What started in a Westside, 960-square-foot garage has grown to a business that tallied $24.5 million in receipts in 2017. And PLS Mechanical, which just celebrated its 10th anniversary, is not done yet. It’s projected to grow another 10-20 percent this year, according to owner Brian Clark.
PLS Mechanical has grown so much, it’s had to move about every three years to expand its space to meet customers’ needs. Clark said he hopes the company’s 60,000-square-foot building, which sits on 5 acres along Centennial Boulevard, will be enough — at least for a while.
“That was my whole point [moving to] this building,” he said. “At least I have the land. If I need to build, I can.”
The company specializes in the full design, construction, fabrication, service and maintenance for complex plumbing, piping and HVAC systems. It outfits brand-new buildings, with much of its success having come from working with every government facility in the state, including the local Veterans Affairs hospital on Fillmore Street.
PLS Mechanical has also added schools and commercial buildings to its mix of projects — specifically plumbing, medical gas, underground utilities, hydronic piping (chilled water and heating water), refrigeration piping and duct work for air movement.
Though Clark’s business is just a decade old, the 37-year-old grew up in the family business, Olson Plumbing & Heating. He has a passion for the business they built, but wanted to create his own company on his own terms.
“Anybody can take over a company,” Clark said, adding he wanted to start from nothing and build it the way he wanted. On occasion, however, he finds himself competing against his own family for jobs. But they handle it like professionals.
“We still have a talking relationship,” he said.
In the early days, while working from his garage at the beginning of the Great Recession, he landed one of his first projects: running water lines to tennis courts at Peterson Air Force Base.
“I was bidding [on projects] at night and working during the day,” he said. “It was pretty stressful at first. I almost went belly up, almost lost my house; 2008 was the worst time to start anything around here.”
He worked seven days a week and 14-16 hour days for the first few years.
“I started this company with $300,” Clark said. “When you’re waiting 30 to 90 days to get paid, that’s pretty stressful.”
But he determined if he could make it in 2008, he could make it during any other economic downturn.
The second year of business saw more contracts, he said. And everything Clark made, he put back into the company.
“I still keep that mentality today. I don’t need to live a high life,” he said. “I spend more money in automation equipment. … We have some of the most automated equipment in town.”
That equipment includes an automatic welder, the Rotoweld 3.0. Remaining current with technology is a no-brainer, as it makes his business more cost effective and more competitive, he said.
In the beginning, it was just Brian and his brother Matthew. His brother stayed on for about a year, moved to California but returned in 2016, and is now the fabrication shop foreman.
The business has also evolved through the years. The company used to specialize in pipelines and, six years later, moved completely to sheet-metal fabrication and started doing business as PLS Mechanical (it was originally Pipeline Specialties). Clark also has another entity, PLS Services, which handles HVAC accounts, many of which are also government.
Clark said the company has grown to about 85 employees.
“We’re a really good team,” he said, adding he expects to be at 100 employees around April and 120 employees nearing the end of the summer.
But growth has always been a part of Clark’s business plan.
“It needs to grow at 10 to 20 percent per year,” he said. “Surrounding myself with the right people, we have the ability to do that.”
Location: 5090 Centennial Blvd.