Griffin Insulation Company, Inc.
Contracting & Sales

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Rochester's Griffin Insulation adapts in a rough economy

Sean Dobbin Staff writer, Democrat & Chronicle March 2, 2009

The Rochester Top 100, which annually recognizes the fastest-growing privately held companies in the nine-county region, is sponsored by the Rochester Business Alliance and KPMG.

Here is an interview with Jay Griffin and Rick Mullen, co-presidents of Griffin Insulation Co. Inc.

Tell me a little about the history of the company.

Griffin: I've been in the business for 43 years. I was in the field from '66 to '72, then I went and opened up an office for what is now one of my competitors in Rochester, and was there from '72 to '86. Then I turned 40, looked in the mirror, went through the mid-life crisis, and said, "Let's try it on our own."

So I started (Griffin Insulation) on St. Patrick's Day in 1986 in that office right there with a folding card table, a folding chair, and a phone. We had our first big job four days later on Henrietta Road for Delphi.

Four days? So you really hit the ground running.

Griffin: We did $1 million the first year. So it took right off, and we've hit a few bumps in the road like everybody does, but it's been a pretty smooth running operation. We're a union shop, we've always run one or two solid shops within the company, and we've always had good solid people. We've always prided ourselves on service and quality; you get service here in the office and quality from union people.

What industries do you focus on?

Griffin: Industrial and commercial. We don't do any residential.

Mullen: And it's pipes, ducts, equipment, not building insulation.

Who are some of your clients?

Griffin: We do all kinds of work at the University of Rochester.

Mullen: And in Syracuse, we have Anheuser-Busch and Bristol-Myers, those are the two marquee accounts we have in that market.

How is the current economy affecting you?

Mullen: Typically, when the cost of energy goes up, it helps us. But this time, I don't think it has. We haven't gotten many phone calls from people saying, "Help me save money in the long term." They're worried about tomorrow; they're not worried about a year from tomorrow.

So how does 2009 look for the company?

Mullen: Very difficult.

Griffin: Rochester has always been strong, but this is as tough as I've seen it in Rochester in the 43 years I've been around.

What types of things do you guys do differently in lean years?

Mullen: Well, the most immediate thing is our field workforce gets reduced quickly.

Griffin: We've been running 30 men steadily in the field for the last three or four years, and now we're down to maybe half of that. We really follow mechanical contractors, and the mechanicals have hundreds of people sitting on the bench right now.

Does the new stimulus package have any provisions that make you optimistic?

Mullen: We're not entirely sure yet. But for us, and not just Griffin Insulation, but all others that do what we do, we are probably the most shovel-ready energy-conserving industry there is. There's no lead time in material delivery or in securing manpower. If someone calls us today and says "I need 20 men tomorrow," we could be there.

Griffin: And here's an example from one job. An operating temperature of 325 degrees on an 8-inch line of bare pipe: the cost to operate it insulated is $2,900. To operate it bare, it costs $51,000. The cost saving is $49,000!

Mullen: Our payback times can be six months.

What are the plans for the future of the company? I understand there was recently a change in ownership?

Mullen: It has taken place. As of Jan. 1, ownership transferred to me.

Griffin: My wife said this morning, "You know, you're an employee now!"

Mullen: The plan is we'll continue to operate with an office in Rochester and an office in Syracuse. We definitely have plans to eventually expand, with Albany being the most likely area. And for the foreseeable future, Jay will act in a supervisory/consulting role.

Griffin: I'm supposed to be sliding out a little bit, but I eat this up. After 43 years in this industry, you don't just slowly get out if you're Jay Griffin. I'm just going to keep going as long and as hard as we can.

How do you spend time away from work?

Mullen: I have three 11-year-olds, so my time is spent with all the things that encompass that. Our last soccer game didn't finish until 11:30 on Friday night.

Griffin: I'd have to say family my kids and grandkids and the Ronald McDonald House. I've been a volunteer there for several years, and it's very dear to us. I can't imagine my life without the Ronald McDonald House in it.


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