Monroe is at the seat of Union County with a population of more that 30,000. In that community filled with tree-lined streets and historic properties, Mr. Bobby Pope decided to open a Total Comfort, Inc., in 1968. For 12 years, the company provided heating, air conditioning and insulation service and installation. In 1974 Pope expanded the operation to include the manufacturing of rectangular ductwork, opening Monroe Metal Manufacturing Company in the same location off U.S. Highway 74.
A native of Boomer in Wilkes County, Bobby Pope got his start in the service area of the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) business working for a company called Temperature Control, Inc., also located in Monroe. He eventually became one of the owners of the company and built an impressive reputation as a heating and air conditioning service person. Qualified and professional HVAC service personnel were in short supply in the state, making Mr. Pope a busy man. In fact, the area of residential and commercial cooling was new in the Carolinas, at the time it was too impossible to find people to install and service the sought after units. 

Mr. Pope sold out of Temperature Control and started his own business, a sole proprietorship called Total Comfort, Inc. One day he received a call from an area hospital in need of a new HVAC unit for one of its wings, but at the time, Pope was only running a service business. The hospital administrator convinced Pope that he was the right man to handle the installation and handed him a purchase order for a new unit. Pope went to Charlotte and found a new air-to-air unit (no water involved), perfect for the hospital’s needs. This twist of fate pushed Pope in a direction he never imagined working in, and within months he had the beginning of a thriving installation and service business. 

As Pope’s installation business continued to grow, he began manufacturing rectangular duct in 1974 to meet the specific need of his customers, and Monroe Metal Manufacturing Company was born. Pope bought new, hand operated metal manufacturing equipment to make ducts for gas and oil furnaces as well as heat pumps. In the beginning Monroe Metal operated out of a 1,200 square foot space with only four employees, including Pope and his wife Betty, who handled the company’s accounting and bookkeeping. The company quickly found itself working on new residential and commercial construction project both large and small. 

Within less than a year business was exploding so rapidly that Pope leased a 7,500 square foot building that was once a car dealership and service station. The space allowed for a much larger manufacturing plane. In 1969 the company began getting a regular stream of work form local contractors, which expanded the reach of Monroe Metal’s clientele to now include project in both North & South Carolina as well as Virginia. 

In 1974 Pope bought five acres of land in Monroe and built a 20,000 square foot facility, and hired an additional seventy-five employees to run the business, including installers, field personnel, machine operators and administrative staff. 

Pope again saw the need to expand in 1979, and added 18,000 new square feet to his existing plant, spending more than $500,000 on new equipment, including an automated manufacturing machine, welding machine and machines for rolling round pipe. 

In 1980 Monroe’s duct manufacturing division became so successful that Pope eliminated the installation division all together in order to focus on manufacturing, and also avoid competing with his own customers. This turned out to be a very wise business move and sales at Monroe Metal Manufacturing increased by volumes. Between 1980 and 1984 Pope expanded the plants physical space twice more, adding 10,000 square feet to increase work and staging areas and then an additional 27,000 square feet. He also purchased an additional five acres of land next to his current property. 

Now covering 75,000 square feet in four separate buildings, Monroe Metal Manufacturing was still not the ideal space for the business Pope envisioned. He was determined to create a working plant that was both efficient and that streamlined manufacturing process. In the spring of 1985, Pope purchased another seventeen acres and built a 100,000 square feet fabrication structure that contained no partitions and twenty-six foot high ceiling. Ideally suited for the use and transport of any size or type of equipment, the added space made the company one of the largest duct manufacturing facilities in the country. 

Pope bought the best manufacturing equipment available for the plant and hired computer programmers to create custom software based on his specification for use in his cutting systems. Using CAD drawings, client jobs can be entered into a software program that directly downloads to the cutting machines, greatly reducing lead times. 

Pope says his biggest challenge has always been finding enough good employees while maintaining business in a small community. The length of time employees have stayed with Monroe Metal Manufacturing is surely a testament to the good work environment the company offers. Many of the company’s sixty full-time employees have been with Monroe Metal Manufacturing for as long as twenty-eight years. 

Though it is not a family business as such, Pope’s second wife Janice oversees all of the office personnel and works very closely with the accounting department, the company’s CPA and banking business. Monore Metal offers a good benefits package and is an attraction for any employee looking for job security. 

Total Comfort, Inc. and Monroe Metal Mfg., Inc. separated into two individual entities in 2003. Monroe Metal Manufacturing manufactures rectangular, spiral and oval duct to meet any specification and has the ability to produce up to 84” in diameter, and oval duct to 48” x 96”, which many fabricators cannot produce. Monroe Metal operates two fully-automated duct lines, three spiral machines, three ovalizers and four plasma machines with coil lines that allow for quick, accurate and efficient production. In addition to the fabrication shop, Monroe Metal has two warehouses, yard storage and business offices.