Business is heating up: Suppliers of building products — think HVAC — are seeing growth despite pandemic’s effect on all things indoors

Everyone’s heard by now that there’s a trio of industries that have definitely been dragged down during the pandemic: travel, entertainment and hospitality.

Beyond that, what might have appeared at first glance to make that list of struggling sectors … comes off today as the least scathed.

Stephen Rutherford of NAVAC Inc. said he heard of distributors in his industry — air conditioning parts — down by $5 million at the start of June … only to make that up and more when they resumed business fully by July.

Stephen Rutherford of NAVAC Inc.

“I’ve talked to distributors across the country, and they’re busy,” he said. “What we’re starting to see now is there was so much pent-up demand in a sector like that.”

Rutherford is vice president of Lyndhurst-based NAVAC, the world’s largest supplier of niche HVAC vacuum pump products. There might’ve been a time when it seemed only a fair amount of luck would save a business like his, but the reversal came quickly — offering a glimpse of hope in a recessed economy with an uncertain trajectory.

“I wish I could tell you we’ve ended up being hit hard like a lot of others,” Rutherford said. “But we’ve grown 50% during this time.”

NAVAC in late July offered discounted products in what it called a “business reset” promotion. Up to half of the company’s distributor base took advantage of it, and it led to a month-over-moth sales increase of over 100% from May to June.

No restaurants — and few other businesses — are letting people into indoor settings in New Jersey, based on advice from health officials and state restrictions. But businesses are still making investments into their physical space, even (or perhaps, especially) now, Rutherford said.

Daniel J. Caldwell of Cinnaminson-based Stout & Caldwell Engineering said his company is finding work even involving physical locations with retailers such as Burlington Coat Factory. No pandemic, or even short-sleeve weather, is getting in the way of that.

Daniel J. Caldwell of Stout & Caldwell.

Stout & Caldwell provides civil engineering, surveying and environmental services, as well as flood elevation certificates throughout the state, in a variety of sectors. Caldwell, a principal at the company, said his work is picking up, even with hard-hit hotels.

“We also work with affordable apartment communities, and if you think about something like these apartments through the pandemic, you might figure no one wants to be that close together anymore,” he said. “Well, it’s amazing to see that sector is still moving along regardless.”

Caldwell said his firm has hardly skipped a beat.

But with no certainty about what’s in store with the pandemic and the economy generally, Caldwell isn’t taking a victory lap just yet.

“I think our success through this has a lot to do with our marketing efforts, as well as the relationships we’ve built,” he said. “We’re just praying that continues.”

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