Aug 30, 2022
Ep 64 - Generating Innovation in Family Business
as members of the Wetzel* family, Lawrence & Michael*, of Air
Innovations discuss the need to constantly seek the advice of
others, Michael’s unique entry into the family business and a fun
story about an exciting design they developed for a major Las Vegas
Lawrence E. Wetzel, P.E*
Lawrence E. Wetzel is an engineer, an inventor and a businessman. He earned a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Pennsylvania State University, and BA in Mathematics from St. Vincent College. He is a Licensed Professional Engineer in the States of New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and California, and holds five U.S. patents and one European patent.
Starting as a junior engineer for a mechanical contractor, he quickly rose to become President of a division. In 1983, he founded Clean Room Technology and rapidly built it into an international business with sales of $20 million. After merging his company in 1989 with the French company Clestra, he spent the next several years as Chairman of Clestra worldwide cleanroom operations with sales of more than $40 million.
In 1994, Mr. Wetzel co-founded Exponential Business Development Company and raised over $5 million in capital to invest in entrepreneurial emerging companies in Upstate New York. In 2002, Exponential was merged with a NYC venture capital firm.
Early in 1996, Mr. Wetzel and his son, Michael, acquired controlling interest in Floratech Industries, a manufacturer of refrigerated floral display cases for supermarkets. Early on, the Wetzel’s began expanding their product offerings, such as an innovative new air conditioning product, called HEPAir, for the indoor air quality market. In 1999, Floratech acquired the air conditioning manufacturing division back from Clestra and in 2001 changed its name to Air Innovations to better reflect its broader mission.
During this same period, Mr. Wetzel became the part-time Chairman and CEO of a Rochester, NY based software development company called Verax Systems. Mr. Wetzel successfully turned the struggling company around and in 1999 sold it to a division of Siemens AG.
Mr. Wetzel is active in many philanthropic and business organizations in the Central NY community. He and his wife, Glenda, reside in Cazenovia, NY and enjoy travel, boating, and biking. They also enjoy renovating older real estate properties, such as an 1820 farmhouse on Nantucket Island, an 1865 house in Charleston, SC and the latest is an 1810 post and beam cottage in Cazenovia.
Michael Wetzel is President and CEO of Air Innovations. Wetzel is a graduate of Clarkson University where he received a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering. He is a licensed Professional Engineer and is the holder of seven US patents.
Prior to Air Innovations, Wetzel was based in Strasbourg, France for four years working for a multinational company building cleanrooms in Europe and the Mideast. Previously he worked stateside as an engineering manager in the HVAC construction industry. Since joining the company as president and CEO in 1996, and after he and his father Larry acquired controlling interest in Floratech Industries, Wetzel has grown Air Innovations from a company focused solely on floral coolers to one that addresses wide variety of refrigeration, air conditioning, and filtration needs.
Air Innovations is a world leader in designing and building environmental process control systems for applications that can’t be addressed with standard HVAC equipment. They customize packaged solutions for temperature, humidity, filtration, pressurization, and with direct-expansion, chilled-water, or thermoelectric capabilities.
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*not affiliated with Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp.
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