January 19, 2009 // Franchising.com // Ann Arbor, MI – Restoring the air that people breathe following a natural disaster and maintaining healthy air in homes and businesses across America are enormous, ongoing responsibilities … and big business. The combined demand for commercial and residential air restoration services translates into a $75 billion industry that remains unscathed by economic conditions.
So far, one franchise has emerged the leader in this specialty area. In fact, while shrinking revenues and layoffs dominated business news last year, DUCTZ, the nation's largest network of contractors that cleans and restores HVAC and energy systems, defied those odds by opening more than 50 new franchises and earning double-digit unit sales increases across the board. In addition, in 2008 alone, franchise owners benefited from more than $4 million of pushdown work from their parent company on national projects resulting from natural disasters.
DUCTZ, originally founded in 2002, as a "one van" operation in Ann Arbor, MI, has rapidly grown to more than 130 franchise locations, and company executives project continued momentum for the coming year with 12 additional locations already in development.
While referral relationships with HVAC contractors around the country continue to drive residential homeowner business for DUCTZ, franchise owners also derive a significant share of their business from national projects related to natural disasters. In 2005, when Hurricane Katrina plagued the Gulf Coast with devastation, including severe mold, smoke, and water damage that affected homes, businesses, and other buildings in those communities, DUCTZ received a call from BELFOR, USA, the world's largest insurance restoration company, to deploy 45 professionals to New Orleans to provide air duct cleaning in the U.S. Department of Agriculture building and to The Shops At Canal Street.
The Hurricane Katrina project led to the creation of the DUCTZ National Service Team, the first rapid-response team in the industry, comprised of highly trained and certified DUCTZ specialists pulled from its franchise owners to provide services throughout the country. In 2008, DUCTZ officially became a subsidiary of BELFOR, USA, and is now frequently called upon by government agencies to assist in large-scale natural disaster projects, some of which are funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
"DUCTZ technicians are the first to respond when there's a need to restore air quality," said John Rotche, Founder and President of DUTCZ International. "We're not there to profit after a disaster by installing new, granite countertops or luxury items. We're there on the spot to make the air safe again for people to breathe in these buildings. Our franchise owners feel good about offering such an important, need-based service."
Rotche is quick to point out that in addition to fires, floods, Tsunamis, and hurricanes, DUCTZ also provides services in residential homes. He says when homeowners know that DUCTZ is called upon by government agencies to handle major disasters, they feel a tremendous peace of mind to have those skilled workers enhancing the air quality in their homes.
DUCTZ "green" services for commercial and residential customers include dryer vent cleaning, a number of efficiency filtration options, and ultraviolet germicidal disinfections that kill microbial growth, viruses, bacteria, and other disease carrying microorganisms, killing up to 99.9% of airborne bacteria and viruses.
As a need-based franchise, the DUCTZ opportunity is attractive to new owners looking to diversify their portfolio with a new low-cost endeavor. Franchise owners can run their locations through an investor model, where the owner keeps their job and hires a staff to run the day-to-day operations. DUCTZ franchise owners are often paid directly by insurance companies and restoration contractors through claims filed by property and business owners.
Owners can receive additional income from pushdown projects and by working on the National Service Team Projects. There, DUCTZ franchise owners and technicians have the opportunity to travel and glean exceptional experience and credibility, bringing that back to their local markets. In addition, the corporate team continues to create new add-on revenue stream opportunities for its franchise owners, including HOODZ, a kitchen exhaust cleaning franchise that will launch later this year.
"We serve a $75 billion recession-resistant industry in one of the largest customer bases in the country," said Rotche, "Entrepreneurs are presented with a sustainable business that's health conscious, environmentally sound, and poised for any economic climate that they can feel proud to open."
DUCTZ franchise owners and their employees go through extensive training and certification programs at the 18,000 sq. ft. national training center, an innovative facility approved by the National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA), complete with a life size model-home. Upon completion, they are considered professionals in the business and will be recognized as an Air Systems Cleaning Specialist (ASCS), a certification given by NADCA to trained and qualified professionals that ensures that all cleaning is performed in accordance with NADCA Standards and Guidelines. Start-up costs range between $22,000 and $40,000, and many DUCTZ franchise owners operate the business from home, leasing space for storage equipment.
DUCTZ, the nation's largest HVAC franchise, was originally founded by John Rotche in 2002, as a "one van" operation in Ann Arbor, MI. Since franchising in 2004, DUCTZ has quickly become a recognizable industry leader now operating 134 franchise locations in 32 states. In 2006, Rotche merged with its top competitor, a strategic merger that created the largest and most technically advanced organization within the industry. DUCTZ is a subsidiary of BELFOR, USA, a member of the National Air Duct Cleaner's Association (NADCA), and Energy Star approved. DUCTZ was featured on cable television's show Designing Spaces, and in Entrepreneur magazine's January 2009 issue, was ranked #1 in its category and in the upper half of the Top 500 Franchises in the United States.