Chris Eckols is CEO of AIT Environmental Technology based in Ponte Vedra Beach since 2006. He took on the venture after serving 23 years in the Navy, which is when he was first introduced to the Northeast Florida area.
Tell us a little about yourself and your background.
I served 23 years in the Navy, actually getting my start here at Mayport in 1993. After a myriad of assignments, I retired as Lieutenant Commander, Supply Corps and my MBA is from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California.
Throughout my Navy and private sector career, I’ve been heavily involved in supply chain, logistics, operations and strategic planning.
Those roles certainly do not define me but have really shaped my way of strategic focus.
How did you get involved with AIT Environmental Technology and what does the company specialize in?
I was introduced to AIT through a fellow Rotarian in Williamsburg, Virginia. He was excited to tell me about AIT and the growth potential of the company.
After a deep dive into AIT with its owner Jim Thomas and CEO Kristiana Knowles, I recognized that I could really make a positive impact to the brand and the employees.
Since I’ve had a residence in Ponte Vedra Beach for several years, the opportunity seemed like a no-brainer. It specializes in mold testing and remediation, water extraction and building restoration services. I like to call it “building remedies” because we can tackle a wide variety of problems.
What are the primary goals/services provided by the business?
Our primary service is disaster response with a Fortune 500 retail chain. We handle the disaster repair for close to 9,000 of its stores across 20 states, reaching as far north as Baltimore.
Outside of that relationship, we provide similar services to residential and commercial customers. We’ve enjoyed a long working relationship with local universities and property managers a like.
AIT’s team of technicians are extremely versatile in solving the one-off problems that come up when we start restoration work.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
The thing I like most enjoy about this job is that each day is different. Some people enjoy the predictability of knowing what each day is like, I’m the opposite.
If you ask me what’s in store for me at work tomorrow, I couldn’t tell you because each event has its own unique life cycle.
Hurricane disasters are different than car impacts or fires in buildings.
What are some of the aspects of your job or the business that are more challenging?
The most challenging part of this job is preparing for the next building disaster, since the scope and location is always a moving target.
Although we can handle just about anything thrown our way, managing a small number of technicians across such a large geographic area is the challenge, especially when there is extensive damage, or an event is in a remote location.
It’s just important to go event by event and stay organized.
What do you enjoy most about living in the North Florida area?
Northeast Florida is such a great place to live. In the past six months I’ve golfed Sawgrass, fished the King Fish Tournament, been to several Jags games, bicycled to St. Augustine, saw the Concours (d ‘Elegance) at Amelia and heard from great speakers at the Ponte Vedra Beach Rotary.
My son attends school at Jacksonville University, so being close to him is also a great opportunity. There is just so much to do here and so many opportunities to engage through the Ponte Vedra Beach Rotary Club and the Jacksonville Chamber. It’s like no other place.
What do you like to do in your free time?
In my free time I just look for anything to do outside. My golf game is getting better (some would argue) and there is always time to relax on the beach with a fishing pole.
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