Our Company: Management
Michael Wetzel, P.E., President and CEO
Since joining the company as president and CEO in 1996, after he and his father Larry acquired controlling interest in Floratech Industries, Wetzel has grown Air Innovations from a company focused solely on floral coolers to one that addresses wide variety of refrigeration, air conditioning and filtration needs. During this time, revenue and employment have increased dramatically.
Prior to Air Innovations, Wetzel was based in France for four years and worked for a multinational company building cleanrooms in Europe and the Mideast. Previously he worked stateside as an engineering manager in the HVAC construction industry. He received a bachelor of science in mechanical engineering from Clarkson University and is the holder of seven U.S. patents. Wetzel is a licensed Professional Engineer.
Ronald Caramella, Director of Operations
Caramella oversees all manufacturing functions, including production, scheduling, shipping; building facilities and maintenance; and, safety compliance. He has extensive experience in production management and process engineering, with a 19-year tenure at a Honeywell International. There, Caramella headed up new product development, implemented cross functional training, and provided production services for rapid prototyping and market beta test units. He also created assembly documentation and tooling in support of designing for manufacturability, test and serviceability. In addition, he conducted statistical analyses that resulted in process improvements and cost reductions.
Caramella is certified by Villanova University as a Lean Six Sigma Sensei, and holds a green belt designation. He earned an associate’s degree from Cayuga County Community College.
Cheryl Gressani, Director of Business Development
Gressani has worked at Air Innovations since 2003, most recently serving as director of business development. In this role, she is responsible for identifying new opportunities for product development, strategic partnerships and grants. Gressani also handles sales for HEPAiRx air purifiers and IsolationAir portable contamination control units. In addition, she is Air Innovations’ corporate marketing director.
Previously, she held positions as assistant to the president at the Metropolitan Development Association, president of the Central New York Technology Development Organization, and marketing communications director at Inficon. She holds a bachelor's degree from SUNY Oswego, as well as a master's degree from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. Before joining Air Innovations, Gressani lived in Italy for four years; she speaks Italian and French.
Michael Militi, Division Manager
Militi has 20 years experience in HVAC project management, sales and applications engineering. He joined Air Innovations in 2001, and is responsible for Wine Guardian wine cooling systems and Cleanroom Systems divisions, including AdvancAir and HEPAir business.
Previously, Militi worked as a sales engineer for a package testing and reliability equipment company and an industrial blower manufacturer. He began his career at Cleanroom Technology and continued developing turnkey cleanroom solutions for an international client base when that company was purchased by Clestra.
Militi has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Rochester Institute of Technology.
John Patalita, Division Manager
Patalita serves as division manager of the Floratech division at Air Innovations. He is responsible for both North American and international sales. He also is in charge of Wine Guardian international sales.
Patalita comes to the job with over 25 years of sales, marketing and new product development at Carrier Corporation and Lennox International. He worked in Europe for ten years, and speaks fluent French, Polish and Spanish, assets he will be able to use in developing Floratech and Wine Guardian’s international markets. Patalita holds an M.B.A. from the University of Rochester's Executive Development Program, and a B.S. in systems engineering and operations research from Princeton University, He also completed graduate studies in France at the École Superieure des Science Économique et Commerciales.
Lou Rabbia, Director of Finance and Purchasing
Louis Rabbia has joined the company as director of finance and purchasing. In addition to accounting and supply chain management, he will be responsible for information systems, materials and inventory control. Lou has 30 years experience in manufacturing finance, product costing, and ERP and quality system implementation in the automotive and aerospace industries. Lou holds an MBA from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and a bachelor’s degree from Utica College of Syracuse University.
Scott Toukatly, Engineering Manager
As director of engineering at Air Innovations, Toukatly leads the team in developing heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration products for original equipment manufacturers, especially for those requiring precise packaging and performance specifications.
Toukatly has 24 years experience in designing HVAC equipment and a broad knowledge of regulatory issues affecting industry and products, most recently as engineering manager for Enviromaster International. He is a member of the American Society of Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers and of the Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute. Toukatly holds an A.S. degree in air conditioning and refrigeration technology from Mohawk Valley Community College and a B.S. degree in mechanical engineering from SUNY Institute of Technology.
Board of Directors
Michael Wetzel, P.E., President and CEO
Larry E. Wetzel, P.E., Chairman of the Board
The first 18 years of Larry Wetzel’s career were spent in the construction industry. Starting as a junior engineer, he rose to become president of a division. In 1983, he founded Clean Room Technology, Inc. and rapidly built it into an international business with sales in excess of $20 million. The $650,000 of initial start-up capital was leveraged into a market value in excess of $8 million dollars when the company merged with the French company, Clestra, in 1989.
Wetzel spent the next several years as chairman of Clestra’s worldwide cleanroom operations with sales in excess of $40 million. In 1994, while serving as a consultant to Clestra, Wetzel co-founded Exponential Business Development Company to invest in and assist startup entrepreneurial companies in Upstate New York. Exponential raised over $5 million in capital with Wetzel serving as a general partner until 2002 when the business was acquired by Newtek Capital, Inc.
Early in 1996, Wetzel and his son, Michael, acquired controlling interest in Floratech Industries, Inc. In 1998, Floratech introduced an innovative new air conditioning product, HEPAir, for the cleanroom and indoor air quality market. In 1999, Floratech, through its newly formed subsidiary, Cleanroom Systems, Inc., acquired the cleanroom air conditioning manufacturing division back from Clestra.
In 2001, the parent company changed its name to Air Innovations, Inc. to better reflect its mission. Sales, profits and employment have increased ten-fold in this time. Larry Wetzel continues to serve as chairman and Michael Wetzel serves as president and CEO.
In 2011, Wetzel was honored by the HVAC-R and manufacturing industries with two significant awards: Heating, Piping and Air Conditioning magazine's "Engineer of the Year" and the Manufacturer's Association of Central New York award for manufacturing excellence.
Wetzel holds degrees in mathematics and engineering from Penn State University and St. Vincent College and is a licensed Professional Engineer. He is a holder of eight U.S. patents. Currently, Wetzel is principal investigator on several HEPAiRx ventilating air purifier research studies and is actively involved in the product’s commercial launch.
Wetzel is a frequent lecturer, has published several professional articles, and sits on the boards of several companies in the region. He is active in many philanthropic and business organizations in the Central New York community. Wetzel is a founding board member of the New York Indoor Environmental Quality Center, Inc., which subsequently became the Syracuse Center of Excellence.
Richard (Rich) Husted, Member, Board of Directors
Richard (Rich) Husted owns R.S. Husted consulting Inc., a company specializing in business strategy, manufacturing efficiency improvement, and acquisitions and divestitures. He sits on the board of several Central New York companies. Rich received his undergraduate degree in industrial engineering form Drexel University and an M.B.A from Syracuse University.
Rich previously enjoyed a 28-year career with Carrier Corporation, a subsidiary of United Technologies Corporation, where he rose to senior vice president of the Container Refrigeration unit and vice president and general manager of the North American Residential Heating and Air Conditioning business. He was responsible for leading both operations to industry-leading market share positions and double digit returns on sales and assets. Rich also spent seven years with Carlisle Companies, Inc. where he was a corporate vice president and president of the Carlisle System and Equipment Group. In support of this business, Rich was involved in 17 acquisitions and joint ventures.
Rich is active in SCORE, an arm of the Small Business Association that provides pro bono support to start-up and small businesses. He is also chairman of Defenshield, a company providing security to entry control points.
John A. Rizzo, Member, Board of Directors
John A. Rizzo is a lean six sigma consultant for Moffitt Associates with 23 years experience in operations, finance, and sales/marketing. Before joining Moffitt, John led lean six sigma transformations at three manufacturing companies from the roles of director of operations, general manager and president. John has worked or consulted in several different manufacturing and service industries including: precision metal working, pharmaceuticals, medical, electrical materials, air conditioning, textiles, and temporary staffing.
John has facilitated several hundred LSS kaizen events / projects. He is known as a passionate advocate for continuous improvement and is able to bring together individuals with different agendas. A partial list of areas where John has extensive experience includes: strategy deployment, creating flow, material replenishment systems, total productive maintenance, value stream mapping, mistake proofing, quality function deployment, set up reduction, failure mode effects analysis, design for manufacturing, and supply chain optimization.
John holds a B.S. from the Schools of Engineering and Business at the University of Vermont. He earned an M.B.A. and M.P.A. from Syracuse University. He is a Certified Purchasing Manager (CPM), APICS certified, and an HL Black Belt. He has also served as chairman for one of the largest manufacturing associations in the country.