LOVELAND — Erv Weinmeister brings the perspective of a firefighter to his work as president of Super Vacuum Manufacturing in Loveland. And that’s an important background for a man whose business is focused on building firefighting equipment.
Super Vac, as the business is known, manufactures emergency ventilation products, custom rescue vehicles and floodlighting towers. The company sells its products to customers around the nation and world. Clients range from local fire departments to the U.S. Navy.
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Weinmeister served 23 years with Loveland’s volunteer fire department. Looking back, he said the volunteer service was a way to help both his business and the city.
“I felt like giving something back to the city. So that was the place I put all my energies and effort into.”
Although Weinmeister has retired from firefighting, “He’s got the fire department at heart,´ said Loveland fire chief Mark Miller. Miller has known Weinmeister for 24 years.
Huge asset to Loveland
Super Vac “is a huge asset in Loveland,” Miller said. “I feel blessed that they’re in Loveland — how cool is that,” the city’s top firefighter said. “A place that designs rescue trucks right in your city.”
Associates describe Weinmeister as a straightforward person who gets down to business. A man with a great sense of humor, Weinmeister is highly professional and business savvy, Miller said. He’s a man who won’t mince words. “He stands up for what he believes.”
Established in the mid-1930s by the grandfather of Weinmeister’s ex-wife, the company was originally known as the Super Vacuum Propeller Co. Powerful ventilators used to remove smoke from a fire and increase visibility for firefighters are the products the company grew up around.
In addition to high-powered ventilation systems, Super Vac designs, patents and manufactures emergency floodlighting systems and custom rescue trucks.
In 1986, the company added foundry capabilities to gain more control over the manufacturing process.
About 60 percent of the foundry’s production is work contracted outside Super Vac, Weinmeister said. The foundry produces a diverse list of products, including exercise stair steppers, greenhouse brackets and antique car parts.
Joined company in 1958
When Erv Weinmeister joined Super Vacuum Manufacturing in Loveland in 1958, the Windsor native was one of two people working there. The other employee was close to retirement.
“They had hired a fellow to run the company. He was ready to retire,” Weinmeister recalled. It was a job that entailed everything from office work to manufacturing.
“We opened the mail, we put the parts together, we machined the parts, we talked to the sales people, we did the banking, we did the bookkeeping.”
Today, those tasks and more are spread among 100 employees working in three divisions. Family is still at the heart of the operation. Weinmeister is president. His daughter, Tamara, serves as chief financial officer. Sons Ron and Roger are vice presidents.
Weinmeister said his company has grown by remaining attentive to the needs of firefighters. Super Vac employs several current and former volunteer firefighters and training instructors.
That attention has sometimes driven product development. For instance, Super Vac moved into the rescue-truck arena after discovering that local firefighters needed a truck.
“I had equipment to build a truck, so I built one. Then, other fire departments saw the truck, and they wanted trucks like it. So we started building rescue trucks.”
The same has happened with various Super Vac products, Weinmeister said. “It just kept going from one thing to another.”
Weinmeister also made sure that Super Vac was represented at the big fire conventions held around the country, and he often took local firefighters along. “Being in the big conventions, we would learn all of the latest in the new processes coming on.”
Major expansion completed
Super Vac recently has completed a major expansion: construction of a 42,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Ward Industrial Park. Already, Weinmeister says his company is in danger of outgrowing the larger facility.
“In doing the expansion, we’ve actually picked up more work,” he said. Fire departments are calling for pumper and tanker trucks in addition to the rescue truck that Super Vac builds. Weinmeister said his company might consider moving into the manufacture of other types of trucks if demand for the rescue truck softens, but added, “It hasn’t so far.”
A former firefighter long involved with fire and rescue operations, Weinmeister understands that as a firefighter one must frequently throw caution to the wind and “do what you’ve got to do.”
He’s much more conservative, however, when it comes to running his business. “We’ve kept our noses to the grindstone,” he said. “We had a product to sell to the firefighting services, and we’ve kept up with them as far as what their needs were over the years.”