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A commemorative poster honoring Ron Madden’s role in helping build the original WTC elevator system; a young Ron Madden is seen atop the WTC in the photo at top left.

Family values, the Golden Rule and an NYC connection

Just prior to starting a family with his wife, Judy, a passionate young elevator mechanic named Ron Madden had the pleasure of helping install the elevator system in New York City’s (NYC) original World Trade Center (WTC) Twin Towers, which opened in 1973. After serving in the U.S. Air Force as an airplane mechanic, he met a man in Queens who helped him learn the industry, at first as a helper. He had a long elevator career, including 18 years as an Otis mechanic, and ended up working in both Kentucky and Florida before starting his own elevator-inspection business in Florida after he retired. Ron, who passed away in 2011, passed along his passion for the industry to his son, Sean Madden, owner of Madden Elevator Co. (MEC) of Louisville, Kentucky.

Sean Madden describes his father as a humble man who didn’t talk much about work after hours, except when he was teaching his son the trade. He states:

“I never even knew he worked at the original WTC facility until after he passed. Mom and I were looking at old pictures, and she said, ‘Here’s a picture of when he was on top of the WTC putting an elevator in.’ I said, ‘Are you kidding me?’ I didn’t even know he did that. To him, he was just doing his job.”

Both Sean and his sister, the late Kerry Madden Stone, were born in NYC and moved to Louisville as young children when Otis transferred Ron back to the area, where he is from. “I remember mom saying recently that when we were moving to Kentucky, she asked Dad if they had stores there,” says.

Work got slow for Ron Madden in 1987, and he was in and out of work for a couple of years. Then, in 1989, after Kerry graduated from high school, the family decided to move again, this time to New Smyrna Beach, Florida, where Ron got a job working for a small elevator company. Still in high school, Sean got the opportunity to work with his dad in the summers and on weekends. After he turned 16, he began “servicing elevators on the beach in Daytona out of the back of my Jeep CJ5.”

When Sean turned 17, someone approached him seeking to buy his small operation. After talking about it with Ron, Sean decided he wanted to one day own his own elevator company. But first, he needed to learn all aspects of the business. After moving back to Louisville, Sean spent half his elevator career in the field and the other half in supervision and management positions at a few Louisville companies, ultimately serving as president and CEO of Abell Elevator International. He incorporated MEC in January 2011.

Members of the National Association of Elevator Contractors (NAEC), Sean and his wife, Susie, are familiar faces at NAEC events. Sean is QEI, NAEC Certified Elevator Technician (CET®), CATTM and OSHA 10-Hr. Contractor and Construction certified, licensed in Kentucky and Indiana; and has Mine Safety and Health Administration, National Fire Protection Association arc welding and first-aid/CPR/blood-borne-pathogen training. He is also chairman of the NAEC certification board and, through Associated Builders and Contractors, on the board of the Elevator Contractor Council.

From the beginning, family and friends have played a big role in MEC. This is a tradition carried on from Ron and Judy Madden. When Ron became a QEI and started his own company, Judy handled the books and scheduling. When MEC first started in the basement of the Madden home, Susie was instrumental in getting it off the ground. She remains so today as MEC vice president. She has been vital, Sean says, to the company’s success, at various times working in dispatching, accounting, human resources and administration. “Customer service is our driving factor, and it is definitely in Susie’s blood from her 19 years working for a trucking company,” Sean says, elaborating:

“Madden Elevator was started on the premise that customer service in our industry was dead. Our company is all about integrity, and that is one of the main, core values of our business. MEC’s vision has always stood strong with two ultimate goals: take care of elevators as if you owned them, and treat customers the way you would want to be treated — like family.”

MEC started as a service company. Sean Madden would sell a job and perform the work. His sister, Kerry (who passed away in 2013 from a brain aneurysm), would make cold sales calls. It was a year before MEC had enough cash flow to hire a technician. The company’s first big break was a job at Fort Knox, a five-year service contract that ultimately included 71 elevators. MEC grew quickly, in 2012 seeing revenue growth of 299%; 2013, 91%; 2014, 18%; 2015, 53%; 2016, 22%; and 2017, nearly 46%.

Madden was honored his company was chosen for the Fort Knox job, observing his father was an Air Force veteran and that supporting U.S. military troops has always been important to him and MEC, which just landed another new installation job at Fort Knox. Serving the local community and government has been a big part of MEC’s growth, he says, noting some of the government jobs include:

  • Louisville Veterans Administration Medical Center
  • Parking Authority (PARC)
  • Louisville Zoo
  • Louisville Metro Department of Corrections
  • Commonwealth of Kentucky state buildings
  • Jefferson County Public Schools
  • New Albany and Floyd County Public Schools
  • Volunteers of America
  • Louisville Metro Housing Authority

Louisville Metro Public Works Assets Sean says last year’s growth can mostly be attributed to new construction as MEC built on its reputation for communicating closely with clients and delivering quality work. He states:

“MEC originally didn’t intend to be a construction company, but local contractor Messer Construction asked us to bid some projects because they had heard about our reputation for good communication and quality service. We started bidding and negotiating construction contracts, and it took off. Personnel grew from 12 to 34 team members today, but we’re still a small family-owned and -operated company. One of our mottos is ‘Family First.’ Our team is dedicated to doing whatever it takes to make a situation right, regardless of cost, because, at the end of the day, our reputation is more important than any bottom-line dollar figure. Knowing my dad had a hand in the WTC makes me want to do even more, and be a great company for both our customers and employees.”

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