Additional Services for Polk County Companies from CFDC Investor, W.W. Gay Mechanical Contractors
W.W. Gay Mechanical Contractor started as a HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) and plumbing company, but now, at just over 60 years old, it does whatever it takes – almost — to get the job done.
However, W.W. Gay Mechanical Contractor still does not do electrical, said Emily Andrews, vice president of Marketing and Community Relations.
After Bill Gay graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in construction, he went to work with several other men before deciding he wanted to start his own company. He did just that in 1962 in Jacksonville, where W.W. Gay’s headquarters remains. It expanded into Fort Meade to make it more convenient to complete work in Central Florida.
Gay died on March 31, 2020. “He was still coming into the office until almost the very end,” Andrews said. “He was well into his 80s, but he didn’t know how to stop working.”
Five months to the day later, a devastating fire destroyed the company’s headquarters, which was later demolished, Andrews said. “We broke ground on a new building on Aug. 31, 2022, one day before our 60th anniversary. We were supposed to have the grand opening of the new building on Aug. 31, 2023, but Hurricane Idalia stopped that. It’s been a long journey since he passed.”
Andrews said she thinks Gay “would be very proud of our success since he passed. We’re on the verge of moving into new markets and growing the business. I think he would be very surprised, shocked and humbled at how big his business has grown. I don’t think he had any idea how big it would become when he started out.”
The company has 1,200 employees. The workforce is unionized, something Gay believed in, Andrews said. “He never wanted to change that about his business.
Looking to broaden their presence in Florida, they expanded into Fort Meade. Polk’s ideal position between Orlando and Tampa makes it more convenient to complete work in Central Florida.
Their portfolio includes a wide array of notable projects including Suntrax, the state-of-the-art research and testing facility for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAV’s) and emerging transportation technologies. W.W. Gay was responsible for the mechanical and plumbing in the large-scale, cutting-edge facility situated on 475 acres along the Polk Parkway in Central Florida’s Innovation District.
The company is looking to expand in Central Florida, likely in Tampa, she said. “We are still working to build that market.” It also has also set its sight on Georgia, she said.
Gay’s grandson, Paul Jones, is now the CEO. Andrews said he’s all about “pursuing excellence.”
“It’s what drives him everyday in all aspects,” she said. “He will always honor our past. But he also knows we have to move forward, and he lives by ‘what got us here isn’t going to get us there.’ He’s proud of the legacy while doing things we need to do to move us forward.”
That legacy means doing whatever you have to to get the job done, Andrews said.
“We’re an HVAC and plumbing contractor, but Mr. Gay always believed that if someone asked us to do something, we were going to do it. We would go above and beyond to get a job done.”
He believed, as Jones and others at the company do, that its employees are the best in the business. “We had – and have — talent and skilled labor to accomplish anything. We thrive with HVAC and plumbing, but we have a very talented labor force.”
And that sets the company apart from its competitors, she said. “There’s not much that we can’t do.” And look forward to partnering with similar organizations in Polk County as it continues to grow its Central Florida market.
W.W. Gay Mechanical Giving Back
The company is active in its three main markets – Jacksonville, Gainesville and Orlando, and giving back is important, Andrews said. “That is part of who we are. It’s in our DNA. We work really closely and partner with customers.”
But it’s more than that. “If someone went to Mr. Gay and said, ‘Would you give to this charity or do this?’ he never said no. Make A Wish, Dreams Come True, whatever – if it is here in the community and local, he did it. Paul is continuing that as well.”
It will look at similar opportunities in Polk County as it continues to grow its Central Florida market.