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Focus - Resurrecting HS training

image Keith Bell, State Representative Dist. 4, CEO/President, Intex Electrical Contractors Inc., Forney, TX

DALLAS/FT WORTH - A 4th generation Texan, State Representative Keith Bell resides in Forney, TX. Before being elected to represent House District 4 in November 2018, Bell served as a trustee on the Forney ISD School Board for 20 years; elected as president 14 times. He has been in the electrical field since 1976 and founded Intex Electrical Contractors Inc. in November 1983 and serves as CEO/President. A serial entrepreneur, he has owned and operated numerous businesses in several industries including KB Land and Cattle Company LLC.

How would you describe the state of the construction industry in general terms?
    The construction industry is on pace with 2018 revenues, though tariff related issues seem to have put a damper on some of the private commercial, industrial and residential projects. Labor shortages and tariffs are having inflationary pressures on construction costs.
Have you experienced an increase or a slowdown in business?
    Only in the high-end residential sector due to delayed starts have we seen a slowdown. This is due to the wet weather. We’re very diversified, so these weather-related slowdowns have been offset by increases in other divisions.

What factors are driving this increase/slowdown?
    Our area has been booming for several years, beginning with a very business friendly tax structure which has led to businesses relocating to our area. Additionally, many of these employees and their families have followed these jobs. It’s led to growth in all sectors of construction in office/warehouse, office, institutional and residential projects.

What are the “hot button” issues in the electrical industry?

    Tariffs have been a huge concern for the last year. The uncertainty has been keeping some projects on the sidelines due to inflationary pressures. The risk to subcontractors is trying to curb margin erosion due to rising wages and material costs on long term projects.
What is the most significant challenge the electrical industry is facing? (i.e. labor shortage, other)
    Currently, our biggest challenge is finding enough qualified electricians. We abandoned HS trades programs and have pushed high school graduates toward college for years. This created a significant workforce development disconnect in the skilled trades. Fortunately, this has been recognized and these programs are being resurrected. We are working to recruit people to the construction industry through the IEC Apprenticeship Program, partnerships with high school CTE programs, military outreach and internships, all part of our Intex University.

Do you see an increase in the number of outside contractors coming to the area?
    We’ve seen several new contractors come to the area because of the demand. However, this industry is relationship driven! We have maintained longstanding relationships from years of consistent quality service and creating value for our customers.

What are cost increases affecting the electrical industry?

    Rising labor costs and salaries. Copper and steel are constant factors causing fluctuations in commodity prices. Additionally, the tariff threats have caused some lighting manufacturers to implement  structured price increases.

What is on the horizon for the electrical industry?
    With the rollout of LED lighting and Power over Ethernet, there have been numerous changes that affect electrical wiring and installation. Because digital electricity is not currently governed by the National Electrical Code and Class 1, 2 and 3 signaling circuits are exempted from the Texas Electrical Safety and Licensing Act – there is a risk that unqualified Individuals can perform these installations without the knowledge to properly size wiring and over current protection based on connected loads.

Are there any significant code changes / regulations in the past year affecting the electrical industry?

    The NEC has a three-year cycle and it is my hope digital electricity is addressed in the next revision.

What are keys to being successful?
    Our keys to being successful are focusing on employee satisfaction, maintaining the diversity of our markets, a keen focus on customer service and prudent risk management. We are constantly striving to stay at the top of our game; learning and growing continually while putting that to work to create value and solutions for our customers.
    Intex Electrical Contractors Inc. is a full-service electrical contractor. -cmw

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Carol Wiatrek meditor@constructionnews.net