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Comptroller traveling state to view economy

By ERICA MITRANO

Staff writer

Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot (D) toured an SMO training facility Thursday in La Plata as part of a statewide tour to see the Maryland economy up close, he said.

The Shymansky Institute, named for longtime employee Joe Shymansky of Cobb Island, trains employees of the oil and gas company in servicing home heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems, said SMO Chairman Lock Wills Jr. It was founded in 2003 in a building the company has inhabited since its founding in the 1920s. The company used to be Southern Maryland Oil.

SMO represents one of the state’s “pockets of success,” but upbeat rhetoric from Republicans and Democrats belies other enterprises’ struggles, like the closing of an ice cream plant in Hagerstown that cost 400 jobs, Franchot said.

At SMO, Franchot wanted “insight into how the bad economy affects payments, customers’ own outlook, something from the front lines, instead of all the confetti and rhetoric in these debates,” he said.

The tour took Franchot to a class on oil-fired furnaces, where one of the men said he appreciated ongoing training.

“It’s here for us. It’s things that we could do better as we’re taking better care of the client, making sure we’re doing things right and taking care of the customer,” said J.C. Janzegers, a service technician. “Everything’s changing. We have to keep up with the technology.”

Robert Wenzinger, director of equipment and service, agreed, saying the training ensured that “when the technician comes to your house, he doesn’t give you that deer-in-the-headlights stare, ‘What am I looking at?’ ”

Wills also showed Franchot a call center handling 200,000 conversations with customers a year. Despite the volume handled by the room’s several employees, people rarely quit, Wills said.

Employee retention “leads to customer satisfaction. At the end of the day, that’s why we’re still in business,” Wills said.

Franchot also stopped by The Greene Turtle in La Plata to deliver a proclamation recognizing the restaurant as a successful business.

He talked sports with General Manager James Beaner and corporate President and CEO Robert J. Barry Jr., saying spending perks up for a few days after Baltimore Ravens or Washington Redskins victories because people feel good.

But the game isn’t the only pleasurable part of spectating, he said.

“Someone once told me you don’t have to have a beer to enjoy the football game. But why take a chance?” Franchot joked.

emitrano@somdnews.com