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Tom Ledden, President of Gotham Elevator and World Traveler, Discusses How to Maintain a Successful Business amidst Code Changes

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Ledden and his wife, Delia, traveling

Ledden discusses his New York- based company’s history and business.

Born to a large Irish family in Queens, New York, Tom Ledden, president of Gotham Elevator Inspection, got his start in the elevator business working as a mechanic’s helper for Imperial Elevator in Bronx, New York. Prior to founding Gotham Elevator in 2004, Ledden worked with the New York City (NYC) Housing Authority’s Elevator Division for 18 years. Ledden worked in all five NYC boroughs, and really enjoyed working with experienced and interesting professionals and learned a great deal with the housing authority.

Although Ledden attended Archbishop Malloy High School, a well-known all-boys academy, followed by New York University, he believes his best education came from being a world traveler. As a young student, Ledden enjoyed U.S. and world history; those interests led to hobbies of reading and traveling, and eventually the founding of Jetsetter, Inc., an independent travel agency. Jetsetter was “sparked by my love of travel and my desire to expose other people to interesting places around the world,” Ledden said.

Raised in New York, Ledden also recognizes the unique and interesting places his home state has to offer. With his business, Ledden experiences various types of projects ranging from steel high rises to rusty-brick, turn-of-the-century warehouses in the NYC skyline. “This is what fascinates me about my industry. It never gets boring, and there’s always a surprise,” Ledden added.

In 2009, the NYC elevator code changed to improve elevator safety and increase accountability. According to Ledden, the new code called for a third-party witness to conduct inspections on behalf of elevator owners. Ledden believes this and other code changes protect building owners, elevator passengers and the integrity and objectivity of the inspection process. With more than 70,000 vertical-transportation devices in NYC, all of which have to be inspected annually, Gotham Elevator has stayed busy over the years.

Initially, the company conducted annual inspections and performed consulting work. Today, it is also concerned with educating clients about their responsibility to adhere to the elevator codes for passenger safety. “It’s a thick, technical collection of rules that is very complicated to the [average] person,” Ledden said. “In fact, NYC has some of the strictest regulations, deadlines and safety procedures in the business. But, if clients don’t know the rules, how are they supposed to abide by them?” he added. To educate clients and be in sync with maintenance companies, Gotham Elevator invented its GEI Test Tracker, a device that allows users to collect inspection data, manage paperwork flow, meet deadlines and, thus, avoid fines.

According to Ledden:

“We felt that in a 100-year-old industry, improvement in communication between the building owner and property manager and the maintenance company and us, the third-party witness, was essential if we were going to stay code-compliant across the board and keep people safe.”

Gotham Elevator believes the best way to educate clients is to involve them in its processes. Delia Welty, director of Operations at Gotham Elevator, worked with the company’s web designer and database provider to design the GEI Test Tracker. Gotham Elevator even invited its clients to view the processes of handling their elevator inspections on a daily basis by allowing them to log into the website. The test tracker allows Gotham Elevator’s clients to view their entire elevator portfolio and can be accessed from any mobile device. Ledden believes elevator-maintenance companies also play a vital role in the process, which is why Gotham Elevator invites them to log into the test tracker to obtain the desired information to help mutual clients stay code compliant. Ledden also says the company continues to evolve to meet the changing needs of its clients and the demands of the NYC Department of Buildings.

“My position at Gotham allows me to interact with people from around the globe, because New York is bustling with people from everywhere,” Ledden said. He claims one of his greatest skills is talking to people: “I have an ability to connect with people on many levels, and I’m able to converse with them about anything from sports, politics, history, travel and family,” he added.

According to Ledden:

“Through the recession, Gotham has remained a leader in the inspection business in New York by listening to the needs of our clients, working closely with them to meet their budgetary needs and respecting that we are all under challenging financial constraints. Whatever we can do for them, we will. We haven’t raised our prices from last year, and we know our clients appreciate that.”

When asked about his professional mentors, Ledden gives credit to his uncle, Ed Ledden, who had been in the elevator industry for 30 years by the time he took his nephew under his guidance, and older brother, Mike. “They both knew the NYC elevator industry inside out. Their passion for the business was contagious, as was their commitment to public safety,” Ledden remembered. “I was immediately intrigued upon entering the field. I enjoyed learning more and more while working on the mechanical side of the industry over the years.” 

As his career progressed, Ledden met Charles Miraglia, his partner at Gotham Elevator, and claims it was Miraglia who showed him a level of dedication and professionalism that raised the bar. Miraglia was responsible for writing portions of the revised elevator codes for NYC and is instrumental in fielding questions from clients, inspectors and maintenance companies. All Gotham Elevator inspectors are QEI certified and licensed to perform inspections nationally. “We are planning to expand our business to other cities in the U.S. and offer our test tracker to individuals and companies managing large portfolios,” Ledden said.

When asked what advice he offers fellow industry members, Ledden stresses the importance of safety: “Safety is first and paramount for you, your workers and [the] riding public. Lives depend on us every day. Keep an open mind for all facets of the industry.” For the future, Ledden hopes to build and maintain relationships with each Gotham Elevator client to continue to meet the growing needs of the industry.

Ledden also expresses his interest in the engineering of skyscrapers:

“I think I speak for all New Yorkers when I say we are anxiously awaiting the completion of the Freedom Tower. Being part of the elevator industry, I am both amazed and excited about the engineering challenges that had to be met for the tower to be constructed. Never before in North America have [we had] an elevator travel at such speeds or reach such heights. It invigorates me to think about such marvels and what lies ahead for our industry.”

Balancing a career with family responsibilities is one of the challenges Ledden faces, and he insists there is never a dull moment for him and his wife, Delia. Although their three children are all at different stages – high school, middle school and kindergarten – their common denominator is the family business. At various times, they can all be found at one of Gotham Elevator’s offices, contributing in their own way. Ledden believes the experiences his children gain at the office are valuable, because they get to witness their parents modeling good work ethics and providing employment for others. “Perhaps we are planting the early seeds for their future,” Ledden said. 

Ledden considers himself very fortunate that (in addition to his Manhattan office), he has an office several blocks from his home in Mamaroneck, New York. “I get to do the little-league thing and be there for the important events in my kids’ lives. It’s the best of both worlds,” Ledden said.

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