Air Balancing Service Co. in Newington, Connecticut, has operated since 1960 with a simple, clear mission statement that begins, “We strive as a total system balancing agency to perform a multitude of tests and operations to achieve a final balance resulting in a trouble-free system that meets the requirements specified by our customer.” Michael Mauro worked for Air Balancing Service Co. for around two decades before moving into the role of vice president of operations in 2013 and then taking the helm as owner and president in 2017.
Today the company handles an average of 250 to 300 jobs per year and employs six technicians in the field, with an office manager, secretary, estimator and Mauro running things in the office. Charles Brumley, the most recent owner of the company, stayed on and works as the vice president of operations and estimator. This provided a very smooth transition, Mauro said, and he appreciates being able to continue working with one of his mentors.
Mauro is quick to give credit to his team for the success of the company, stating that his technicians are extremely knowledgeable and respected by the customers they serve.
“Without the staff of field and office personnel there is no Air Balancing Service Co.,” he said. “We have a family-type atmosphere, and I feel that helps with the longevity of the people who work here. I treat them with respect and integrity, and in turn, they do the same to me.”
From 1981 to 1983 Mauro attended Broome Community College in Binghamton, New York, as a mechanical engineering student. In 1986, he was introduced to air balancing by a partner at his former father-in-law’s sheet metal company. Mauro had always liked working with his hands, and the mathematical formulas provided an enjoyable challenge. A few years later he moved to Bristol, Connecticut, where he got a job as an air balancer and sheet metal tech at Janazzo Heating and Air Conditioning, Inc.
Mauro credits Richard Gherlone, one of the prior owners of Air Balancing Service Co., as the mentor who brought him into the union at Sheet Metal Workers Local 40 in Rocky Hill, Connecticut. After a dozen years in the field, Mauro officially began his apprenticeship in 1998 and proceeded through testing at an accelerated pace, finishing in under two years.
He has no doubts it was the right move.
“Better training, better opportunity, better benefits without a doubt,” he said. “You can’t beat being a union tradesman. You get four years of education without owing a dime, and with hard work and drive you absolutely will advance — you can become an owner.”
The certifications he and his crew have earned help benefit the company and the industry as a whole, ensuring that jobs are done in the best, most uniform way. He knows that if he or another technician takes over for a project started by one of their certified technicians, everyone will be on the same page.
Since buying the company, Mauro has continued the tradition of making clients, and safety, the top priority. He assures clients if a concern arises and he can’t send a tech, he will personally grab his tools and go himself.
When COVID-19 brought ventilation’s health impacts into the forefront of public awareness, Mauro and his team responded quickly. Air Balancing Service Co. has regularly worked in health care facilities, including Yale New Haven Health, Hartford Healthcare and Trinity Health of New England, making sure critical areas are up to code. Mauro and his technicians immediately began to help by converting whole wings at these facilities to negative pressure rooms; now they are getting called back to reconvert areas back to regular rooms.
In many ways, he and his crew looked at the pandemic as business as usual: “We had a job to do, we went in there and we did it,” he said.
Mauro now makes sure to add his voice to the public sphere, as communities grapple with lessons learned during the past 20 months. Local 40 and the National Energy Management Institute Committee (NEMIC) recently met with the Connecticut General Assembly and a representative from the teachers’ union to discuss the funding available through the American Rescue Plan of 2021. Mauro has seen many ventilation systems in need of improvement at older schools and believes engineers should prioritize better ventilation for buildings across the board.
Jeremy Zeedyk, NEMIC’s representative for the Northeast region, said of Mauro, “I have always admired Mike for his commitment to improving both his own company as well as the industry. He is always willing to make suggestions, review programs and offer his insights as an industry leader and subject matter expert.”
Mauro’s experience in medical buildings has shown him innovative solutions he hopes will become adopted on a larger scale going forward. A few hospitals built after the SARS outbreak of 2002-04 built systems into the building’s ventilation that would prove useful in fighting sudden outbreaks of infectious respiratory disease. Humber River Hospital, in Toronto, and Smilow Cancer Hospital, in New Haven, Connecticut, are among the facilities that wrote pandemic-safe specifications into their building plans — Smilow’s architects and engineers designed the top four floors to become negative-pressure when the system is activated.
Seeing these systems pay off in streamlined pressure changes when it counted most during the COVID-19 pandemic has made Mauro hopeful that specialized ventilation systems like these will become standard in new medical facilities.
“It’s going to be a lot more money to design a system like that, but think of the savings on the other side,” he said. “Hopefully you never have to use it again, but if you do, you’re ready.”
Mauro worries the looming challenge ahead will be replacing technicians as they retire. Fewer young people are entering the trades, which — in light of skyrocketing college debt and the clear rewards of a union career — is something Mauro can’t understand.
He advises apprentices to get involved and stay involved, just as he urges contractors to never stop learning and contributing their input to their local.
“Keep going to classes; you can never have too much education. There’s always something to read and study,” he said. “Support your unions, go to meetings and be heard. Be there, voting…the more ideas, the more voices, the better.”
For more information on NEMIC, and to learn how NEMIC representatives can help local industry leaders work with legislators, visit www.nemiconline.org.