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Delaware’s Business Owner: The Key to Success in Economically Troubled Times


Supply chain issues in the United States started with COVID-19, but they’ve continued and, in some cases, gotten worse, for a variety of different reasons. When the pandemic struck, many factories were forced to temporarily shut down; loss of revenue also forced many businesses and manufacturers to permanently close.

There’s also the sad truth that, globally, more than six million people have died as a result of the virus. That’s a significant number of people, many of whom were a valuable part of the workforce. Other reasons for supply issues include ecological problems– like record high temperatures and unprecedented weather events like forest fires, hurricanes, and devastating ice storms. 

Economic difficulty continues even today, two years after the initial spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is in part because the decreased labor force has resulted in an extreme backlog of goods and materials. Our nation’s ports are crowded and overwhelmed with cargo ships which are having a hard time finding their way to the right places.

One Eastern Maryland construction company has managed to stay afloat, and in the black, throughout all of the turmoil of the past few years. Keith D. Clarke, senior estimator and project manager, has seen the company through all of the ups and downs of the past few years, and has some valuable insight to share with others in the industry.

Keith D. Clarke explains that a good way for a company to survive in a struggling economy is having the ability to diversify their scope of work. For instance, the tumultuous nature of the private residential housing market over the past few years means that companies who focus on that sector should diversify and locate other areas where they might succeed.

The cost of materials has greatly increased, too. Part of the way a company survives this increase is by using a little foresight. Keith D. Clarke explains how Noland Mechanical anticipated future difficulty sourcing PVC piping, so they purchased mass quantities of it to stockpile. This anticipation meant that their customers got their projects done on time, without the delays that come with supply shortages or the increase in price that comes with increased demand.

There are also industries that haven’t been hit quite as hard by the pandemic. Some projects were shuttered during the past few years, but others were accelerated, like government-subsidized housing. Getting people into housing was a priority, so these projects remained funded. Noland Mechanical is experienced in working on similar projects, so they were able to accept this work in order to retain employees and continue to make a profit– in addition to providing housing to people who need it most.

Of course, HVAC companies tend to be a little less affected by economic hardships than some other industries. This is due to the fact that HVAC services are necessary– in healthcare and other environments, refrigeration is absolutely crucial and can mean the difference between life and death, especially in ICUs. The demand for quality HVAC systems is only growing, and people can’t skimp on their systems because a poor quality or badly maintained system will only make energy bills skyrocket and have a negative impact on the environment to boot.

According to Keith D. Clarke, HVAC companies tend to make it through recessions without too much difficulty because people will simply do what it takes to get the systems they need and maintain them to minimize energy consumption costs.

Of course, Noland Mechanical hasn’t escaped the past few years without at least a few difficulties. Supply issues are a constant problem, especially for construction– the cost of building materials has nearly tripled, and other common materials, like steel, are especially difficult to obtain. 

However, Keith D. Clarke’s years of experience in the industry have given him the necessary skills to find a way through any hardship his company experiences. With a little foresight, industry knowledge, and creativity, Noland Mechanical is planning to stick around for decades to come.