American Electric Company LLC
In many ways Hawaii is the perfect microcosm of society. Innovative ideas that work in Hawaii have the propensity to work throughout the mainland of the United States. And Bob Dewitz, chairman of American Electric Company LLC, is making the most of Hawaii’s opportunities. Prior to purchasing American Electric in 2003, Dewitz had an electrical apparatus firm and marine electric company “doing work on Navy ships,” as explains. His experience in the electrical portion of the construction industry dates back to 1994.
Now Dewitz is proud to be the sole shareholder of American Electric. “It’s the largest locally owned electrical contractor in Hawaii and it was founded in 1946. We’re a union shop and we participate in all stages from industrial to low voltage to residential service with a strong emphasis on industrial and refinery electrical systems,” says Dewitz. “We’ve pretty much built all the power plants in Hawaii over the last several decades.
Updating Hawaii’s Commercial and Military Facilities
Currently American Electric has about 200 employees and annual revenue of $50 million. “We have four offices on all four major islands. One benefit we have is we can offer clients full island service, so we have a maintenance division that does contracted electrical maintenance for hotels and large operators, and that’s a pretty big convenience for them,” Dewitz explains.
When it comes to electrical contracting, the company is active in all manner of phases of construction, including industrial, petrochemical, power generation and wastewater plants, governmental, military and medical facilities, plus hospitality, technology and commercial complexes, whether for private, federal, state or city clients. Whether working with high-rises or refineries, the company can handle HVAC and energy/control management. It can implement telecom infrastructure, solar energy, and its delivery methods include design-build (with in-house engineering, estimating, AutoCAD, project management and financing).
“We do everything regarding the electrical, including the high to the low voltage. We have a data division, we have a controls division, we have an alarm system group, so within the electrical realm there’s nothing we sub out,” Dewitz says proudly. “We’re also partnered up on a large $500 million photovoltaic project that the Navy is sending out to bid here. It will be a multi-award contract, but we’re pretty sure we’ll get one of those. The goal is over a five-year period photovoltaic panels will be installed at military facilities in Hawaii.
In addition to this project with the Navy, “we are building a carbon plant on the big island that will take harvested shells from macadamia nuts and burn those to extract the energy and use it for power generation and then take the waste husks and use that as carbon filter material,” Dewitz shares. “We’re also building a biodesiel fuel plant on the island of Oahu right now where they take organic materials and process them into diesel fuel.
These projects are all in line with the green movement, as Hawaii has an initiative to have 70 percent of energy come from clean sources by 2030. But “the greenest thing we’re doing is a contract to install all of the electrical charging stations for the Nissan Leaf electric vehicle.
Nissan is the first company rolling out with an all-electric vehicle, so we are working with their national support company to install all of the charging stations for every electric car they sell,” says Dewitz. Nissan is making use of Hawaii’s particular geographic traits in its decision to unleash the electric Leaf vehicle there. “Of course Nissan selected Hawaii, because the electric car only has a range of 100 miles, and being on a island that kind of helps limit the range,” Dewitz says.
American Electric is also prepared to team up to build the first mass transit rail system in Honolulu. “We’re teamed up with one of the leading contenders on that with a firm called Bombardier Inc., a global firm that builds rapid transit systems. We will do the electrical work for that system if it’s awarded to Bombardier,” says Dewitz.
With all these innovative current and upcoming projects, Dewitz is looking forward to large-scale advances in the company’s future. “We’re putting a lot of focus right now into developing alternative energy as a group that does solar and distributed power applications. And also, contrary to national trend, we’re moving aggressively into the residential sector. But we’re dong it with branded products and services so that we’re not trying to compete with mom-and-pops,” he explains.
The flagship product is called currentSAFE. “We go in and do an eight- to 10-hour survey assessment and formal written report on a homes’ electrical system. The technician takes a photo of each device, inputs the data in the laptop, and by the end generates a report our staff reviews with the customer, tells the client what’s good, what’s bad and what our recommendations are to improve,” Dewitz shares.
American Electric Company LLC has been powering Hawaii for over 60 years. Diversifying into this untapped residential source will give the company an opportunity to further grow, providing its top-notch electrical services throughout Hawaii and watching its innovative ideas be distributed throughout the United States.
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