Solano HVAC contractor SH Mechanical returns to Inc. 5000 fast-growth list

Shannon Hacker started SH Mechanical in 2009, focusing on installing heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems in high-end homes, bringing three decades of technical expertise.

But then Hacker’s wife, Kerlita, joined the Solano County company full-time by 2013. She helped prepare it for growth, organizing the finances and delegating tasks. But the biggest change was a shift from specialty residential projects to government and industrial jobs.

“The numbers increased to the point where we do not do residential anymore and refer that to another company in the area,” she said.

Sales roughly doubled each year after she came on board, until slowing last year. The company debuted on the Inc. 5000 national fast-growth list last year at No. 658 with 688% revenue growth in 2015–2018, the business magazine’s chief ranking criteria, and was No. 32 among construction companies on the list.

SH Mechanical returned to the list this year, at No. 1,167 with 387% growth in 2016–2019, finishing last year with $2.4 million in sales, up from $2.2 million in 2018. The company had the fastest growth of the nine North Bay firms on this year’s list.

Kerlita Hacker attributed that revenue slowdown mainly to the aftermath of the 2018–2019 federal budget battle that led to a shutdown of a number of departments for 35 days, from Dec. 22 through Jan. 25. That led to a slow start for public projects that year.

But even with that delayed start, the firm pulled off a sprint project. The federal Bureau of Reclamation had called for a 15-ton hoist and gantry to be rebuilt at the Marble Bluff Fish Passage Facility at the south end of Pyramid Lake northeast of Reno, Nevada. SH Mechanical won the job.

The bureau had expected to take a year and a half to complete, but the firm wrapped the $600,000 project in just five weeks, finishing at the beginning of this year.

Another slowdown in projects has come with the coronavirus pandemic since March. Now it will be “a sprint to the finish” to complete work that is set to account for $2.5 million. Even with project delays this year, the company has committed to keeping its 10 year-round employees paid.

“Even if we see a drop in profits, we want our people to be able to put food on the table,” said Shannon Hacker, vice president.

Another recent sizable project was the installation of a new HVAC system in an inmate training center at San Quentin State Prison in Marin County. The commitment to government projects called for a commitment to ratchet up company security procedures, including maintaining a staff able to pass security checks.

And pursuing such contracts, particularly related to defense, has called for even higher levels of security.

Carolina Itzigheine, project manager, has dived into 600 hours of training in cybersecurity to get the company ready to qualify for mid-level (level 3) of the soon-forthcoming Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification, or CMMC, program from the Defense Department. That preparation has taken two years and included changing the company’s software — qualifying for Microsoft’s exclusive government-grade applications — and hard-wiring all computer networks, eliminating use of WiFi.

“SH Mechanical doesn’t want to get behind, especially if it affects our ability to compete in the field,” Itzig-heine said. “We knew that this was the future.”

Jeff Quackenbush (, 707-521-4256) covers wine, construction and real estate.

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