by Tracey Block
Do you use social media yet? Well, maybe it’s time to start. New Era Plumbing & Heating Ltd. of Squamish, B.C. not only posts on Facebook and Twitter, but its blog keeps clients, crew and apprentices current on projects, materials and monthly training workshops.
Identical twins Kodi and Jhye Hopkins pride themselves on living up to the vision they chose for their company five years ago and strive to take advantage of everything 21st century technology can offer.
New Era Plumbing incorporates “old school values with a new-school mindset,” says Kodi, 31, the older of the twins by one minute. “We’ve been raised from a generation of hard workers and we’ve instilled that into our lives, while also following with the times.”
According to Kodi, all their employees in the field use iPads, Dropbox [application], management programs and Google Drive. “Everybody has access to real time work orders and changes,” he explains.
Since opening five years ago, the company has quickly grown to a 40-person crew.
“We started out as small, residential plumbers,” Kodi explains. “We ended up taking on residential homes and we grew into projects. Then we decided to start an HVAC division.”
Aaron Loveless was brought in to specialize as New Era’s HVAC division manager and Kodi’s wife, Keli, also a part owner, works as its office administrator.
The twins’ father, Brian, has owned a successful plumbing company for more than 30 years, making the work a part of the twins’ lives for as long as they can remember.
“We’d been going on job sites since we were two or three years old,” says younger twin Jhye. “Our dad even used to build us plumbing toys . . . so [it’s] been in our lives forever.”
The brothers have always been very close and completed their professional educations and apprenticeships alongside each other, attending BCIT.
“We took our plumbing levels one through four together and got our Red Seal tickets,” explains Jhye. “That’s our gas tickets as well.”
The twins view New Era’s rapid growth from a staff of two to 40 as a testament to customer satisfaction, high quality workmanship and the success of word of mouth. “Now we’re the biggest mechanical company in the Sea to Sky corridor and the work just comes to us,” Kodi continues. “[But] we don’t just hire people to throw bodies on the job site. We look for people who want to make a career out of this.”
“We also keep ourselves very involved and do the estimating and quoting in the office,” adds Jhye. “With project managing — we’re on the site three or four days a week.”
The twins say they love jumping on new products as they come to market. “We go to the factory and to the wholesalers . . . to keep ourselves on the cutting edge of new technology,” says Kodi. “We’ve done the first reclaimed water system here in Squamish. We’ve done a lot of solar work.”
New Era’s flagship project was the Sea to Sky gondola, says Jhye, where they were responsible for the mechanical side of the job. It was both interesting and challenging maneuvering the old service roads for the logging trucks.
“It was pretty cool getting the materials up there . . . 2,400 feet above sea level. And being the first people to be on the gondola,” he says.
“There were just so many aspects of that job that were not typical,” explains Jhye, “such as building a massive restaurant on top of a mountain.” The project took a lot of planning “since it crossed through three jurisdictions: the City of Squamish, the RMOW [Resort Municipality of Whistler] and the native lands.”
A large project New Era is just wrapping up proved to be one of its most challenging. “It’s called the Rainbow Plaza in Whistler and is set at all different heights,” explains Jhye.
Their work encompassed the project’s 66 units in three separate buildings set over varying levels of parkade, a grocery store, four commercial units including a coffee shop, and a gas station across the street. “We pretty much have our name on that whole side of the hill,” says Jhye of the breadth of the company’s work.
A few setbacks included contractors not having enough information, adds Jhye. “We’re used to things going a little more smoothly. It all worked out in the end, but it was challenging in the process.”
New Era has its future sights set on the Squamish Oceanfront Development — a six-phase, 20-year project including hotels, apartments and single-family units. “It’s basically going to be a Whistler on the water,” says Kodi. “We are definitely hoping to do a lot of work in that.”
Since becoming members of Mechanical Contractors Association of BC (MCABC) a year ago, “We’ve been soaking up their advice,” says Kodi. “As we grew bigger, it was time to join.”
In addition to MCABC advice and information, Kodi says he and his brother are benefitting by the professional development courses it offers. “We’ve done both estimating courses and are preparing to take an MCA management course this weekend or next.”
In the end, Kodi and Jhye say they also owe a big shout out to their father who they believe was a driving force behind their achievements. “For all his help and inspiration all these years,” says Kodi. “We have to thank him.”