From humble roots in New York over seven decades ago, Tech Air maintained a modest yet important existence in the regional industrial gas and welding distributor business for much of its history.
The last two decades has seen the company restructure and flourish, embarking upon a particularly ambitious acquisition trail under the ownership of CI Capital Partners and Tech Air management – activity that has seen the company grow into a multi-regional player.
The landmark 20th acquisition under this ownership came at the turn of 2017, in the shape of Florida-based Gasco Affiliates LLC (GASCO), signalling Tech Air’s expansion not just across state borders, but beyond the industrial gases business and into the growing world of specialty gases production too.
Gasco itself was only founded in 1999 and has been carving out a niche in specialty gas expertise and innovation ever since. The company is the leading and only independent manufacturer of precision calibration gas mixtures in the US and a major player on the international stage, providing a wide range of simple mixtures such as ultra high purity (UHP) nitrogen, as well as complex four-gas mixtures and highly reactive gas mixtures.
So what does the ownership of Tech Air bring to this position of leadership, and how likely is it to change the business in the future?
“Tech Air’s impact on Gasco has been very positive for the organisation,” says Gasco President Brad Hanway. “Aside from the retirement of company founder Tom Hanway, Gasco has remained completely intact. And the capital strength of Tech Air has actually allowed Gasco to further improve its technology and add critical pieces that we have been lacking.”
“In the acquisition integration, Tech Air maintained a ‘do no harm’ attitude; and they have stood by their word.”
Gasco has in fact added six new employees and has made multiple purchases of high-end equipment since the acquisition that are enabling it to serve its extensive distributor base even better. Tech Air has also brought some structure to the organisation that has helped Gasco to streamline its business, Hanway says. “Gasco has not lost a single employee or a single customer. I see nothing but a bright, bright future for our organisation.”
Though Tech Air and Gasco are little more than six months into their new relationship, much has already been shared between the two companies – from safety to technologies and information. “First and foremost, Tech Air brought over a safety programme that has been tremendous,” Hanway explains. “We have implemented many safety upgrades that give our employees an even stronger piece of mind in the workplace. We have always had a safe work environment, but now we are on an even higher level.”
“As far as blending capabilities in the specialty gas arena,” he adds, “we have been able to share with each other a multitude of technologies and information that will enhance Gasco and the other 38 Tech Air locations. So far, it has been a huge win-win for all involved.”
Perhaps the most significant factor, however, is the backing – both financial and supportive – that Tech Air brings to the Gasco fold. Hanway exudes enthusiasm as he describes the enriched investment capabilities that Gasco now has at its considered disposal. “Our budget has tremendously improved. We now have the backing to implement many organisational improvements that will allow us to serve our customer base at an even higher level.”
“[Yet] I think the biggest thing that Tech Air brings to Gasco beyond the financial backing is the trust and belief in how Gasco goes to market. They truly have a hands-off, but supportive approach to our team and how we service our amazing distributors. They understand that the critical importance of our distributor network.”
There have, of course, been challenges to overcome in the integration of the two companies, but these are understood to have been mostly on the administrative side of the business and certainly nothing that would trouble either Gasco or Tech Air. In fact, the assimilation of Gasco and Tech Air has been so smooth and sanguine that Gasco is looking to a future in specialty gases without limits.
“The bright future of ecosmart™ [Gasco’s proprietary range of reusable cylinders] and Gasco has already been realised but now – with the new plans we have for our company and the product line – there really is no limit to what we can achieve,” Hanway enthuses.
“Gasco has continued to grow at an astounding rate and has not slowed a bit since the acquisition. We feel that if we continue to listen to the needs of the customer and continue to be the industry leader in innovation, service and quality, there is no limit to what this organisation can become. This team here in Florida and in Texas is so driven to be the best at what we do, there is no other outcome conceivable but success.”
“…we contacted our customer base and assured them of the same great products and services they have always received, and pressed them to tell us at any time if they see any changes in the Gasco brand and service”
Gasco has long prided itself on its tenacity in technology and innovation; the company has previously told gasworld that it never wanted to be a follower, instead focusing on being a leader in pioneering and meeting its customers’ needs.
Gasco’s products are used in an extensive range of applications, from traditional fixed and portable gas detection monitors to custom-made mixes and cylinders for niche markets. The company provides non-reactive single calibration gases and refrigerants, reactive single gases, both reactive and non-reactive multi-gas mixtures, and a range of specialty rare gases up to 99.99999% (5N) purity and multi-component hydrocarbon mixtures.
It’s equipment portfolio ranges from disposable steel and aluminium cylinders to its proprietary ecosmartTM range of reusable cylinders. The latter is a prime example of Gasco’s determination to forge new paths forward. The company identified a need in the market for a reusable cylinder for calibration gases back in 2007, and has been keenly promoting their use as an alternative to disposable cylinders ever since in the form of the ecosmart™ programme – allowing customers to return their empty cylinders in bulk collection or via a returns service at gascogas.com (at no cost to the customer), whereby they are checked for quality and either reused or recycled.
The ecosmart™ was initially only offered in a 116 litre capacity, but has subsequently been introduced in five alternative-sized cylinders ranging from small to large (44, 58, 66, 105 and 650 litre aluminium cylinders) capacities, all of which are readily available for next day shipment in the US. And the innovation in its flagship ecosmart™ range continues with great gusto with the newfound support of Tech Air.
“It is the 10th anniversary of the industry-first ecosmart™ brand, and we are re-launching it with a whole new look and design,” says Hanway. “We have also launched a couple of new ecosmart™ products, the ecoBump and the EZ Cal. Both products enhance the ecosmart™ product line and demonstrate that Gasco will continue to be the innovative leader in this market with Tech Air’s backing. Tech Air completely believes in the Gasco ‘way’.”
Small enough to fit in your pocket, the ecoBump is a small Bump Gas cylinder that is essentially a personal gas bottle for the user and gives both the user and employer piece of mind that the life saving gas detector being used is having the proper ‘Bump Test’ done to it, every day. This allows a company to easily provide a bottle of gas to each and every one of its workers in the field. “Now, there is no reason for a person to say they weren’t able to ‘Bump Test’ their detector,” Hanway adds.
The EZ Cal, meanwhile, is an all-in-one cylinder and regulator. “This all-in-one ecosmart™ with EZ CAL is the perfect product for the on-the-go worker who needs a complete solution while on the road,” he affirms.
Both are firsts for the market, and continue the ‘Gasco way’ – a philosophy that Tech Air, Gasco and all of its employees and customers are invested in. And those customers are arguably more involved than ever before, having been charged with ensuring that Gasco doesn’t lose its way in the midst of new growth opportunities. “…we contacted our customer base and assured them of the same great products and services they have always received, and pressed them to tell us at any time if they see any changes in the Gasco brand and service,” Hanway concludes.
With an unwavering commitment to progress and innovation at Gasco, there’s no change there.