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Close-up: Kirk Jackson

Jackson & Blanc keeps its cool into third generation

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More than 75 years ago, Milt Jackson and Rene Blanc started a small shop that provided heating and air conditioning service for local residences.

The partners built a business that would weather the Great Depression and World War II by expanding its heating, ventilation and air conditioning capabilities to commercial and military establishments.

Jackson & Blanc (J&B) remains a family business to this day, headed by third-generation owner and President Kirk Jackson. With his oldest son currently working as a project manager, Jackson hopes to keep the company in the family "into the fourth generation," he said.

"Employees are also treated like family, and not just another number in a publicly traded company," Jackson added.

Kirk Jackson

"If you look at our personnel profile," said Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer John Fusca, "what you'll find is a lot of can-do people who get the job done. We look for someone who's innovative yet also a take-charge kind of person."

As a major contractor for new construction, commercial and industrial retrofit, and as one of the largest building automation systems contractors in the region, Jackson & Blanc's secret to success is staying progressive.

J&B's employees receive training in the latest green building requirements and processes to reduce the carbon footprint of construction projects.

"You have to start with the basics, the principals of sound design and installation as well as up-to-date maintenance practices, service and repair," Jackson said. "All those things put together are the cornerstone of green building design."

"We've held LEED certification training classes for office staff and personnel," added Fusca, "and we've been involved with several LEED certified projects."

The company currently has under construction a 9,200-ton central plant for a local power company, "one of the first of its kind," according to Jackson. "The purpose of the project is to increase the efficiency of the power plant during peak usage."

"The plant will pre-cool the turbine inlet air for the turbines, therefore increasing peak efficiency," Fusca explained. "It's relatively unique."

The East Village District Cooling Plant, another significant J&B industrial project, will provide more than 12,000 tons of cooling capacity to local businesses and residents once Phase II is complete. J&B has a 20-year agreement with JMI Realty to operate and maintain the fully automated, unmanned cooling plant, which was designed to expand with the needs of East Village's rapid growth, Fusca said.

"As development continues, we are prepared to serve pretty much anything that could occur in the nearby area," he said.

The cooling plant, which meets sustainable design and LEED certification criteria, serves PETCO park, Omni Hotel, Park Terrace Condos and the Diamond View Office Tower, to name a few.

"Using centralized chilled water for air conditioning is a better way to do things from an environmental standpoint," Jackson said. "The central plant can provide the cooling that they need rather than having every one of the properties install their own chilled water plant and cooling towers."

For the VA Hospital, J&B installed a 4.5-megawatt solar gas-fired turbine, a 500-ton absorber, cooling towers, a steam boiler, and steam to high temperature hot water exchangers. At the University of San Diego, the company installed a new central plant system to provide maximum energy savings.

Sempra Energy (NYSE: SRE) took on J&B as prime contractor to replace two 600-ton cooling towers, add one 300-ton centrifugal chiller and remodel a pumping system.

J&B has specialized in service, maintenance and repair since 1931, guaranteeing its work and sending out fully qualified technicians. Now the company is approaching $40 million in projected revenues.

In January 2006, J&B spun off Integrated Energy Solutions to provide energy-saving solutions for architectural firms, consulting engineering firms, and mechanical and electrical subcontractors to use in all types of buildings from small offices to schools.

J&B practices design/build and has a "single source philosophy" -- being the sole contact for all client needs.

"When time is of the essence, design/build is the way to go," Jackson said.

"Jackson & Blanc has a reputation in the community for honesty and integrity, and also for being competitive in the marketplace," he said. "Our repeat customers have a high degree of confidence that we'll get the job done."

Chung Klam is a San Diego-based freelance writer.

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