It all began in 1922, at the same time that some of the most famous landmarks in the City of Chicago were being built, when Harry J. Reynolds and Walter E. Schmidt left Corbitt Boiler Company and set-out to create their own venture. On March 26, 1923 Independent Boiler and Tank Company was incorporated. The company primarily performed boiler field erection and repair for various public agencies during this time. As the decade progressed, the company developed a strong relationship with the City of Chicago, a client that would eventually become the company’s largest for several decades.
During the depression the Metropolitan Sanitary District of Greater Chicago, another large client of the company’s, began outsourcing its maintenance and repair labor. Independent Boiler and Tank, successfully secured this Tradesman contract from the District and was able to weather the economic hardships of the time. In addition to providing a secure and steady source of work, the contract allowed the company to become signatory with numerous specialty crafts within the Building Trades, thus laying the foundation for a relationship with the locals that continues to the present day.
The nation was gearing up for the war effort, and Independent's business struggled as a result of the reduction of the labor force. Times were so tough, that the rationing of gas often forced boiler makers to transport themselves and boiler tubes to the job sites via the city’s street cars. However, upon completion of the conflict, business expanded into the private sector as the economy began its post-war expansion. It was during this time that Independent constructed the Great Lakes Naval Station power generation plant. No one could have imagined that Independent would work off and on at the plant for the next sixty years, eventually demolishing the original plant and constructing a state of the art new one. The 1940’s also saw the beginning of the careers for the second generation of management, when Harry J. Reynolds Jr., and Harold A. Schmidt came to work at the company, after returning from the war.
The expansion of the national economy fueled growth in the industrial manufacturing industry in northern Indiana and the company took advantage of the opportunities presented. One of the most unique niches that Independent Mechanical Industries entered during this time was hull repair of the large iron oar ships. Since boiler makers were also historically ship builders, the work made sense. So the company purchased a tug boat, outfitted it with equipment and went to work. The 50’s also saw the company continue its tradition of participating in new technology “demonstration projects” for the Metropolitan Sanitary District of Greater Chicago, with the construction of a Zimpro wet oxidation process high pressure reactor. The process, developed by Fred T. Zimmerman, was a cutting edge method for the treatment of waste water. The company would participate in another Sanitary District demonstration project some 50 years later, with the construction of a state of the art bio-solids pelletization plant, designed to turn bio-solids waste into marketable fertilizer. The company’s management team was “rounded out” at the end of the decade when Harry J. Reynolds youngest son, William R. Reynolds joined the firm.
With the second generation of management in-place, the stage would be set for the company to prosper for several decades. During the 1960’s the focus was on procuring and performing the types of work that had helped it to become one of the most successful mechanical contractors in the City. Contract maintenance for the City of Chicago and the Metropolitan Sanitary District comprised the lion’s share of the company’s sales. This work was complimented by other Time & Material and Lump Sum projects. Boiler work continued to also be a staple for the company, with several plants constructed during the time.
During the 70’s the company performed fuel conversions on numerous boilers in the City. Natural gas was rapidly becoming the fuel of choice. Over time the company had expanded its areas of expertise so much, that management decided to change the firm’s name of 50 years to Independent Mechanical Industries, Inc. (IMI). Along with the name change, the 70’s saw the beginning of the third generation’s careers at the firm when John M. Reynolds, son of Harry J. Reynolds, Jr., began working as a Pipefitter for the company in 1973. John’s career at IMI would see him work his way through the ranks of management, becoming CEO in 2003.
The 80’s for the company were characterized by significant events at the management level that challenged the firm in the face of high inflation and a struggling economy. The company welcomed another third generation family member when Joseph P. Reynolds, son of William R. Reynolds, began his career with IMI in 1984. At the same time the company was welcoming a new member to its team, it also had to say goodbye to two of its second generation members, with the retirement of Harold A. Schmidt and the untimely passing of William R. Reynolds. During the decade, the company relied heavily on its relationships and work with the City of Chicago and the Sanitary District to maintain its operations.
By the 90’s the company had developed the capability and the reputation as a full service mechanical contractor that could perform any type of mechanical work in any environment. In addition to its continued presence in the facilities of the City of Chicago and the Metropolitan Sanitary District, the company performed work for numerous private firms, including General Mills, Abbott Laboratories, and CITGO Petroleum. This decade began a new growth cycle for the company.
The growth cycle that began in the 1990’s was continuing when the 2000’s began. Work in all divisions was going very well and the companies “cornerstone” clients, the City of Chicago and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, were issuing some of the largest contracts in their history. In addition to securing a sizeable proportion of the municipal work available, the company secured a contract from the U.S. Navy to build a new co-generation plant that would replace the one that IMI built in the 1940’s. This decade would see the company double in size by booking some of its largest contracts, and thus finding itself in a strong position to weather the great recession that would begin at the end of the decade.
2010’s: While the outlook for the economies of the nation and the state of Illinois were still in doubt at the beginning of the decade, the outlook for the continued success of Independent Mechanical Industries was positive due to its solid backlog of work obtained in the previous decade.