Brownell Electric Corporation
In 2015, Brownell Electric Corporation was hired as the electrical contractor for Glens Falls Hospital’s new parking lot. At the time, the electric contractor’s only job on the three-week, $5 million construction project was to upgrade the outdoor lighting system.
But when the general contractor suddenly backed out, the hospital immediately asked if Brownell Electric would be willing to manage the entire project.
Though highly unusual for an electrical contractor to take on this role, President Ken Brownell says it’s not the first time his firm has done it.
Even though Brownell Electric specializes in electrical installation and maintenance for residential, commercial and industrial projects, as well as generators, LED lighting products and photovoltaic solar energy systems, the company has acted as the general contractor numerous times for projects throughout eastern New York.
For Glens Falls Hospital, Ken and his team oversaw the installation of parking lot fencing and guard rails, the paving process, and of course, the lighting. It delivered all this on time and on budget.
Brownell says the construction management side of Brownell Electric was just the natural outcome of being a client-oriented company.
“In the years I’ve been in business, I’ve been a project manager of many large crews, so I knew how to work with people and bring things together,” he says. “Most of all, I know that on every project my job is always to make sure it gets done right, and that’s why our clients have this faith in us.”
Zero to hero
Before starting the company in 1995, Brownell had spent 10 years as a project manager for another electrical contractor in upstate New York.
“I was always one of those people that works well with other trades to everybody’s benefit. Keeping a project running smoothly is how you make money in this business,” he says. “I wanted to build a customer-oriented company with a strong customer base where we were the first company people wanted to call.”
Brownell’s wife, Heidi, today the office manager, secretary and treasurer of Brownell Electric, remembers those first few years working out of their home in Fort Edward, New York.
“We really built this from absolutely nothing. In the beginning, I think my husband’s bidding table was my son’s Fisher-Price pool table. It was 1995, and we didn’t even have a fax machine,” she says.
It took years of hard work, but the couple eventually built up the loyal customer base Ken was hoping for.
Today, Brownell Electric’s emergency hotline is constantly ringing with clients in need of the company’s services, from homes that lose power in the night to an industrial generator malfunction.
The company is also becoming more involved in the design phase of projects, and Ken says he enjoys being able to make recommendations to clients that could help them save money down the road. Which is why in the last decade, Brownell Electric has built up its LED and solar panel installation and maintenance division, offering energy upgrade services and consultations.
“It comes down to being there when the customer needs you, and helping them see the big picture, and asking them how is this project going to affect you a year from now,” Ken says.
Part of Brownell Electric’s success comes from incorporating the latest technology, Ken says.
As early as the 1990s, the firm was using electronic communications, including submittals for bids, long before it had become the industry norm. By the early 2000s, the company required all of its vendors to do the same.
“Ken has always been way ahead of the game when it comes to technology,” says Heidi. “It’s the way of the future, and I think he knew that if you don’t stay up on the latest thing you’re going to fall through the cracks.”
For all of its current projects, Brownell Electric puts all the necessary files on a Google Drive so construction crews can access invoices, drawings or schedules at any time, especially while on a job site. The drive allows crews to prove their progress on a daily basis, which in turn gives clients insight and helps build trust.
“It’s taken a while but we’ve built a large customer base where people only call on us, and that was a large goal of Ken’s when he first started the business,” Heidi explains.
“But for me the biggest sense of pride is the fact that we built all this from absolutely nothing and managed to really make a name for ourselves.”
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