Jodi van Haren is passionate about business and about mentoring others looking to start a business. van Haren, owner and CEO of Advantage Mechanical Refrigeration (AMR) in Comstock Park, says when running a business rule number one is “be honest.
“Your reputation is everything,” said van Haren, adding she was raised to have a strong work ethic. “There are so many opportunities to cheat. You want to be known as honest.”
van Haren founded AMR, a full service mechanical contractor company specializing in HVACR (heating, ventilation, air-conditioning, and refrigeration) with a business partner in 2001 out of her basement, garage, and shed. As the business grew so did the inventory and the number of employees. It became obvious she needed more space. She tried two locations on West River Drive before settling in at the current space, 4870-F West River Dr. NE. in 2007.
“It’s perfect for us,” said van Haren of the 7200 square foot space she leases. “It’s such a good location, just a half mile from the highway (131 Expressway), good for our service techs.”
The space is approximately one-third offices and two-thirds shop area for storage, fabrication, delivery, and loading. van Haren said the service vans are mini-shops each with its own tools and equipment. She and the employees enjoy walking at lunch time on the White Pine Trail that runs behind their shop.
There are 13 full-time employees and a part time shop manager. Extra people are hired as needed for projects. van Haren’s husband Brian, who owns van Haren Mechanical, works as a master plumber. There are journeymen, apprentice service techs, foremen, a government contract manager, service manager, finance administrator, and construction manager and estimator. van Haren gives credit to her “great team” for the company’s success.
AMR’s service area is all of lower Michigan. The federal government is their biggest customer, and they have worked at the Gerald R. Ford Courthouse in Grand Rapids and the Ann Arbor Federal Building. School districts they’ve worked at include Comstock Park, Kentwood, and Rockford, and they have done work at Grand Rapids Community College and Grand Valley State University. They also worked on the Wexford County Ice Arena, and UPS is a big customer.
AMR is a minority owned business. van Haren is part Native American (Chippewa tribe). Plus she is a female who owns a mechanical contracting business, a male dominated industry. The 2015 State of Women-Owned Business Report said that while 30 percent of all businesses are women-owned nationally, just seven percent of businesses in the construction industry are owned by women. AMR was named the 2017 Business Journal Top Area Specialty Contractor. van Haren is on the Leadership Council of the West Michigan Minority Contractor Association that promotes minority contractors. She is also a member of the West Michigan Mechanical Contractors Association, and a graduate of the inaugural class of Elevate Minority Businesses, a program that supports minority business owners.
There is no sales staff at AMR. van Haren says they rely on word of mouth, networking, and attending industry events. Staff at AMR make a daily check of the Builders Exchange, an organization that reports on bidding opportunities in the commercial and public construction industry.
van Haren grew up in Rockford and attended both Rockford and Tri-Unity Christian High Schools, graduating from Tri-Unity. She attended what was then Grand Rapids Junior College earning an Associates in Arts. van Haren and her husband live in Belmont. They have five children together and her son Aaron works for the company. She and her husband enjoy bike riding, camping and kayaking.