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A Service Story

May 16, 2024
Bill Ronayne
Yeah, right! Bill Ronanye the rappeller descends one floor at a time for a community cause.

A Super Man with a Heart for Helping

April 28, 2023
Bill Ronayne guides a 30-year HVAC business while also being extremely generous in support of local causes.

Bill Ronayne has never leapt over a tall building, but he’s rappelled down many, and that counts for a lot. More about that later, but first, who is Bill Ronayne?

Bill Ronayne is president of Brandywine Valley Heating & Air Conditioning, West Chester, Pa. The company recently celebrated 30 years of providing comfort solutions to residential and commercial heating, ventilation and air conditioning customers.

We recently ran the news about Brandywine’s recent 30th anniversary (see and later caught up with Bill at the recent Air Conditioning Contractors of America Conference in New Orleans. Our objective was to learn about Bill’s passion for community service and how he makes it happen, to benefit the community that’s given so much to his company.

Enters the World of Work

Bill Ronayne’s first experience with anything related to HVAC was at age 19, when he answered an ad for a shop helper at Brewer Sheet Metal, a fabricator based in West Chester, Pa. The ad said, “no experience necessary,” so he figured he had as good a chance as anyone. Prior to that he had been working the night shift at a Pepperidge Farm facility, but he soon decided that cleaning blast freezers wasn’t what he was looking for.

“One night I was shoveling bad product off the floor in the blast freezer, and at 3 am in the cafeteria I’m thinking, ‘every other normal person is sleeping right now,’” he recalls.   

After six months, Brewer had a job opening for shop foreman, and Bill was the logical candidate. “Vernon Brewer asked if I’d like to be shop foreman, and I said, ‘sure, I’ll do it.’” That was a three year education in a major element related to HVAC.

Over the next eight years, Bill worked for the plumbing supply company Conrad Muhler, followed by a HVAC/plumbing business. Then Vernon Brewer came calling, in need of a salesman. “He called to ask if I would work in sales. I said, ‘sure, I’ll try anything. So I went to work in retail sales for Mr. Brewer. Two or three years later I worked for the John J. Haley company in Paoli, Pennsylvania, for 10 years.

Business Owner Bill

His greatest business feat came next, when he become a majority stockholder in and president of Brandywine Valley Heating & Air Conditioning, with support from a geothermal company, Alternate Energy Sources. They initially wanted Bill to be a general manager, which involved too much travel. The alternate offer to become involved with Brandywine Valley was more in line with his career goals, because over time, he had been drawing up a business plan to begin his own company.

Financial support was provided, and Bill was off and running. He eventually bought out the other owners in 1993. Brandywine Valley is now an $11 million company with a 50/50 split between residential and commercial projects. There are currently 63 employees, 35 of whom are in production, installation and service.

“They are the company. They have made the company successful,” asserts Ronayne. “I couldn’t have done it without them.” Some joined Bill from the Haley company and were products of the culture Bill had built there as manager.

Community Service Giant

As a local, family-owned company, Brandywine Valley has chosen to promote itself only as a secondary benefit of the services to others in the community. And that’s far and away everything but installing equipment.  

The company website states it has chosen not to promote itself with high-profile marketing such as van wraps, stadium signs or commercial rating services, “as it significantly increases the cost to the customer and does not ultimately enhance the value of the service.”

Ronayne’s attraction to community service began as an offshoot of his friendship with Bill McLaughlin of Trane sales. Bill said I should get out into the community, whether it’s speaker’s bureau’s Rotary, Lions Club, where I’d out in the community, where I’d have a chance to speak with other business leaders.

Ronayne’s service has included activity or chairmanships for the Rotary, Police Athletic League, the West Chester Senior Center, Crime Victim’s Center, Friends Association, at least five area churches, the West Chester County History Center, Economic Development Councils, Habitat for Humanity, March of Dimes, an advisory committee for local vocational schools and Thaddeus Stevens Technical College in Lancaster. He’s a board member of the Pennsylvania Chapter of ACCA, and since 2014 has served on the firehouse Capital Campaign committee, raising $2.5 million for an addition to the building. He’s also been an active volunteer firefighter since 1974, and this past April, he played in a seniors hockey tournament to benefit autism research.

“I’ve lived in the same five-mile radius my entire life. The community has been very good to me growing up and it’s important to give back,” Ronayne says. Each activity brings a great amount of time and work, but support from employee volunteers makes each event easier to manage.

The Friends Association is established for broken families. A couple times each year they’ll get a load of mattresses. They don’t have the ability or place to unload them. So they bring the trailer to our shop, and their volunteers pick them up and distribute them. We’re helping with the equipment and facility to help them, so why not help them?

About that Rappelling . . .

Ronayne learned to rappell down a building as part of his firefighter training. He’s been proficient in the “high angle rescue stuff” since he was 15 in civil air patrol.

“Don’t get me wrong, I still get scared every time I get to the edge,” he says,” but I’m able to do it, thankfully.”

Rapelling as a community service came in support of the Downtown Foundation.

“They have a party up on the roof every year, and we’re a sponsor for that," he says. 

He’s also rappelled down Philadelphia’s 39-story Commerce 2 building to help raise money for the Outward Bound program.

Brandywine Valley’s enormous amount of community service is made possible by the help from sales and marketing assistants Krystal Dombay and Ewan Hagen.

When events come up, like the Marshallton Triathalon to benefit the West Bradford Fire Co., we’ll put a feeler out to the company and volunteers will staff a marketing booth or help with registration and other things. A lot of the company catches the spirit of helping the community and are very generous with their time.

"Being present for the non-profits in our community is one of our five core values. It’s something I’ve done ever since Bill McLaughlin told me to join Rotary. One of the executives of the senior center gave me a big button that says “NO,” and it’s on my desk. But it’s hard to say no. These are all great organizations, and they don’t get the government funding that they used to."

As a Trane Comfort Specialist, Brandywine Valley receives five motor-bearing units each year, to donate to needy homeowners or possibly use in a Habitat for Humanity dwelling.

“Last summer, a family’s husband had brain cancer and their HVAC system stopped working. Somebody from Trane told us he was in our neighborhood, and asked if we could help them. We replaced the air condition at no charge. I’m a prostate cancer survivor, and one of our charities is the Chester County Cancer Center. This family was in need. It was easy to make a decision to help them.”