Our History

Mr. & Mrs. Brown

It was the year Harry Truman promised to give Americans a “Fair Deal.”  It was 1949, and Nathan Brown started his business with the same goal in mind for his customers. 
In a small garage in Burlington, Vermont, he started VHV.  Over the next 50 years, VHV evolved into one of the premier mechanical contracting companies in New England.
Born in Quincy, MA in 1907, Nathan Brown moved to Vermont in 1944 to simplify his life and live off the land in the noble pursuit of farming.  Realizing farming was not going to adequately support his wife and 5 children, Nathan fell back on the skills he had developed building heating and ventilating systems in Liberty Ships for the war effort.  He got a job with a local mechanical contracting company making the handsome sum of $1.50/hour. 

After only a few years Nathan got the itch to start his own business.  By cashing in his life insurance policy and treasury bonds, and getting a loan of $500 from his sister, he and his friend Jack O’Brien started their own heating and ventilating business.  They purchased the least expensive fabrication equipment they could find and housed it in a rented garage for the outrageous fee of $15 per month.  They were on their way. 
Although differing business philosophies caused Nathan to buy Jack out only 7 months after they began, their lasting friendship survived.  Jack went on to become a prominent Vermont State Senator from 1960-1975.
In the 1950’s, Nathan began to branch out from residential into commercial and industrial markets.  Since money was tight, Nathan used his charm and salesmanship to try to convince his first few customers to provide him some financing to complete their projects.  Although reluctant, they obliged him and were very happy they did.
During the 1950’s and 1960’s many of Nathan’s family joined the business.  By 1963 his four sons, Gerald, Kenneth, David, and Peter, one son in law, Charlie Spence, and a family friend, Robert Miller had all become Nathan’s new partners.  This had really become a family affair.
The 1960’s and 1970’s were substantial growth periods.  In 1957 IBM located one of the largest manufacturing facilities of semiconductors in the world in Essex Junction, Vermont.  This provided a substantial boom for VHV during the growth stages of this facility.  During this period, VHV also expanded geographically by pursuing projects from Caribou, Maine to Dover, Delaware.
VHV Wins national LIFT America AwardUpon Nathan’s retirement in 1970 his eldest son Jerry took on the responsibilities as President of VHV.  Jerry’s tenure was marked primarily by his strong commitment to education and training both for VHV and the State of Vermont.  His leadership was critical to the development of statewide apprentice programs for the sheetmetal trade. In 1992, Jerry’s efforts culminated in VHV being the recipient of the national LIFT (Labor Investing For Tomorrow) America Award for excellence in employee education and training putting VHV’s name alongside some nationally recognized leaders such as Ford Motor Co., AT&T, and Polaroid Corp.
In 1980 VHV leveraged its experience building clean rooms for IBM by establishing a new division of the corporation named Quality Air Control.  This division has blossomed into a full service provider of design and construction services to the semiconductor, biomedical, and pharmaceutical industries for the purpose of building clean rooms and other specialty applications. 
In 1987, VHV sold the manufacturing arm of the business to a newly established company Fab-Tech Inc.  Due to high capital costs in the manufacturing business and the cyclical nature of the construction industry, the idea was to diversify the manufacturing business by developing and selling multiple product lines.  Again, from the many years of experience at IBM, Fab-Tech Inc. developed a very successful product called Perma Shield Pipe (PSP®).  This product is a teflon coated stainless steel pipe designed for highly corrosive exhaust environments.  Through the leadership of it’s President, John Moore (son-in-law of Gerald Brown), Fab-Tech now sells PSP® throughout the United States and internationally in countries such as Taiwan, Singapore, Korea, Israel, Ireland and others.  In 1997 Fab-Tech was the second fastest growing business in Vermont over the prior 5 year period (VHV was right behind them in third).  Currently, Fab-Tech Inc. is one of the largest exporters in the State of Vermont.
The success of VHV and Fab-Tech reflects the unparalleled hard work and loyalty of the many individuals who have contributed, past and present.  The two companies currently employ over 300 dedicated people.  Many of the original employees from the 1950’s and 1960’s have decendents who currently contribute to the businesses.  Colorful stories of the many families and individuals who have contributed to the business over the past 50 years are often remembered.
Today VHV is a full mechanical contractor serving customers all over New England.  In 1998 VHV responded to customer requests by developing a plumbing and mechanical piping crew to augment their highly skilled sheetmetal and service personnel.  This addition fills out VHV’s field capabilities by providing the customers what they desire - a one stop shop for mechanical services.  The highly skilled field crews coupled with the experienced engineering and management staff provides VHV an unmatched combination in their industry.
In addition to providing their customers a “Fair Deal”, the mission for the new millennium is simple:  to be their customers preferred provider, and to be the employer of choice in their industry.  The third generation of leadership will accomplish this by continuing the traditions of the first two generations:  completing jobs on time and within budget, delivering a superior product, and by allowing their employees to grow and learn in a safe, fun and rewarding environment.  VHV is proud of its first 50 years and with the help of their dedicated work force they plan on successfully fulfilling their vision into the 21st century. 

Source: Duffy, John J., Feeney, Vincent (2000) Vermont: An Illustrated History

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