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Cheshire-based Arbor Oil become part of a three-way joint venture

Source: 
New Haven Register

Dec. 3--As Connecticut residents start turning up their home thermostats, Cheshire-based Arbor Oil has entered into a joint venture with a Waterbury-based energy company.

Terms of the deal between BantamWesson and Arbor Energy were not released. Arbor Energy becomes a part owner of BantamWesson, which was created in 2017 as part of a joint veture between Bantam Home & Energy and Wesson Energy, according to Craig Snyder, president of BantamWesson.

As part of the deal, Hunter Tweed, who had been president of Arbor Energy and one of its principals, now is chief business development officer. Snyder said all of the employees and executives at Arbor Energy are working for the three-way venture, bringing its workforce to 120.

"What this is really about is offering customers a broader array of services than they would have been able to get from one of the companies alone," he said. "We are moving toward a broader home services platform."

BantamWesson will keep open Arbor's Cheshire office, adding it to existing service centers in Bantam and Canton.

Snyder said the joint venture now has eight certified electricians and 12 certified plumbers to service customers.

Jeff Natale said he has done business with Wesson and now has his home heating oil supplied by the company, as well as his furnace and air-conditioning service contracts.

"They have come in the middle of the night to fix an issue with the furnace due to the contract," Natale said. "They are fast and efficient. I think that the oil is a bit more expensive, but the service has been awesome."

Yenny Rosaly, a former Wesson customer who responded to a New Haven Register social media inquiry about the joint venture partners, said she was unhappy with Wesson and switched companies.

"I would not recommend them," Rosaly said. "Their billing department is atrocious."

The number of independent home heating oil dealers in the state has thinned out over the past six or seven years, said Chris Herb, president of the Connecticut Energy Marketers Association, a Cromwell-based industry trade group.

"We've lost a few dozen members over that period and the oil volumes our members are selling has dropped by about 20 percent," Herb said. The decrease in home heating oil suppliers hasn't gotten to the point where it would affect what consumers pay for energy services contracts, he said, because state still has several thousand home heating oil suppliers.

"The industry is still way too vibrant to feel that kind of effect," Herb said.

There are two key reasons for the decline in the number of independent home heating oil dealers, he said.

One is that fewer younger people are getting into many of the family-run companies, according to Herb.

"While second-generation owners may have followed their parent into the business, those in the next generation are going away to college so they can learn to do something else," he said.

Another factor in the home heating oil industry consolidation, Herb said, is the continued expansion of the natural gas distribution network into parts of the state where it previously had not been available. Connecticut's Public Utilities Regulatory Authority in late 2013 gave the go-ahead for the state's three natural gas utilities to expand 900 miles of mains to 280,000 customers over a 10-year period.

"When you combine the two factors, it forces the hand of some older people in the home heating oil business," Herb said. "They may not have been ready to retire yet, but they want to assure their employess will still continue to have jobs."

The decision by Arbor Energy to become part of the joint venture comes about two months after BantamWesson made the purchase of two independent energy dealers in northern New Haven County: Oxford-based Oxford Oil and the heating oil division of Waterbury-based LF Powers.

Tom Biondi, former owner of Oxford Oil, said in a statement made at the time he sold the company that his goal was to find a buyer that would treat his customers "with the respect they deserve."

"BantamWesson fit the bill," Biondi said. "They are a local, family-owned business with a long history in the area. They offer many services for the home that I think our customers will find useful, and that's why I'm confident we've made the right choice."

luther.turmelle@hearstmediact.com

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(c)2019 the New Haven Register (New Haven, Conn.)

Visit the New Haven Register (New Haven, Conn.) at www.nhregister.com

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