Relationships and reputation can go a long way in determining a contractor’s success.
Founded in 2001 in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, CF Electric Inc. soon built up a reputation for commercial and industrial reliability with its diverse clientele including BNSF Railway, second only to Union Pacific in railroad network size with 32,500 miles of track stretching from Alabama to Washington state.
CF Electric wired the railway’s massive Fort Worth P408 office building, a $3 million-plus project completed in 2015. By August, CF expects to have finished renovating the Network Operations Center. Come October, the Allen-Bradley uninterruptible power supplies at the NOC will be replaced, with new UPS power distribution units in place at the Technology Services Office.
Impressed with the caliber of CF’s work, when a BNSF manager recently left for a position at the new $1 billion Facebook Data Center under construction in Fort Worth, he knew who he could call upon to maintain the electrical system so necessary to keep the Open Compute server, storage and network designs humming. The BNSF Railway and Facebook customers are managed by Vice President David Payne, who ultimately is responsible for the kind of customer satisfaction that CF is so noted.
While CF Electric wasn’t the electrical contractor during the Facebook construction phase, it did pick up a valuable gig servicing what’s become the social media giant’s fifth national data center—the others being in Oregon, New Mexico, North Carolina and Iowa.
And that gig will only become more valuable. Soon after that data center opened in May at Fort Worth’s Alliance Town Center, Facebook announced there would be a $267 million addition, creating more demand for CF Electric’s services.
“We just kind of snuck in under the radar,” says CF Electric’s President and CEO Leo Wise during a mid-June phone conversation.
Well-plugged for anything
In operation since 2001, CF Electric specializes in commercial and industrial installations, its projects ranging from ground-up construction to interior tenant finish-outs, mostly in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. It retains a service department for day-to-day needs, a 24/7 technician for emergencies and a small fleet of vehicles.
With a staff of 65 that includes 48 electricians in the field and four project managers, and annual revenue around $20 million, it’s one of just about a half-dozen large-scale electric contractors in DFW, and that keeps CF’s phone ringing.
“We really don’t have to advertise,” says Wise. “Word of mouth goes a long way in the electrical industry; the work we’ve done gets us repeat customers as well as other work. It enables us to pick and choose our work.”
Industrial work, including the wiring of water-treatment facilities, pump stations, lift stations and wastewater treatment plants, makes up the bulk of business, much of it from general contractors handling large-scale public and private projects. CF Electric’s ability to complete large power projects makes it a go-to subcontractor, capable of handling large generator installations and ensuring seamless operations.
“Word of mouth goes a long way in the electrical industry; the work we’ve done gets us repeat customers as well as other work. It enables us to pick and choose our work.”
Commercial contracts—among them medical facilities, retail, banks, restaurants, warehouses, churches and various remodel projects—complement the company’s operations.
As Wise spoke to US Builders Review, CF was finishing up the wiring at a new water treatment plant at Lake Granbury that will provide drinking water for a community 60 miles southwest of Dallas. Its first phase projected to open this fall, the plant will provide 2.5 million gallons per day with higher capacities as needed. The new plant will use microfiltration and reverse osmosis to treat the high saline content of the reservoir’s water.
East of Dallas, at Lake Chapman, CF Electric is readying a plant and pump station for municipal water use along with general contractor Crescent Constructors. North of the DFW area, CF Electric is just beginning a $5 million electrical project at the Lake Texoma Water Treatment Plant with general contractor MWH Constructors. Another 30 or so projects are either underway or soon to be, as the construction industry in north central Texas is booming.
Such demand for CF Electric’s services presents its own challenge, albeit one that most any company would relish.
Current events just fine
“I believe we’re at the level we want to be,” says Wise. “We don’t want too much growth. Sometimes we have to put on the brakes. We don’t want a corporate atmosphere here.”
Business is business, it’s often said, but Wise doesn’t want to lose the personal touch that he so believes has made CF Electric a success.
The present work force is at or near the top of the CF comfort level, says Wise, explaining he’d rather manage projects than a corporation. Electricity’s in his blood, but even now office duties may prevent him from being at the work sites as often as he prefers. He enjoys meeting with clients, hearing their needs, discussing the latest industry innovation and weighing in on the best solution.
It’s a commitment he wants to be shared by his employees, many of whom have been on the job since the company’s founding. Demand for good electricians being at a premium, Wise is generous when it comes to incentivizing a work force that has earned its stripes.
“We don’t have any turnover here,” he says. “Our company’s based on being a family. Loyalty goes two ways, and we prove our loyalty to them by paying 100 percent of their health insurance.”
“We never have to advertise in the newspaper,” says Wise. “Not for work, not for new help.”
Spry and mild-mannered at 62, Wise runs CF Electric along with Vice Presidents Scott Whitten and David Payne, and son Justin in charge of commercial estimating.
Time was when Wise wanted to be an astronaut, but electrical work keeps him grounded. With his father an electrician and his grandfather a lineman, a current just seems to go through Wise’s system and it’s likely to be buzzing as long as he’s breathing.
“I still love what I do. I don’t need an alarm clock to get up early,” says Wise. “I’ve always told my children just that: Do what you love doing, and it’ll never feel like a job.”
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