When a company has been in business for more 90 years, quality is a given. Alterman Inc. has been serving customers in Texas since 1923, when Nathan Alterman purchased an existing electrical company at the age of 24. As Nathan Alterman Electric Co., the company built a niche in downtown San Antonio, providing wiring service for remodeling projects. After building a reputation for efficient, safe and professional service over the course of several decades, Alterman has become one of the largest electrical contractors in the region.
In 1949, Nathan’s son, Richard Alterman joined the family business. He took over as president in 1972. Upon his retirement, the business became fully employee-owned. John Wright serves as the current president and CEO of the business, leading a team that ranges between 500 and 600 employees. The staff includes seasoned, union electrical workers, as well as CW/CEs when a project calls for it.
A majority of the company’s projects are in the greater San Antonio area. As a member of the South Texas chapter of the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA), Alterman benefits from networking, education and legislative support from the organization.
Alterman offers a wide range of electrical services to commercial construction clients and property owners. “We have a construction services group, a special projects group, an industrial wastewater and water treatment group and utility work capabilities,” says Wright. “Aside from electrical, we also perform voice and data, audiovisual and security work through our technologies group. We cover the gamut of the electrical world.”
While many larger projects were put on hold during the recent downturn, Wright says his team is seeing more and more of them get off the ground. “We’re steadily climbing back up as some of these projects get going,” he says. “Historically, we have done a lot of major projects in San Antonio. We have many long-term customers and a majority of our business is negotiated best-value selection. We are in the bid market to some extent, but typically as an invited bidder.”
Recent projects include University Hospital in San Antonio, which is a 1 million-square-foot county hospital. This has been one of the company’s larger recent projects and presented unusual challenges. The crew has also worked at several major mission-critical facilities.
Currently, Alterman is at work on an 800,000-square-foot addition to the Henry B Gonzales Convention Center. The business is also working on a desalination plant for the local water utility company. “That’s a pretty unique project,” says Wright. “They take brackish water and treat it to where it’s potable water. Because there is so much of it, they don’t store it in tanks; they will store the water in a separate aquifer.”
Wright serves as the Governor of the South Texas NECA chapter. “I’m pretty involved,” he states. “The number one benefit is just the sharing of information and really working together on a local and national level to try to help each other’s contractors. The legislative side of that is a big deal. I support ECPAC, now the NECAPAC. We are starting to do a lot more on the educational side of things, as well as a number of research and development programs through our involvement in Electri.”
These programs help keep contractors in the know with new technology and best practices. In turn, this knowledge improves negotiations with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW). “We are always trying to develop new ways to make ourselves more competitive,” Wright adds. “We’re in a market where it’s a right to work state – it’s very heavily non-union. We have very good competitors that are non-union companies, which means our members have to set themselves up creatively in order to compete.”
Part of that philosophy for Alterman means incorporating prefabrication into project delivery. “We prefabricate across all divisions of our business,” Wright says. “Even our technologies group is starting to bundle things. They bring cabinets in and do it here instead of shipping all the components out and then have them shuffled around from place to place. We build our own prefab because we can produce it cheaper than we can buy it.”
As another means of maintaining growth, Alterman recently acquired Hill Electric in Austin, Texas. “The acquisition was part of our long-term strategic plan to continue grow and diversify the company,” notes Wright. “The existing management team, electricians and other staff members have transitioned to Alterman and the company with operate as a division of our business.”
Looking ahead, Alterman will continue to maintain heavy involvement with NECA. Wright and his colleagues see the benefit and enjoy commiserating with fellow contractors in order to lift the industry up together.
Through creativity and a strong dedication to safety and quality, Alterman Inc. is building relationships throughout San Antonio and the surrounding areas – all while providing integrated electrical solutions on a broad scale.
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