This article originally appeared in Buffalo Business First. See the original article here >
By Patrick Connelly
Buffalo Business First
Each day, John Darby finds himself in an interesting position as the leader of his Buffalo companies.
On one hand, he is focused on the decisions involved with running each in the modern era, while on the other he considers what his father or great uncle would do in certain scenarios.
“You feel some responsibility to your legacy and your history,” Darby said. “You also have some sense of obligation to making sure you are making good, sound business decisions for the future, too.”
One that’s been on his mind for the last eight years became a reality this month. As Niagara Transformer Corp. approaches its 100th anniversary in 2024, Darby set a plan in motion to split the company in two and partially rebrand. Now, the transformer manufacturing portion will be called Niagara Power Transformer. A new arm of the business, Niagara Transformer Service, will take on repairs.
“We began to notice that there were a lot of repair centers closing in the Northeast portion of the U.S., particularly supporting utilities,” he said.
Niagara Transformer Service will look to fill that void. It’s often cheaper for companies to repair older equipment than replace, but finding a service with the expertise to do it had become increasingly difficult.
The Niagara companies work with and sell to public utility providers and ones owned by investors. Through the pandemic, Darby said business with oil and gas companies took a hit because of the fluctuation in prices, but business remained steady with utility companies which, he said, are focused on the future.
“They continue to invest in energy efficiency to make the power grid more efficient and reduce redundancy,” Darby said. “I think there will be some continued strengthening in the utilities business. The budgets for 2021 and 2022 have been affirmed for capital expenditures, which is good. Conversely in oil and gas, we’re not seeing much appetite at all for expansion, so that remains muted.”
Niagara’s new company and rebrand will align better for what’s to come, as it pumps $35 million into facilities upgrades, testing and winding capabilities.
“In our case, we are beginning to bring the fourth generation in, so you want to keep the company strong, robust and well positioned so they can take over and have success,” Darby said.
Niagara Transformer employs 175 workers but now that there’s two companies, there is latitude to be standalone endeavors and yet work together when needed.
“The nice thing about having two companies that are related,” he said, “is we have the ability to share talent.”