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Cranston-based Taco Inc. has a long history of developing new heating and air-conditioning technologies, including such advances as the tankless water heater, zone valves and vertical pumps.
But when asked about their company’s greatest innovations, executives at the company often point to training and education programs offered to employees and their families.
At the company’’s learning centers in Cranston and Fall River, you’ll find employees enrolled in regular classes on repair and maintenance of Taco equipment. But it doesn’t end there. The company also provides dozens of courses on everything from personal financial planning and basic math to gardening and art appreciation.
Talk to company leaders, and they’ll insist there’s a payoff. “We … have always believed that our employees are our most important company asset,” says B. Christopher Integlia, executive vice president for Taco’’s residential division. “Their professional and personal development make us a better company.”
Taco, a family-owned company with a 90-year history, is one of the top manufacturers for pumps, controls and other parts used in heating and air-conditioning equipment. Annual sales now top $200 million. The company employs more than 500 people at its Cranston headquarters and at facilities in Fall River and Ontario, Canada.
The Taco Learning Center, developed by the company’’s human resources department, opened in 1992. The main focus, of course, has always been helping employees gain new job skills. Some students learn English as a second language, or work toward obtaining a high school equivalency diploma.
But it doesn’t end there: the center also offers courses in such wide-ranging subjects as home economics, public speaking, aerobics and first aid. Teachers are a mix of Taco staff and professional educators employed by the company part time.
The learning center even provides employees with the opportunity to earn an MBA degree at Johnson & Wales University, or take courses in leadership and development at Roger Williams University. The company picks up tuition bills.
According to Integlia, enrollment in classes tops 470 a year.
Company President John Hazen White Jr., whose grandfather founded the company, recently expanded the learning center with an $18 million addition at the Cranston headquarters. The new facility, known as the Innovation and Development Center, is fitted with all the latest HVAC technologies – such as radiant heating and cooling and Web-based controls – so that employees as well as students from outside the company can study the equipment. The building is also used for research and development.
“It’s a wonderful showcase for our industry, where members of our professional community will learn about the latest technology,” White said in a recent press release. •