Persistence is an asset for any individual, especially a small-business owner. Arthur Radtke had this quality. After several failed attempts at establishing various businesses during the tough economic times of the Great Depression, Arthur retained his strong belief in himself, and along with his keen business sense, his goal of creating a successful business endured.
Arthur came across a unique business opportunity that struck a chord in him-air conditioning. Relatively a new technology in the 1930s, air conditioning was largely limited to movie theaters. However, Arthur founded an air conditioning service company, but this business also went under. Radtke took on a new partner, William Hinsch, in 1938 and formed The Cincinnati Air Conditioning Company as a distributor of Carrier products. This time, Arthur’s perseverance and business intelligence harvested rewards; Radtke and Hinsch incorporated their firm in 1939.
Working out of their Sixth Street location, the first jobs involved large systems with multiple components and intricate piping. Because Radtke did not have the proper technical background-he was a businessman-to properly market the Carrier line by himself, he hired Robert Howard, a University of Cincinnati engineering graduate, as his first employee. Throughout his career at The Cincinnati Air Conditioning Company as sales engineer, Howard was known as one of the most knowledgeable air conditioning agents in the Midwest.
The company grew year-by-year, and two new technical engineers were hired, Ivan Walters of Indiana University and Henry Moore from Georgia Tech. As a result, The Cincinnati Air Conditioning Company committed itself to designing and installing “high tech” engineered air cooling systems. Radtke and his employees established a sophisticated technical reputation for the company that would ensure its financial success in the coming decades.
As the United States entered World War II, the federal government banned the production of comfort air conditioning in order to reserve the nation’s supply of metals for tanks, planes and other military items. To keep their business competitive, The Cincinnati Air Conditioning Company, like many other U.S. firms, turned to producing machinery and goods for the war effort. Radtke began manufacturing food storage locker plants. The company’s locker plants preserved the meat and other foods that were rationed by the federal government, preventing the spoilage of these precious commodities. During the war, Cincinnati Air Conditioning also produced a thermometer calibration system for use in machines at the Wright Aeronautical plant in Evendale.
The post-war economic prosperity allowed the company to create air conditioning systems on a “design and build” basis for many new and existing office buildings. Cincinnati Air Conditioning-designed systems were installed in the Union Central Life Building and Swifton Center, one of the area’s first shopping malls.
The second generation of the Radtke family joined the company in 1951. After graduating from the University of Cincinnati’s College of Engineering, Carl Radtke, the founder’s son, joined the company. While in school, Carl worked part-time in the Service and Installation Department learning about the business from the ground up.
Under Carl Radtke’s leadership, the company achieved a greater balance in its growth, it continued to install engineered heating and cooling systems in many of the city’s buildings, while a large dealer network was established, providing service to residential and smaller commercial contractors.
The Cincinnati Air Conditioning Company also moved into new product areas, thanks to the engineering talents of Ivan Walters. He designed and built a line of oil coolant systems for machine tools. Trademarked as Kool Oil, it is still used in various applications all over the world. Walters also created the company’s first Environmental Chamber, a small, insulated room where temperatures and humidities are kept consistent and the air is continuously filtered of dust and other debris. Businesses that require controlled environments for engineering, research and product development regularly purchase these rooms from Cincinnati Air Conditioning (Thermolinear).
In 1966, the company moved from its second location, 1415 Walnut Street, to a beautiful Tudor building on Central Parkway. After residing there for 41 years, the company moved to its current headquarters at 2080 Northwest Drive in Springfield Township.
The company is currently under the third generation of Radtke leadership. In the footsteps of his father and grandfather, Mark Radtke began working part-time while attending the University of Cincinnati Engineering School. In 1975 he joined the company full-time, eventually assuming a major role as Sales Engineer, specializing in Ivan Walter’s Kool Oil units as well as designing and installing the Environmental Chambers. In 1984, Mark was joined by his brother David, who took over the design, construction and installation of the Environmental Chambers.
In celebrating over 70 years of operation, the company reflects upon its history. The original corps of sales engineers has been replaced by a generation of equally qualified engineers, forming the backbone of the company. In 1994, Carl Radtke retired as CEO, replaced by his son Mark. The company has endured by embracing changes in the HVAC industry and by being a leader in those changes.