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AAON’s record profits heat up cold market

BY DEBBIE BLOSSOM Published: November 15, 2009
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TULSA — AAON Inc., one of only two state companies to post a gain at the end of a financially tumultuous 2008, climbed from its 25{+t}{+h} ranking in last year’s Oklahoma Inc. to the fifth best performing Oklahoma company for 2009.

"We made a jump up,” said Norman Asbjornson, the industrial heating and cooling unit company’s president and chief executive officer.

Even as the economy soured, AAON reached record profits by the end of second quarter this year as earnings increased by 24 percent over last year.

In June, the manufacturer was included in Fortune magazine’s "40 best stocks to retire on,” and was honored by the National Society of Engineers with the 2009 Product of the Year for an environmentally friendly heating and air-conditioning unit.

Asbjornson credits a sound customer base of long-term building owners able to finance projects, and less reliance on speculative construction, for a big part of that success.

The company has kept debt down even as it continues to expand its Tulsa facility and broaden market penetration through product development.

"We are still spending money to keep that going forward,” he said.

AAON’s focus on creating products that lower humidity and not just high temperatures, as well as those that lessen energy use, has appealed to customers.

"We have become known as the company that knows how to control humidity,” Asbjornson said. Humidity can also encourage mold growth. "We’ve been addressing that for years.”

AAON remains a strong industry presence despite the downturn, said Jake Dollarhide, founder of Tulsa investment advisory firm Longbow Asset Management Co.

"They have a great product, and are the Rolls Royce of the industry,” Dollarhide said.

The company’s stock is up, and it was added to the S&P small cap 600 index in mid-August.

AAON has gained its nationwide reputation from its longtime relationship with customers such as retailers and restaurant chains that have expanded nationwide.