Valve maker not feeling many money pressures

Two and a half years ago, a Copenhagen, Denmark-based manufacturer opened a North American headquarters in north Charlotte to lay groundwork for what it hoped would be future sales. The payoff for FlowCon International came quicker than expected, thanks to skyrocketing oil prices.

The company makes pressure independent flow control valves, which limit the water flow to air-conditioning systems – a potentially significant cost-saver. FlowCon primarily sold its products to Canadian and European customers used to dealing with higher energy costs, said Howard Rozendal, managing director of the company's North American operations. U.S. sales were slow, given the country's historically cheap oil.

Then “green” building methods became golden to companies scrambling to stem rising energy costs.

Typically, FlowCon sells valves to mechanical engineers and contractors who design and construct buildings. About a year ago, Rozendal started receiving calls from building owners and tenants looking to save money. The company estimates its valves can shave 10 percent to 35 percent off monthly energy bills. For example, a large commercial building with a monthly energy bill of $10,000 could save between $1,000 and $3,500.

“It's coming to us so fast,” he said, “I almost don't have to go out and solicit business.”

Rozendal said he also recognizes that his six employees need their own relief from higher energy prices. The company recently switched to a schedule of 10 hours a day, four days a week, so his staff could cut one day from their commute.

He's betting on more growth and expects to double his staff to 12 employees by the end of this year, and then double it again next year.

“If you look at this thing selfishly, the air-conditioning industry has a very, very bright future,” he said. “Even in down times, we can go in and offer energy conservation measures.” Kerry Hall