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FOCUS - Electrical Industry - Workload, costs, labor shortages up

image Bill Groves, President, Charles VandeZande, Vice President of Estimating, Groves Electrical Service Inc., Farmers Branch, TX

DALLAS/FT WORTH - How would you describe the state of the construction industry in general terms? Have you heard of an increase or slowdown in business?







  In the DFW Metroplex, the workload exceeds the available manpower. In the last few years there have been several large projects in the Metroplex that have taken a lot of the available workforce to complete. With large projects like The Star, Frisco Station, Toyota North American Headquarters, State Farm Insurance and Legacy West, everyone that is willing to work has a job. With all of this work, prices have gone up and budgets are getting exceeded. You have to be able to not only help with budgets and bid the projects, but find ways for owners to save money and get projects in budget. This includes working with the general contractor to redesign projects in a way that the owner still gets what he wants at the budget he can afford. At Groves Electrical Service Inc., we have an experienced and valuable estimating and design team to help with this. If you don’t have the ability to do this, the jobs go over budget and will not be funded or at least put on hold until they can get them redesigned and rebid at a later date.

What are the hot button issues in the industry?
    One of the hot button issues in our industry is safety. When you start a job, contractors want to meet the person responsible for the safety in your company. They want to see a specific person that will be held accountable if something goes wrong at the jobsite. It is every contractor’s responsibility to make sure that every employee goes home at the end of the day. The electrical trade has certain inherent dangers associated with the trade and contractors want to know how you are going to mitigate those dangers so that employees can work safely. The “Good Old Boy” way of doing things without the proper training and safety equipment is disappearing fast.

Do you see an increase in the number of outside contractors coming to the area?
    We have found more general contractors opening up shop in the Metroplex every day. We receive email bid requests from contractors we have never heard of every week. We try to vet each general contractor before deciding if we will give them a bid on bid day.

With the recent emphasis on green building, what is the most environ-mentally friendly change relating to your industry?
    The lighting industry and LED lamps are the way of the future and the future is now.

What is the most significant challenge your industry faces?

    Labor shortages for the electrical industry are a big issue facing electrical contractors in North Texas. When a seasoned veteran retires, they are harder than ever to replace. At Groves Electrical Service Inc., we are training in the field and in the classroom. We have always trained and promoted from within, and now it is more important than ever. We are finding it harder and harder to find young talent these days. The electrical trade needs to be held in the same regard as a four-year college degree. Spend four years in the trade and become a journeyman while getting paid. Contrast that versus spending four years in college and receiving a degree along with student loan debt.

What are the cost increases relating to your industry?
    Labor and material are up. General contractors are utilizing “Doc U Sign” for subcontractors and are becoming more and more unwilling to negotiate favorable terms and conditions with subcontractors, shifting costs from the general contractor and forcing them upon the subcontractors. Texture payments are also an additional cost added to the subcontractor.

Has the theft of copper affected pricing of work?

    Copper theft is still a big problem. In the past year, we have had a new school in Dallas hit twice. Once they stole from the plumber and once from us. Our sports lighting projects are always susceptible to theft due to the secluded nature of the projects.

Are there solutions to the copper theft problem?

    There is no foolproof way to stop copper theft. We cannot install the copper until the job is secured. We utilize aluminum conductors when allowed.

What are the rewards of the industry?

    The rewards are many, such as the relationships that are created as time goes on with owners, general contractors, engineers and other trades. As with all construction trades, the feeling of accomplishment you get with each project, large or small. Whether you are a young apprentice installing your first ceiling fan or an experienced apprentice finishing a single room, you get a feeling of accomplishment. For the foreman and project manager, it might be the first football game on a new field or the opening of a school, restaurant or fire station. The electrician is the first on site with temporary power and the last one finished after we put the plug and switch plates on the devices. You get to meet or at least see all the trades work and learn something on every project.

What are the keys to being successful?
    Hard work and good preparation is the only way I know to succeed. You have to keep current in your field and not let technology or code changes happen without your knowledge.
    Electrical contractor Groves Electrical Service Inc. specializes in a wide range of projects, including educational, municipal, hospitality, municipal and retail. –mjm

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Melissa Jones-Meyer dfweditor@constructionnews.net