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Home | DALLAS / FORT WORTH | Spotlight | Spotlight - David Whitmire, GCATS Telecom and Critical Power Services

Spotlight - David Whitmire, GCATS Telecom and Critical Power Services

image David Whitmire, Owner, GCATS Telecom and Critical Power Services, Dallas, Tx

DALLAS/FT WORTH - GCATS Telecom & Critical Power Services is a turnkey electrical, telecommunications, and critical power company specializing in providing creative and unique solutions.

 

 

 

 


So David where were you born?
    I was born in Robbinsdale Minnesota and moved to Texas at the age of 7.  My parents were from Texas. My dad moved the family there for work. The only thing I remember about Minnesota is that it was very cold!

Do you remember much about your upbringing? 
    We moved from a town to a farm outside of Caddo Mills Texas, which is between Greenville and Rockwall. 

How did you get your start in construction?
    My dad was a sheetrock contractor so when I was 12, I started nailing sheetrock. My grandfather was an electrical contractor as well as my uncles, cousins and others in the family.  In 1981 when I graduated high school,  my uncle encouraged me to join an apprenticeship program through the IBEW. 

What year did you start GCATS and how did you come up with the name?

    I started GCATS in 2005. I joined IEC at the same time. GCATS was more of a legal name that we agreed on.  We go by GCATS Telecom and Critical Power Services. It sticks with people. It’s something our attorney came up with. 

What were the first few years like for you?

We were pretty fortunate.  We’ve always concentrated on data centers and central office work as well as high end tenant finish. The majority of us have worked together for 15 to 20 years prior to GCATS. We have a great customer base and a great group of people.  95 percent of our business is repeat business. Five percent is referral and we don’t really do any advertising. 

Are you focused more on Dallas or do you venture outside of the city?

    We also have a presence in Austin due to our data center business. We’ve been invited to come up and do some work in Virginia because we are licensed there. We usually do this at the customer’s request. We’ve done telecom work in Lincoln Nebraska, Minneapolis Minnesota Kansas City, Oklahoma and Arkansas. Our out of town work is primarily inside plant or central office Installations.

Are you the primary owner of GCATS or are there other partners?

    I am the founder, but I also have a partner in the business by the name of Jerrel Kutil. 

How did you guys meet?
    He actually worked for me as an apprentice back in the’ 90s. We were doing local exchange carriers and telephone work for groups like AT&T and MCI. Many of those companies aren’t around anymore. He came to work for me and I immediately made him a project manager because he was a really smart guy and we’ve been working together ever since.

You mentioned telecom earlier. I know how that industry was in the early 2000s which was a rough time to be in that business.  How did you guys survive that period?

    In 2001, the wheels fell off. In the ‘90s, the government deregulated the phone companies so many mom and pop local exchange carriers popped up and we were doing a lot of that work. I was working for Guild Electric, which was a union contractor, and the owner had me start Guild Technologies to pursue those markets.  We got up to 363 guys with 95 trucks.  When the wheels fell off towards the end of 2000, most of our customers filed bankruptcy and went out of business. Right after that we had 911 which affected our commercial guys. Suddenly we were a 40-man shop with five trucks. I think downsizing is much harder than growing.  We survived it though.

What advice would you give someone entering the construction industry?
    The first thing is that if you can get into an apprenticeship program, like the IEC’s program, that would be a great start. We’re branching out to the high schools to allow students to get their first year of studies completed. Apply yourself and you will graduate in four years and probably will have a higher income than your friends that went to college and you will have zero college debt.  From there the sky’s the limit. You have to spend some time as an electrician and journeyman but you can work your way up to foreman, superintendent, project manager and eventually own your own company. Any of the specialized trades are the best secret! You just have to find an area that fits you. I was in a two-year vocational program and a lot of my friends went on to college. When we all graduated they all had more debt and made less money than me so joining the apprenticeship program certainly paid off.

How many total employees do you have?
    Right now we’re at 117.  We average about 120 and we’ve had as many as 168. Twenty-seven of those employees are in the apprenticeship program right now. We actually reimburse tuition and books at 100 percent for an A and 75 percent for a B.

What type of company activities do you have a GCATS?
    We have a quarterly newsletter where we recognize our employees. We will also have an IDEAL barbeque in October. We had a wire off competition and with great socializing and fellowship. We try to have those quarterly and, of course, we will have a holiday party. We try to do the best we can with our employees. We have employee surveys and make sure that they know to spend their benefit dollars.  We pay 100 percent of our employees health coverage. Because of this we have very low turnover.

What’s changed the most at GCATS over the last 12 years?

    We’ve learned the importance of having quarterly reviews and setting goals. We brought in an HR consultant that has really helped with our younger employees. The regulatory environment has changed over the years but we’ve made proper adjustments needed.  Technology has increased our estimating by 400 percent and made us much more efficient. Our estimates are automatically loaded into other systems and allow us to track our budgets daily.  That wasn’t here 12 years ago!

Is there a single individual that was your mentor or someone you really admired?

    That’s a tough one. I’ve worked with many good people so it would be hard to single one out. I was rotated around as an apprentice and met a lot of good people. My uncle gave me that push and encouragement when I first started. 

What are your hobbies?

    I have so many hobbies and so little time. We have a place in northeast Oklahoma where we hunt on about 720 acres with a cabin. We work with the parks and wildlife. We capture the bears during the spring and summer months.  We then put GPS collars on the females so that they can track them. It’s a joint program with the Oklahoma Parks and Wildlife and OSU. In February and March, they invite us back and we get to play with the babies. We enjoy the lake as well. Our house in Arkansas is on the lake so we take the kids there for  watersports and fishing. 

How long have you been married?

    Debbie and I have been married since 1982. Our anniversary is October 15th. We have two kids whom we love dearly. My son and daughter both went to the University of Arkansas. The family all lives in Arkansas so I fly my own plane back and forth between GCATS and Arkansas each week.


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