Electrical contracting company Falcon Electric LLC has grown tenfold under new ownership since 2018.
Ben Bills says he took on four employees in 2018 when he purchased the business – formerly Sterling Electric Inc. Now, he employs 40 staff members and counting.
“I have people on a waiting list that are coming to work here,” Bills says.
Falcon Electric, which specializes in commercial and industrial contracting, generated over $4 million in 2019 revenue, and Bills says it’s on pace to surpass $7 million in 2020.
Bills also expanded the company at the beginning of the year by adding a low-voltage contracting division – a service he says many electrical contractors have to bid out.
Electrical subcontractors typically are responsible for contracting the low-voltage work, such as security systems, door access, and voice and data cabling, to other subcontractors, Bills says.
“It becomes a scheduling nightmare, and I don’t have control over it,” he says. “I finally got so frustrated that I decided that if I was going to be responsible for it, I was going to do it.”
Since January, Falcon Electric has handled roughly two dozen low-voltage jobs, including current work on Springfield Public Schools’ $23.8 million Delaware Elementary project.
General contractor on the project is Crossland Construction Co. Inc., and Lance Garrett, vice president and division manager of the Springfield office, says Falcon Electric was able to complete the job for a lower cost than having two subcontractors. Bills says his team is working on the project for $1.4 million.
“Most electricians do just electrical work and have specialty contractors come in,” says Garrett. “It also allows them to have a turnkey price because you have one (subcontractor) instead of two.”
The next phase of growth for Falcon Electric is underway: construction of a $1.9 million headquarters at 4111 E. Kearney St. The project is set to be complete in July. Bills says the 20,000-square-foot facility will give the business much-needed breathing room from its leased space on East Division Street.
Bills says his main goal as a business owner is to create a healthy company culture and industry reputation.
“I want this to be a place where my employees want to work and a place where they can have the things they want,” he says. “I want them to have goals, and I want to help them achieve those goals.”
Ten of his employees are part of a four-year apprenticeship program Bills pays for through the U.S. Department of Labor. He’s started a conversation with Ozarks Technical Community College about creating his own apprenticeship program. He’s also wanting students to be introduced to the trade in middle school and high school.
“A problem is that young kids don’t seem to want to work with their hands, and they’re the ones that need to be interested in the industry,” Bills says.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 95,000 jobs in electrical contracting will become available by 2028 because many baby boomers plan to retire by then.
Before purchasing the company, Bills worked as an electrical contractor in the Springfield area for 40 years. His most recent position was as a project manager at AC Electrical Systems, according to his LinkedIn profile. Before that, he was general manager for 11 years at A1 Electric Inc.
“All of the relationships I’ve secured have been a key to growing so fast,” he says, adding he’s become a member of the Springfield Contractors Association and the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce. “In Springfield, whoever has the best reputation wins. Relationships are a big deal here, and when these contractors and customers and engineers have a person they’ve known for a long time and know they can count on … they’re the ones that get a lot of calls.”
Bills is planning another fruitful year for the company.
“We’re projecting a bigger year this year than last year,” he says.
Bills is expecting 2020 revenue to hit at least $7 million, with a budget forecast of $10 million-$13 million in the coming years. He also expects to hire up to six employees by the end of the year.
Some of the company’s jobs were put on hold because of COVID-19, including Raising Cane’s and a new Jenkins Diesel Power Inc. facility, though work continues on Delaware Elementary and Missouri State University’s Greenwood Laboratory School addition.
Megan Short, executive director of the SCA, says construction industry activity has remained steady amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“With COVID-19, some projects have been paused, some were delayed indefinitely and others were picked up. So, we’ve been playing this musical chairs game,” she says.
Short says it’s hard to project industry activity until consumer behaviors re-emerge.
“It’s going to take time for people that paused their projects to make sure they still have that money. Companies also have to wait to see what happens to their business, because as we reopen the community, we don’t know how people are going to respond,” she says. “We’re expecting, at least for now, that we’re going to maintain a steady pace for a while … but we might end up getting slammed with projects.
“We don’t know.”
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