Maintaining a successful position in today’s industry for almost seventy years requires a combination of knowledge, flexibility and a deep willingness to incorporate the latest technological innovations…
EC Company is rated among the top fifty electrical contractors in the United States and is the largest privately-held electrical contracting company in the northwest. It is a shining example of a company founded on hard-earned skills, a solid and stable business model and unwavering respect for all customers.
“EC Company has made a very focused effort to keep up with changes in the industry,” says Mike Douglas, Vice President of Construction for the firm. “We identify trends, and listen to the needs of our customers.”
As a full-service electrical contractor, EC Company’s highly trained staff of about 800 take on a diverse range of projects including commercial construction, renewable energy, industrial construction, traffic and road lighting, low-voltage, generators and engines. All of this is done while offering 24/7 service across seven states in the Northwest and Mountain region and handling the latest advanced technology projects for its many clients.
Founded in 1946, EC Company’s initial focus was on wiring motors and generators, working primarily with marine, heavy industrial clients and the pulp and paper industry and was successful from the very beginning.
Its services grew steadily over the years and, in 1955, it joined forces with a key supplier of generator sets and entered into an agreement to serve and sell those products. This was the beginning of EC Power Systems.
EC continued to expand over the decades and, in 1985, the company took another step forward when it was purchased by private investors. Since that time, EC Company has diversified its electrical services and is active in not only numerous industry sectors and markets, but also carries parts and provides service for over thirty brands.
Today, the company is divided into two entities. Electrical Construction Company is the electrical arm and EC Power Systems is the generator/power systems arm. The construction group’s main office is in Portland, Oregon with a construction office in Seattle, Washington and a third office in Albany, Oregon, extending their reach into central and southern Oregon.
Although the fundamentals of electrical work remain unchanged over the years, the industry has expanded its scope, particularly over the past two to three decades. Changes in technology now require the company to include services for closed-circuit television, phone systems, digital control systems, structured cabling systems, security systems, fire alarm installation and monitoring.
Douglas was with EC Company from 1998 to 2001 and active in the industry for decades as a general contractor, construction manager and owner’s representative overseeing large projects. He remembers working for a different company that regularly dealt with EC, and he was impressed by what he saw from EC Company. He returned in July of 2014.
EC Company is active in many areas: design/build; low, medium and high voltage installations; commercial wiring; traffic signals; lighting; and renewable solutions. The company regularly takes on projects ranging from commercial properties and educational facilities to government buildings, healthcare facilities, renewable solutions, industrial sites and athletic facilities.
While experiencing considerable growth over the years, the company has developed the expert capabilities required to handle advanced technology projects. EC Company’s skill sets enable it to take on demanding projects involving research facilities, electronic assembly plants and semiconductor, wafer or solar component manufacturing. Many of the projects are of a confidential nature.
In recent years, the company has found itself working with clients on an increasing number of mission-critical data systems, control systems, fire alarms and other projects requiring advanced technology. By identifying emerging markets, keeping up with customer demand and educating staff, EC Company has positioned itself as an expert in the field. This is the result of a deliberate, calculated strategy initiated by the company.
“Our job is to adapt to these new markets, via a deliberate and calculated plan, so that we are not experimenting on our clients; this allows us to build our resume in the market as the market develops, so we are a player,” states Douglas. “And that’s really the challenge. We work hard to keep up with the technical advances of the industry.”
With technology changing at a rapid pace, it is essential for the company to remain current. One example, says Douglas, is the advent of LED (light emitting diode) lighting systems. Compact, durable and extremely efficient, LED lights do not radiate heat, unlike the traditional counterparts: incandescent and halogen lighting. This keeps them from overheating and burning out prematurely or flickering like fluorescent lighting, which is becoming considered outdated technology.
“They are like the evolution of flat screen TVs,” says Douglas. “Five years ago, LEDs were so cost-prohibitive they were laughable. Today, they rival incandescent alternatives. As clients also consider the cost-savings benefit it becomes an easy decision to use LED fixtures. Cost is no longer an issue, we can buy and install LED fixtures for costs equivalent to or less than incandescent alternatives.”
EC Company has developed a broad understanding of these and other systems and passes that knowledge to customers to be able to create systems which are more efficient and cost-effective.
“Today, we are one of the premier lighting control contractors, because we have the experience to understand what systems work together, because we’ve done it. And we’ve done it because we made a conscious decision to understand the technology when it was an emerging market and still on the cutting edge.”
Over time, electrical systems have become much more elaborate and sophisticated, requiring not only considerable expertise, but ongoing education and training. All of EC’s electrical workers must complete a six-year apprenticeship program. This, combined with hands-on experience and ongoing, in-house training ensures that the company and its many clients are working with the best craftsmen in the field.
In the state of Oregon, all wireman, unlike many other trades, must be licensed. This means that the wireman is also responsible for installation, which is unique to the trade. As a result, employees are required to stay current as the market changes and constantly update their knowledge with regard to new codes and other relevant changes.
“It all starts with an impeccable base of training, and one of the reasons why we can travel so well, is because when we dispatch a journeyman wireman, we know they have a minimum of six years of training, education and practical experience,” states Douglas. “And with that kind of training, we can travel and do things that many smaller companies who are not signatory simply cannot do.”
Years of training, discipline and a strong work ethic ensure that company staff remain professional, up-to-date and maintain the strictest compliance with safety procedures.
From the smallest job to the largest project, all work taken on by EC Company is conducted with the utmost respect for safety initiatives. Believing all accidents are preventable, the company has a strong, top-down commitment to zero accidents, which “we work to achieve through proper planning, an unwavering commitment to safety and control. Last year, two of our divisions were recognized for working with zero accidents for an entire year.”
In the words of company CEO George Adams: “No job is so important, no service so urgent, that we cannot take time to perform our work safely.” At EC, safety is much more than a word; it is a way of life. By transforming its safety culture into an injury-free environment (IFE), the company continues to introduce and implement many safety initiatives to create greater awareness within the organization.
“Our culture is one that is driven from the top down, in that we have a culture here of incident-free work that is supported by the management of the company,” states Douglas. “It trickles down to the field by virtue of awareness. We spend a lot of money on safety. This is not something we say or put on a banner. We choose to put a premium on safety because it is the right thing to do. We truly care about our people and because the risk involved in our industry demands it.”
In the thirty years he has been in the business, Douglas says he has seen dramatic changes in the field. Safety-related training and equipment now often account for a substantial commitment from a company’s operating budget. Everything from near-misses to relatively small incidents, such as a bee sting while on a job site, is recorded. “Today, clients expect and demand safety and a safe environment.”
For the future, the company will be maintaining its commitment to customers while expanding its scope as a best-in-class service provider to the northwest electrical industry. With a very high rate of repeat business, EC Company looks forward to serving the growing needs of clients today, tomorrow and years from now.
“We owe it to our customers to stay on the leading edge of safety and contemporary methods of materials in all the things we do and to continue to be the best that we can be, “ says Douglas. “And so, I can confidently predict that EC will continue to be a major player in the Northwest for the next fifty years.”