Drying the air

Dehumidifier Corp. of America (DCA), based in about 23,000 square feet of space in a converted cannery in Cedarburg, helps keep the air comfortable for visitors at hotels and motels across the country.

About 75 percent of the dehumidifiers built by DCA are used in facilities that have indoor swimming pools – facilities such as hotels, motels, high schools, universities, health clubs and high-end homes.

“We do anything short of water parks,” said Jim Metzger, vice president of sales and one of the owners of the company. “Hotels and motels are 50 percent of the pool business. There are more than 20 different brands of (national) hotels, and they all have pools or hot tubs.”

DCA does not have standardized models. Instead, each of its dehumidifiers is custom-built to suit the room and atmosphere it needs to regulate.

“This is a high-profit, low-volume business,” Metzger said. “These units are very custom and highly engineered. The concept is the same as what’s in your home, just a lot more complicated.”

DCA and other North American dehumidifier manufacturers do not worry about foreign competition because of their highly customized designs and significant shipping costs.

“There are no numbers there to build these offshore,” Metzger said.

The company builds units with compressors up to 30 tons in size, which accounts for about 90 percent of the dehumidifier market. Some of its competitors will build units with 100-ton compressors, but DCA believes it best serves its customers by focusing on smaller sizes.

DCA has earned a reputation for reliability and easy-to-repair units by focusing on design and using parts that are readily available, Metzger said. Having an easy-to-repair unit is especially important for hotels, which need to close pools if the dehumidifier is out of order.

“We’ve refined our product and made it easier to service,” Metzger said. “These units are complicated and expensive. If you can make it easier to service, it makes for less of a problem for everyone.”

In addition to the indoor pool and hot tub market, DCA also sells its dehumidifiers to manufacturers and industrial customers, including warehouses, labs and facilities that have a large number of computers.

DCA was formed in 1995 by Metzger and his brother, Gary Metzger. The brothers originally formed Desert Aire Co., a Germantown-based dehumidifier manufacturer, in 1979, which they sold in 1990. At the time of the sale, the Metzgers signed a five-year non-compete contract.

Jim Metzger believes that DCA is the fourth-largest commercial dehumidifier manufacturer in the country, behind Dectron Internationale from Canada, Desert Aire and PoolPak Technologies Corp. in Pennsylvania.

While many manufacturers are seeing a slowing in orders and have laid off workers, DCA’s orders have already increased 17 percent from 2008, Jim Metzger said.

“It’s a record year,” he said. “We tend to follow the industry and take the best ideas out there and refine and reform those. And we can sell (for) 10 to 15 percent lower than anyone else, which makes us the value and price leader. And we have the best warranty.”

DCA now has between 25 and 30 employees. The company is looking for more employees, but has had difficulty finding people.

“We’re looking for assembly people. While resumes come through, they’re not good candidates,” Jim Metzger said. “We’re always looking for people.”

DCA is now working to change all of its refrigerant to a more “green” material, as part of an industry-wide change mandated by federal officials. Those changes need to be completed by the end of the year, Jim Metzger said, because, “by the end of the year, you won’t be able to buy the old (material).”

DCA does not sell to indoor waterparks, but it is finding new opportunities with some northern Wisconsin resorts that are building large indoor swimming pools, Jim Metzger said.

It has also found ways to sell units to drapery manufacturers and tooling and grinding shops.

“Anyone who uses water-based coolants that they’re spraying into a cutter or grinder needs dehumidification,” he said.

Dehumidifier Corp. of America

W53 N550 Highland Drive, Cedarburg

Industry: Commercial dehumidifiers, primarily used for indoor swimming pools and hot tubs

Employees: 25 to 30


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