Unlike some electrical contractors who get to work in the comfort of an indoor environment, the linemen of AUI Power are often out in the elements, battling storms, wind and rain, working to keep the lights on. The family-owned, Maryland-based company has faithfully served municipalities and power providers throughout the Mid-Atlantic and beyond for nearly 20 years. AUI Power’s primary business is overhead and underground electrical utility work, but the company also offers substation service, cabling and splicing, and crane services.
AUI Power serves customers in the Delmarva Peninsula, into Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, southeastern Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey. But for storm restoration, the company can rapidly deploy crews anywhere in the U.S. and Canada. “The best thing about this line of work is serving other people, turning their lights on when they’re in need,” says Paul A. Granger Jr., president and CEO of AUI Power.
Granger fondly recalls a storm clean up trip in Texas after a major hurricane. “The town was out of power for nearly two weeks,” he recounts. “We came in and got things up and running and that night we went to dinner at a little restaurant in town. When we walked in all the people in the restaurant stood up and started clapping and cheering for us. That’s what makes me proud to be a lineman.”
Granger, who’s a master electrician, was born and bred in the business, along with his three brothers, Lars, Luke and Hans. “We’ve been in it our whole lives,” he says. “Our father, Paul Granger Sr., originally started the company as Area Electric in the mid ’90s.”
Area Electric served the oil field customers in Wyoming and Colorado. “We worked out there for Texaco, all of the big oil names,” says Granger. “But when oil prices started to drop and they shut off the pumps out there, we decided to come back to Maryland where my father grew up.”
“In 2010, when my father retired, my brothers and I assumed ownership and the company officially became AUI Power,” continues Granger. Now under the ownership of the four brothers, AUI Power has grown by leaps and bounds.
“When my brothers and I took over from Dad, the company had 25 employees, doing about $4 million in revenue,” shares Granger. “Now, we’re running at about 110 employees and over $20 million a year.”
But Granger says this outstanding growth is no accident. The company has made a serious investment in a quality workforce and ensuring safe practices on every job. “Labor and equipment are obviously major expenses for us, but safety is a huge investment,” measures Granger. “When you work with big power companies as we do, you have to play ball with them and deliver everything to the highest safety standard.”
Addressing safety front and center
Granger estimates that for every lineman, between trainings and proper gear, it’s about a $10,000 investment per employee to make sure everything not only meets, but exceeds safety standards. “It’s all specialty work, so there’s a lot of training that goes into it,” he says.
AUI Power takes great pride in its concern for safe work. Granger says one of the biggest aspects of working safe is building a trusted team. “Even if someone has field experience at another company, we don’t like to just bring them in before training them and show them the way we like to get things done,” he says. “When you’re hiring someone new they need to get to know the other guys; the same goes for subcontractors, you can’t just hire anyone.”
Granger says there is no room for error when dealing with high-voltage utilities. “If we can bring people in and train them in the way we like to get things done, then we have more control over the outcome,” he says. “We do what we do as a team and we all do our part to make sure everyone comes home safe at the end of the day. It’s about knowing your coworkers and trusting them completely.”
AUI Power combines comprehensive written safety protocol with orientations and training classes, working closely with Northwest Lineman College in Idaho to foster a quality workforce. “We work closely with Northwest Lineman College,” says Granger. “Northwest Lineman College is a dynamic and leading training institution providing the benchmark level of education for electrical line workers and related occupations.”
With a proven track record of field safety, AUI Power can complete any range of utility projects, from a couple poles to 15 miles of line. “We sub out very little,” says Granger. “Now and again, we bring in a matting sub and we have a very close partner for it and we may hire a drilling contractor that can dig deeper than our machines go.”
AUI Power is currently rebuilding a 138kV transmission line from Glasgow, Delaware, to Elkton, Maryland. “We’re also doing a project on the 500kV line that crosses the Delaware River, upgrading all of the aviation lights on the towers that cross from Delaware to New Jersey,” notes Granger.
The company performs a great deal of work for PEPCO, Delmarva Power and other major utility providers as well. “We recently completed adding a 138kVcircuit on 90 to 110-foot-tall steel poles from Carrcroft to Brandywine, a $1.5 million project through Wilmington, Delaware,” adds Granger.
Whether it’s a single pole, miles of line or a massive substation, AUI Power consistently delivers something that has really spurred growth for the company in recent years. “The biggest challenge for us is dealing with new business regulations; every year there are more and more,” says Granger. “It used to cost us $5,000 to train and put a guy on the shop floor, now it’s more like $10,000, but it is all part of getting larger.”
Granger says the company continues to deal with growing pains, but overall business is moving forward at a good clip and his employees are happy. “You could interview any one of our guys, and they’ll tell you we run a tight ship, but everyone who’s here wants to be here,” he says. “It’s not just punching a ticket for them every day. They’re dedicated and we are as well.”
Dedicated to safely getting major power systems back up and running, AUI Power has been keeping the lights on with industry-leading linemen for years.
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