’s a privilege and an honour to be an apprentice in any trade sector and that’s how we want them to look at it. This is not just another job.”

The company was initially launched in 1906 as a plumbing and heating company, out of a small office in downtown Kitchener, Ontario. The business saw a great deal of success there, before ultimately moving to a new location in 1957. No doubt, the business has changed over the years, but the company has continued to thrive throughout, and until recently was home to three generations of the Knell family – William Knell, his nephew Carl, and Carl’s son Mike, who retired this February.

Operating out of the Kitchener-Waterloo area, the company offers its services throughout Ontario, and has completed projects in between Windsor, Kapuskasing, Thunder Bay, and Ottawa.

Today, Nelco is predominantly involved in the industrial, commercial, and institutional sectors. The company focuses on design/build projects in partnership with other firms, along with 24 hour, seven day a week service of mechanical and electrical systems. With a breadth of experience, Nelco has worked in industries as diverse as grocery stores, commercial retail, large scale shopping centres, education (for various school boards, colleges, and universities), hospitals, hotels, multi-unit high-rise residential, manufacturing and process plants. At present, the company is involved in a Brantford warehouse project for Fererro Canada, which will see 9 million dollars worth of mechanical work completed by December of this year.

In other areas of the industry, it can be easy for a tradesman to put in his time and earn his pay without ever feeling like he has made his mark on the built environment. Mr. Vogt, however, believes that the best part of the job is coming up with a great design and refining that design to be efficient and cost effective – and then transforming it into something tangible. He relishes the challenge of this process and takes pride in being among the best in the field.

Michael Hobson, Partner and Vice President – Mechanical, agrees that seeing the tangible results of his work is one of the best elements of the job. “The most satisfying part of it is being able to sit back and look at a building that has been completed, and knowing that we designed and installed the mechanical systems and it’s a great design. You look at a building at the University of Waterloo or a new hotel going up in Waterloo, and you know that these buildings are shaping the community. You look at buildings like the Marsland Center in Waterloo which Nelco completed decades ago – and continues to be a staple in Waterloo – and you can’t help but think of your company when you see that building.”
Rich Snider, Partner and Vice President – HVAC agrees: “It’s good to know that we provided a good quality job for the customer, completed on schedule,” he says. “We also ensure that our workers put safety as a number one priority throughout the duration of any given project,” and indeed, Nelco boasts a 14 year consecutive positive firm rating experience, resulting in a rebate from the WSIB.

Nelco is confident that with its experience, integrity and capabilities, it can successfully complete any project on time and on budget. “All of our tradespersons are top drawer and very knowledgeable,” explains Mr. Vogt. “We can beat any schedule that is thrown in front of us.” The team knows all too well that it’s not only about designing and building the project; they must also ensure that the work is performed to the highest of standards. “We need to make sure that the owner likes what he is getting and is happy with the systems that we are proposing and installing.”

When asked what differentiates a Nelco Design / Build / Integrated Project Delivery, Mr. Vogt responds: “A request for proposal will provide us a design intent. We pride ourselves on supplying a very efficient, unique, and cost effective design. Everybody approaches the design intent a different way, but I think we have a good history of doing it better.” Mr. Hobson adds simply, “and the many testimonials that appear on our website certainly speak to this (www.nelcomech.com).

“People are impressed with the fact that we keep our word,” says Mr. Vogt. “If we say we are going to complete a task within a certain timeframe, we will; if there ever is a problem with anything that we’ve installed we always come back to correct the issue. We take full responsibility for our installations and ensure that the outcome is always what was expected.”

It is not only customers, but the industry as a whole that has recognized Nelco Mechanical’s quality work. The company has been the recipient of numerous Building of Excellence awards for its outstanding performance, including the prestigious Dave Lennox award in 2006 and 2008, for being the number one commercial dealer of Lennox equipment in the northern commercial region. This award is the highest for Lennox and has proven that Nelco’s commitment to excellence is recognized not only by its customers and employees, but also by Lennox Industries Inc.

In addition to supplying quality air conditioning, ventilation, heating, plumbing, and electrical systems to the building industry, Nelco Mechanical also produces custom sheet metal and stainless steel fabrication work. Here, the Nelco team truly gets to see the tangible results of its efforts, as much of this work takes the form of highly visible architectural features. At the Cambridge City Hall, for instance, there is a fountain featuring custom metal grating produced by Nelco; the star on Toronto’s downtown government building was also created by the company. Maple Leaf Foods commissions a fair amount of custom stainless steel work, for equipment such as huge mixing augers, conveyers and other elements crucial to the plants’ operations. The company was also responsible for the beautiful ventilated work benches and sinks that can be seen in the Chalk River Hydro company’s building; and finally, as Mr. Vogt points out, Nelco actually made a custom copper range hood for Gordon Lightfoot’s kitchen.

Whether it is providing a fundamental service on a signature project, or a custom piece for a celebrity’s stove, the company affords the same high quality and attention to detail to each and every project. With professionalism, teamwork, and pride, Nelco Mechanical exceeds client expectations, and meets every challenge that comes its way.

June 24, 2017, 11:33 AM EDT

Safety at Work, at Home, and on the Road

The National Safety Council (NSC) has an invaluable mission: to eliminate preventable deaths at work, in homes and communities, and on the road. The membership-based organization accomplishes its goals through leadership, research, education and advocacy. After profiling the Council in June 2015, Business in Focus sat down with President and CEO Deborah Hersman this month to hear the latest developments.