Bruce & Merrilees Electric Company
- Written by: Camila Osorno
- Produced by: Chuck McKenna
- Estimated reading time: 5 mins
At Bruce & Merrilees Electric Company (BM) each employee’s mission is to safely and profitably manage, construct and service electrical and transportation projects. BM hopes to achieve this aspiration by executing quality work in the safest, most ethical and timely manner, in order to develop and maintain satisfied customers, as well as retain and attract the best people to grow the company.
The Bruce family knows what it takes to not only run a successful electrical contracting company, but how to instill the professionalism and drive in its employees to carry it through 63 lucrative years. Since 1948, the Bruce family has owned and operated BM, taking the business from a small and thriving residential and commercial electrical contracting company to become a trusted partner in large-scale and specialty electrical work. Based out of New Castle, Penn., BM works for customers throughout Pennsylvania and into Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Ohio and New York and have traveled much farther for select customers.
BM, above all, strives to be a leading project management and services company capable of moving beyond the technical requirements of a project and providing an exceptional customer service experience. “We’re a professional company and we insist on treating our clients and our employees with a high level of professionalism,” asserts Justin Bruce, vice president and secretary of BM. “We are not your average electrician working out of a pickup truck and we believe that the way we treat our employees and our clients shows through in our work and in the clients we are able to maintain in the long run.”
A Bruce Family Tradition
BM makes complicated projects seem manageable, from high-tech electrical projects involving miles of fiber optic cabling, to energy services and high voltage work. Today, BM is managed by the third generation of Bruce family members, carrying on the firm’s commitment to “experience, innovation and professionalism” and expanding to include a comprehensive and fastidious safety program. “We have a zero-incident commitment here at BM. Essentially, we don’t accept that accidents or incidents can happen because every single one can be prevented,” affirms Bruce.
As a member of the Electrical Roundtable, which requires members to be both IBEW exclusive employers and members of the National Electrical Contractors Association, BM works continuously to improve as a company and to help foster professional development within the industry. In 2002, BM launched H. Bruce Group University, a continuing education and professional development course for its employees, in an effort to develop its internal staff and combat skilled labor shortages in the industry. “You don’t hear about it in the news, but there is a serious labor shortage in some parts of the country,” says Bruce. “We work with the local unions to find the right people, but we have a continuous challenge finding experienced project managers and engineers for our projects. So, we do just about everything we can and get creative to fill that need. We have internal incentives for our existing employees to gain the skills they need; H. Bruce Group University is a big part of that.” The new program not only helps employees stay abreast of technological innovations and safe work practices, but helps to develop employee skills across six areas: estimation, project support, project management, field work, safety and professional development. So far, BM has run over 10,000 hours of training and has continually improved its safety performance since the program’s inception.
As a company, BM maintains a high level of self-sufficiency and selectively subcontracts work out to other companies, especially because of its growing electrical specialties in the transportation sector. The company has accumulated significant experience working with intelligence related systems in the transportation sector. “A lot of our transportation work has included fiber optic cabling, signage, Amber Alert systems, CCTV cameras and all of the devices that can communicate and interact with drivers,” explains Bruce. “We just finished a stimulus-funded, design-build project on I-95 North of Philadelphia that involved more than one hundred thousand feet of fiber optic cable, new cameras and signage that were connected back to the District Six Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Traffic Management Center.” In total, the project involved over 20 miles of intelligent transportation systems to improve traffic flow and keep drivers aware of traveling conditions.
BM staff is putting its safety training to the test, working at substations in Pittsburgh and just outside of Arlington, Va. “We have some very interesting work at some gas insulated substations right now, which is one of our fastest growing specialties,” explains Bruce. “We are working on a very large one for Duquesne Light in Pittsburgh right now and we just finished one for Mitsubishi Electric and Dominion Virginia Power in Arlington. These projects are very challenging. Usually these substations are in the neighborhood of 230,000 to 345,000 volts so they are very intricate in the way they work. They are usually located in tight spots and many require a complete retrofit with new equipment. It’s a matter of a lot of outages and safety management.”
Bruce looks forward to growing the company with his two brothers, who are working to expand farther and establish a strong mid-Atlantic regional presence. “The three of us own and operate the business and thankfully, we work really well together,” laughs Bruce. “Initially, a mid-Atlantic office will be project operations focused, but eventually we hope to build a strong customer base and be recognized in the area as a strong, capable transportation and high voltage contractor.”
Along with expanding in the mid-Atlantic region, BM will focus on maintaining its other divisions. “Our solar energy division is almost dead right now because the state and federal incentives just aren’t there anymore. I don’t see that coming back for at least two years,” says Bruce. “We also do a lot of energy maintenance and efficiency upgrades, which there is a healthy demand for. However, because of the nature of that business, those clients are reluctant to spend money. Our industrial and power plant group has a positive outlook over the next 12 to 18 months and we expect to see some of those clients open up a little bit to spending money.” No matter the direction the company decides to take, Bruce & Merrilees Electric Company is sure to find green pastures and dedicated employees along the way to uphold the 60 years of professionalism, experience and innovation that started it all.
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