By Lonnie Thiele
Special to Business Today
POPLAR BLUFF -- Brown Builders Electrical Co. is making an impact. The electrical business is landing major contracts after having been opened two years.
Owner Larry Brown has increased his electrician staff from two to 13.
Brown, originally from Texas, is a master electrician with 20 years of electrical experience. He moved to Poplar Bluff in 1998 and worked for R.L. Persons Construction for 18 months before opening his own business.
Brown Builders recently completed the electrical installation of the 48-room Three Rivers Community College dormitory -- a six-month project -- and they are currently working on two major electrical installation projects, one at Advanced Healthcare and the other at the E.K. Porter Distance Learning Center at TRCC, which is a $3 million construction project. Greer Construction is the general contractor.
Brown said he had to decide when he moved here if he wanted to do odd jobs with a two-man crew or try to do subcontract work with general contractors.
"I chose to go after the big jobs," Brown said. "I like the camaraderie of 10 or 12 men working towards the same goal."
Brown takes pride in being able to get electrical jobs done on time.
"In construction the general contractor is contracted to finish a job in a certain amount of time," he said. "They can only do that if their subcontractors do their work on time. If he goes over the allotted time, he's going to lose money.
"I try to make sure we stay ahead of schedule. I have 12 guys I can put on a job, whereas another electrical contractor may only have three guys.
Dennis Shaver, also a master electrician, works as general foreman for Brown. The company employs six apprentice electricians and six journeyman electricians.
Brown Builders is an on-site operation. Brown does the administrative work out of his home and stores his trucks at job sites. "I take what we need to do the job. I have several 18-wheeler trucks I can take to job sites," he said.
Brown offers the only federally approved electrical apprenticeship program in the area.
"I focus on attracting people who've never been in the electrical business who are interested in it," he said. "People with one or two years experience who haven't had good training. They can enroll in our four-year program."
To become a journeyman electrician requires four years of apprentice experience under the supervision of a master electrician. Brown said that after four years journeyman electricians can apply to take an examination for their journeyman electrician's license.
"The city of Poplar Bluff requires you to have a master electrician license to do electrical contracting in the city limits. When you get outside the city limits, there's no way to control that, people may not be properly trained," he said.
"I focus on training and educating our apprentice electricians to the point they can become a journeyman electrician." Brown teaches basic courses on becoming an electrician in the basement office at his home. He also encourages his apprentices to take electrical courses at TRCC.
Brown spends a lot of time seeking jobs he can bid on. "We normally get two to three jobs out of 10 we bid on," he said.
"We're capable of doing any job in town. I actually look for work. I contact contractors to be put on their bid list. My attitude is there's always work out there if you want it. If you wait on it to come to you, you're backing up."
Lonnie Thiele is a staff writer at the Daily American Republic in Poplar Bluff.