O.C. McDonald

O.C. McDonald store front

The retro “Oh See!” neon sign that points the way to O. C. McDonald’s San Jose, California, site reflects the fact that this installer of plumbing, process piping, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning is hometown grown and was founded in another era. The fact that its client list now includes such high-tech giants as Intel and Applied Materials and that the company is focused on providing solutions to all the industries in Santa Clara Valley, with its own cleanroom for prefabricating clean piping systems and plumbing and sheet metal fabrication facilities, shows that it’s also a state-of-the-art industry leader of the 21st century.

Change and determination are at the heart of O. C. McDonald’s long history and success. In 1906, Oren Charles (O. C.) McDonald, company founder and great-grandfather of current president Jim McDonald, turned to plumbing and fixing wells to supplement the income from his Milpitas chicken ranch. Shortly after, he found that the plumbing business was more lucrative than the chickens, and consequently O. C. McDonald Plumbing opened its doors in San Jose.

When Oren’s son E.V. (Vic) later took over the business, he widened its reach by moving the company into industrial/defense projects, including building metal U.S. Navy lifeboats during World War II, and projects for the Food Machinery Corporation. He also installed in the late 1940s the first air-conditioning systems in what would later be Silicon Valley, and moved the company to its present location, on W. San Carlos Street in San Jose.

As great changes occurred in the valley during the 1960s through 1980s, more changes occurred at O. C. McDonald. The founder’s grandson, R. V. (Dick) McDonald, took over leadership, introducing two-way radios to the company’s service trucks, the first company in the area to have them, and computers to the office. Dick also took on such challenging projects as the Ford and General Motors assembly plants, the San Jose/Santa Clara Waste Water Treatment Plant, and O’Connor and Good Samaritan Hospitals.

Today, current president Jim McDonald, who started in the family business sweeping floors and driving trucks, continues his predecessors’ drive to service and grow along with the everchanging Silicon Valley. Under his leadership, the company has been modernized and now specializes in high-tech cleanroom construction as well as process tool installations and heavy industrial piping. Recent notable projects include the NASA Unitary Wind Tunnel, Intel, the Stanford Linear Accelerator, Applied Materials, Spanish Bay Hotel, the Metcalf Energy Center, and the San Jose Biotech Incubator. The bio-pharmaceutical industry may be the next growth area for the business.

Despite the company’s forward-looking approach—it’s good to learn from the past, Jim McDonald says, but he always looks to the future—O. C. McDonald has never lost its focus on providing oldfashioned service and expert workmanship. “We are known for quality and timely installation,” McDonald states, “and do our best to deliver what the customer needs. No job is too big or too small.”

Today, O. C. McDonald, which employs more than 200 professionals, is also known for being involved in the Silicon Valley community. “We’re a local company and I want people to know that,” says McDonald. The company has been active in the Chamber of Commerce for more than 75 years and in Rotary for three generations, and generously supports local charitable organizations.

This history was written in 2008 by the Silicon Valley Historical Association.

O.C. McDonald website