Legrand and Nell Richardson founded Atlantic-Electric LLC (Atlantic) in 1969 as a fast-growing electrical shop. The family business became one of the largest electrical contractor companies in South Carolina in just over a decade and continues to flourish under the leadership of Legrand and Nell’s son Lee Richardson, president of Atlantic.
“I started working in the field with my dad around the age of 14,” explains Lee. “I graduated in 1976 from University of South Carolina with a degree in electrical engineering.” Lee, along with his brother and sister, Mike and Ladema Richardson, have owned the company since 2003.
Today the business employs approximately 60 people full time – although that number grows during busy season – the large team works with a number of commercial and public clients. Based in Charleston, S.C., Atlantic is licensed to work in a number of states, with ongoing projects spanning the eastern United States.
“We perform a number of specialty services,” Lee explains. “Our niche market is airfield lighting and power plant work for drawbridges. Our customers include the military, North American Volunteer Ambulance Corps, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and multiple states’ Department of Transportation. Our work is for both private and public sector clients and we have even done some wastewater treatment plant work.”
Catering to a Diverse Client Base
Atlantic has been involved in a number of unique projects over the last few years. “We just finished a complete replacement on the runway of the Charleston Airport,” says Lee. “We also worked on the Richard B. Russell Dam on the Savannah River, fixing breakers and generators. One of our most interesting projects has been on the $11 million expansion to the Charleston County Jail. We had to deal with major security issues. Someone broke into the central energy building while we were there, trying to steal the copper. That was a design-build project.”
According Lee, one of the company’s most rewarding projects was a $15 million design-build project at the airfield on the joint reserve base in New Orleans. “We replaced all of the lighting and signs for the series circuits,” he elaborates. “That included runway lights, taxiway lights and airfield beacons, as well as powering the navigation aids. We have some more interesting projects lined up and right now we are looking at another bid on the dam for more work in their switchyard.”
Atlantic performs most of the work in-house on such projects. “In New Orleans, we subbed out some civil work and underground work,” Lee notes. “We perform all of the electrical in-house, though. We have a solid line of strategic partners and some really great local suppliers. When we are working out of town, we go local. Materials are one of our biggest expenses, especially now that we have bigger jobs with fewer people.”
The Light at the End of the Tunnel
The recent recession has been difficult for contractors in every sector. In order to stay ahead, Atlantic has tightened up internal management. “We are always working to improve the back office process,” Lee says. “We utilize a custom software program that helps the project management and pricing on the project that helps collect on buying. One of our biggest challenges is finding skilled people.”
Lee notes that being involved in niche markets has helped Atlantic significantly. “Generic companies have struggled a lot, because they don’t have the diverse expertise that gives us a competitive advantage,” he continues. “Things are slowly turning around. Construction is always the last industry hit by an economic downturn, but is also the last one to pull out of it.”
As the market improves, Lee and his team are looking forward to steady growth. “Revenue is our biggest performance indicator,” he explains. “We tend to do well in that respect. We will stay competitive, even in a tight market. We are always looking out for the next challenging project. As we grow, we are looking to do some more geographic expansion.”
In 2014 Atlantic will celebrate 45 years in business. The company maintains a strong and growing team, with the proper expertise to provide competitive performance at a fair rate. The crew’s impressive portfolio continues to attract new clients, while a lasting rapport brings back repeat customers time and time again. The Richardson family continues a tradition of quality in business, bringing leading services and unique capabilities to every site as Atlantic-Electric LLC approaches its 50-year anniversary in the specialty electrical business.
Showcase your feature on your website with a custom “As Featured in US Builders Review” badge that links directly to your article!
Copy and paste this script into your page coding (ideally right before the closing