Rheem Water Heating
Rheem Water Heating Vice President and General Manager Peter Reynolds
Getting Into Hot Water
Whether it’s a cool April night or a steamy July day, there’s one thing you can count on after a game at Riverwalk Stadium: Dozens of players and staff will be taking a shower.
by David Zaslawsky
And they have Rheem Water Heating to thank for their hot water on demand. The Montgomery-based manufacturer keeps the showers running hot at Riverwalk Stadium.
Of course the players don’t care about that, and are hardly even aware of it. In fact, the company that employs 1,000-plus people and is one of the region’s largest manufacturers keeps a pretty low profile by design.
“It’s our culture not to self aggrandize; we don’t boast, preach or brag about our success,” said Peter Reynolds, vice president and general manager of Rheem Water Heating. “We have a servant leadership mentality that is focused as much on serving our employees and our customers as there is in building up our own image.”
The company has three facilities in Montgomery, including one at Gunter Industrial Park, that employs about 850 people. The Rheem facility in Montgomery is the company’s water heating division headquarters.
Rheem, which was recently named a finalist in Alabama Manufacturer of the Year’s large-company category, has been the exclusive supplier of water heaters to Home Depot for 10-plus years.
The Montgomery manufacturing plant, which has been expanded three times and is about 675,000 square feet, has a capacity of producing up to 10,000 units a day and has produced that many at times during peak demand, Reynolds said.
The heavy-duty commercial products are made solely in Montgomery for use by hotels, health clubs, dormitories and apartment buildings. Rheem manufactures both electric
and gas units. Some of the commercial storage water heaters have capacities of 175 gallons compared to typical residential units that are 40 to 50 gallons.
The company also has a customer care center in Montgomery and its division head office near the manufacturing facility.
“I think the biggest impact we have is that not only are we a manufacturer, but we have our division head office here so we have a very good cross-section of what I would call manufacturing blue-collar jobs and white-collar jobs,” Reynolds said.
“We have our research and development facilities headquartered here; we have our IT infrastructure here; and we have our call center for our entire water heater division here. We’ve been attracting and employing more skilled jobs and more technical jobs as we’ve grown our research and development requirements – adding brain power at a faster rate than muscle power.”
One of the things Reynolds says he is most proud of is that no employee has been laid off in the company’s entire 37-year history.
He said there have been times when days were taken out of production, “but we desperately don’t want to lose the expertise and experience we have in our work force.”
He does boast about topping 1 million hours without an accident. That milestone is continuing.
“We’ve also had what I would say is a very conservative corporate culture, which has imprinted itself at the division level.”
Reynolds said the company’s low profile in the River Region may also stem from being a guest.
“When I first moved here I was told very, very honestly and sincerely that I will always be welcomed here in Alabama, but I will always be a guest,” said Reynolds, who is from Canada and was with Rheem in Chicago when the company moved some operations
“I think as a company we felt the same thing coming here from Chicago,” Reynolds said. “We did not want to bring a northern attitude to a southern community. We wanted to come here and become engaged in the community and be a part of it. We’ve done a lot to try and be gracious guests.”
Rheem plays an active role in the community, donating $100,000-plus a year to local charities and organizations.
“We actively support a laundry list of what we see are important issues – the most significant one is the education side of the business,” Reynolds said. “We need to have a good public education system for our employees. Partners in Education is an on-going function that we support.” •