Written by The Business Journal Staff
For agricultural companies in the height of harvest season, keeping food cold is not a negotiable proposition. And with several thousand tons of meat and produce on the line, there’s one company they call to be as reliable as their massive refrigeration units.
When it comes to industrial refrigeration, California Controlled Atmosphere handles it all, from design and construction and parts to 24/7 repair service and consulting on regulatory compliance.
Servicing some of the Central Valley’s largest commercial farms, and even a few overseas, it might come as a surprise that it all started in 1984 in the garage of Ray Kliewer on his five-acre raisin farm in Dinuba.
The farmer was frustrated by the lack of integrity he found in firms and partners he had worked with and wanted to deliver the highest standards of cold storage not being met by other companies.
Dozens of food processors throughout the Valley were soon won over by Kliewer’s knowledge and integrity, both values he instilled in his son, Jay, when he tagged along with his father at a young age.
“My experience working with my dad was fantastic,” said Jay Kliewer, a Fresno State graduate. “I always looked up to him, and he made sure to let me know how proud he was of me.”
Since Ray Kliewer passed on in 2009, Jay has carried on his father’s reputation to many of those original customers while adding plenty more along the way.
As CEO, Kliewer has expanded the business in other ways as well. Under his leadership, CalCA was recognized for Excellence in Safety by insurance company conglomerate the ICW Group.
He also developed sister company, Resource Compliance, to help its customers stay in line with federal and safety regulations pertaining to ammonia refrigeration. In that same vein, the company prides itself on providing automated systems that surpass the California Green Code in energy efficiency measures and atmospheric quality.
CalCA can now save its customers additional revenues through its patented Tattle device, which identifies when and where a safety relief valve has blown due to over-pressure conditions.
For Kliewer, however, the real success of a business comes from maintaining the long-term perspective when it comes to customers. That means tackling the tough problems others won’t and following through with every aspect of the job even after it’s finished.
“It might be tempting to cut corners, or charge whatever you can get away with, but our business is built on long-term relationships with our customers,” Kliewer said. “If the quality is not there and the pricing is not in line with the service you will eventually be found out and your reputation will be tarnished and you can kiss the next contract goodbye.”
Of course, Kliewer gives most of the credit to a group of talented individuals that love what they do and are concerned with quality workmanship.
With just under 50 employed with CalCA and Resource Compliance, the company has retained several workers since the ‘80s and many since the ‘90s.
Even the newest recruits have remained safe from layoffs both when ag is booming and during lean years. In fact, CalCA has offered stock option bonuses to many key employees for their retirement investments.
“This business is not just about my family, but about the families of everyone who works here,” Kliewer said. “In fact many of our employees are related to each other and my concern is for all of their families as well.
Although Kliewer is the only member of his family employed full-time in the company, he’s still sowing the seeds of leadership to his four children, the oldest one who just turned 12 and says he would like to work for the company someday.
Family always remains close in Kliewer’s two uncles, who are retired from the business but still come in every Monday morning to pray with him and ask God’s guidance over the company.
“My faith in Jesus Christ shapes who I am in every area of my life, including the way I do business,” Kliewer said.