Businessman Barry Schwan says Joe Samia is living his own version of the American dream.
The Lebanon native is the new owner of Central Air Conditioning Co. and Central Fire Protection Co., which he’s combined and renamed Central Consolidated Inc.
Samia, who moved to the United States in 1983 and to Wichita in 1990, joined Central Air as a mechanical engineer in 1992. He worked for a previous ownership group and began buying into the company, which started in 1959, around 1997.
Then, in 2001, Schwan, George Fahnestock, Scott Ritchie III and Ken Shannon purchased the company a few months before 9/11.
“Which was a really bad time to buy a company that was doing about 70 percent of its business in the aircraft industry,” Schwan says. “We spent a lot of time as a group huddled … around how to reinvent the company during those first few hard years. Joe was a really big part of it.”
In 2011, Samia bought back into the company and was an equal partner with the others.
“It was really in our long-term plans as a group … to not own the company forever,” Schwan says.
“Joe came through the company from the ground up,” he says. “He’s put in a lot of hours and a lot of blood, sweat and tears, and he deserves to have a shot at it. … We’re all just extremely excited for Joe.”
Samia is a majority owner of the business but also has a silent partner.
He says Central Air has added a lot of services, so it made sense to change the name.
“It didn’t represent … what services we provide,” Samia says. “Air Conditioning in our name really had become somewhat outdated.”
The company does HVAC work, plumbing, piping, custom fabrication, fire protection, design build, architectural sheet metal and industrial tank fabrication.
Schwan says the company has diversified beyond aviation work.
“It’s a major part of our business, yes, but it’s far more diversified both from a industry standpoint but also geographically.”
In 2013, the company added a Coffeyville location, and Samia says he’s interested in expanding again this year.
“I am living the dream,” he says.
It may be the American dream, but Samia credits his Lebanese heritage, too.
“You know, entrepreneurship is … in the Lebanese blood.”