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Rhoads Energy poised for 'substantial' revenue increase

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Michael DeBerdine III is not trying to be all things to all people.

But his company, Lancaster-based Rhoads Energy Corp., isn't far off — at least when it comes to serving residential customers.

During the past decade, Rhoads has grown from one brand to eight through a series of acquisitions and pushed its revenue from $14.5 million in 2003 to $55.1 million last year.

That growth has largely been driven by a shrinking market for home heating oil and a plan to expand into longer-term product lines with natural gas and propane.

"We're trying to fill in gaps and make our markets more fluid," said DeBerdine, referring to a four-county service territory of Berks, Chester, Lancaster and Montgomery counties.

Rhoads saw its customer base double in 2003 with the addition of Zeke's Oil Co. By 2009, the company doubled again through two acquisitions in Berks County.

Three additional acquisitions last year continued the upward trend.

The company declined to say how many customers it serves.

"We believe the best customer is the customer we're already providing an energy product to," DeBerdine said, also citing ongoing growth on the service side.

Since acquiring Boyertown Oil & Propane in 2009, its service and installation business has grown 100 percent, he said. Installation revenue in Lancaster and Chester counties has also grown 25 percent in that span.

"We don't look to acquire HVAC companies. We look to serve fuel to the customer," DeBerdine said.

New propane customers and the acquisition of customers on the heating oil side has meant additional field technicians. Rhoads is now up to 81 employees, which is more than double the number it had in 2009.

"I don't see us extending beyond our current footprint," DeBerdine said. "I'd just like to see us become more dense."

As the company continues to grow its residential business, commercial work could pick up, he added: "Commercial usually follows our residential business."

Right now, about 90 percent of its delivery and service business is residential.

Last year, Rhoads delivered more than 7.3 million gallons of fuel, according to Business Journal records. That was up from about 7 million in 2012.

Rhoads also operates five Pacific Pride commercial fueling stations in the midstate, including locations in Cumberland and Dauphin counties.

Expanded product lines and additional sites are possible on that side of the business, DeBerdine said. Rhoads is the exclusive regional partner of Voyager, a national fleet-fueling program.

"If you are not growing in this business, you're definitely going backwards," he said. "When you have a shrinking market, you need to grow organically or through acquisitions just to stay ahead."

Rhoads aims to have one acquisition each year.

With growth in propane delivery and price, as well as its recent deals — Atlas Oil and Snyder Petroleum at the end of last year — DeBerdine is expecting 2014's revenue to come in "substantially higher" than 2013's.

Expansion history

Since 2003, Jerome H. Rhoads Inc., which does business as Rhoads Energy Corp., has acquired seven companies in its delivery footprint. That territory includes Berks, Chester, Lancaster and Montgomery counties.

The firm also has business in Cumberland and Dauphin counties through its Pacific Pride fueling stations.

2003: Acquired Zeke’s Oil Co. in Chester County

2007: Acquired Acker’s Fuel Service In Lancaster County

2009: Acquired E.G. Smith Inc. and Boyertown Oil & Propane in Berks County

2010: Natural-gas license approved, which extends market reach, and added as a Voyager Fleet Card partner for southcentral Pennsylvania

2012: Started offering propane in Lancaster

2013: Acquired fuel business from Moyer Plumbing Heating Cooling Fuel in Berks County, Atlas Oil in Montgomery County and Snyder Petroleum in Chester County. Rebranded Boyertown Oil to offer propane.

Jason Scott

Jason Scott

Jason Scott covers state government, real estate and construction, media and marketing, and Dauphin County. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at jasons@cpbj.com. Follow him on Twitter, @JScottJournal. Circle Jason Scott on .

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