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Growing her firm, fulfilling her husband's vision

Rochester Business Journal
March 1, 2013

JoAnn James admits her background does not include developing complex robotic systems used as inspection equipment in nuclear power plants around the world. That does not, however, keep her from leading-and growing-a business that does.
 
Over the last few years, James, 44, has had to deal with a personal loss and a challenging global economy. Yet she believes her business, Jamko Technical Solutions Inc. in Lyons, Wayne County, is poised for growth.
 
"We are the little engine that could," she says.
 
The remote visual inspection company employs 12 workers, including engineers and technicians. Jamko cleans and remotely inspects various types of piping systems, vessels and confined spaces for companies in the power generation, municipal, landfill and industrial markets. It has done work at nuclear power plants across the country and around the world, including Brazil, Canada and England.
 
The company's products and services can take the place of more traditional practices by engineers who may have had to cut pipes and disassemble equipment to access difficult-to-reach areas to evaluate the structural integrity and cleanliness of systems.
 
James declines to disclose sales for the privately held firm but says Jamko is making a rebound after a hit during the global recession.
 
The business recently received certification as a Woman-Owned Business Enterprise through the regional certifying partner of the Woman's Business Enterprise National Council. The certification process-which includes a review of the business and its finances, a site inspection and an interview-confirms the business is at least 51 percent owned, operated and controlled by a woman. James says the designation as a minority-owned business could lead to more work for the firm.
 
Jamko became a woman-owned business in 2009 when James maintained controlling interest in the company following the unexpected passing of her husband, Michael James. He started the business in 2001 after serving in the United States Navy and working in the industry for several years.
 
A former preschool teacher and mother of two daughters, JoAnn James was in charge of bookkeeping and human resources at the firm when it began, but she stepped up when her husband died and was determined to keep the business, which she calls her husband's vision, afloat.
 
So roughly three years ago, Jamko moved to its 16,000-square-foot location from Newark after the two sites it was previously housed in became too small. The new facility-a few miles from the New York State Thruway-also allowed Jamko to consolidate its operations under one roof.
 
Some personnel changes and other revamping took place at the firm, James says.
 
The business now is looking to expand further into the industrial sector and throughout the Northeast. James says Jamko started working in the industrial business as a way to offset down times during the year in the nuclear power plant business. It has since become a larger part of the company.
 
"We have many opportunities," she says. 
 
Small Business is a weekly feature focusing on entrepreneurs. Send suggestions for future Small Business stories to Associate Editor Smriti Jacob at sjacob@rbj.net.3/1/13 (c) 2013 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email service@rbj.net.


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