Continental Electrical Construction Company
- Written by: Ivy Carter
- Produced by: Joe Atwood
- Estimated reading time: 4 mins
The year 2012 marked the 100-year anniversary of Continental Electrical Construction Company (Continental). Continental celebrated by hosting a ballroom gala for both employees and customers to enjoy. The team had much to celebrate, as the Chicago, Ill.-based company has built a solid reputation as a full-service electrical contractor over the years. For over a century, Continental has powered the city’s high-rises, industrial facilities, hospitals, convention centers, laboratories and data centers.
Brothers Steven Witz, vice president of Continental, and David Witz, president of Continental, provide over 50 years of business experience as the fourth generation of family ownership. After graduating college with a business marketing degree, Steven worked as an electrician. When Steven started at Continental, he was performing estimating and project management services. “I worked hard,” says Steven. “I climbed the corporate ladder. It worked great for me both personally and Continental. I was able to use my marketing studies’ experience to immediately help the company.”
A Century of Excellence
Founded in 1912 by Harry Witz, Continental began selling fuse panels and lighting door to door. Harry’s entrepreneurial spirit guided the company through the Great Depression. Second-generation Leo Witz did his part to make the company the international powerhouse it is today. According to Steve, Leo always shared the following philosophy: “Quality is never an accident. It is always the result of sincere endeavor.”
With a commitment to quality service, Continental continued to grow under third-generation family member William Witz. William brought the company to greater heights by acquiring 13 niche contractors during a boom in the city’s commercial high-rises, including Water Tower Place, five Illinois Center Towers, two Chicago Mercantile Exchange Towers and the infamous Willis Tower (Sears Tower), to name a few. With the help of other family members, such as Roy, Eugene and Charles Witz, Continental prospered.
Now in fourth-generation ownership, Steven and David Witz embrace a new era of information systems. Continental recognizes data centers fuel the global information highway and is working to enter this market with the same commitment to quality the Witz family has upheld for 100 years.
Continental operates out of offices in Oak Brook and Hillside, Ill., employing more than 450 valuable individuals. The company understands the importance of a capable team. With guidance from executives, Continental employees continually strive to achieve the highest standard in the industry.
Since 1912 the company has completed 60 million square feet of new construction worth an excess of $1 billion in the Chicago area alone. According to Steven, what sets Continental apart from others in the business is clear.
“We’re a full-service, one-stop shop for electrical outfitting,” he explains. Continental is capable of delivering electrical distribution, lighting, generators and uninterrupted power supply, low-voltage structured cabling systems, data and telephone services.
“We’re heavy into engineering and design,” states Steven. “Clients lean on us for design-build projects or we can assist a current engineer.” The company operates as a single-source provider of electrical design, construction, maintenance and repair. Continental utilizes a building information modeling program, which prevents conflicts on a job between trades.
Continental applies its proven background at sites all over Chicago. At the 300,000-square foot Art Institute of Chicago’s Modern Wing, Continental installed a 400 kW generation, two 75 KVA emergency lighting inverters, 4,000 light fixtures with 70 different custom types, 578,000 feet of cable and 73,500 feet of conduit over two years. That is no cakewalk, to say the least.
The art institute project involved a complete build out of the core, shell and interior, site work, roof lighting, façade lighting, bridge and park lighting and a building lighting control system. Conduit systems were routed underground and overhead in walls, concrete slabs, wood flooring and pre-cast structures. The site features a new restaurant with full kitchen and bar, a terrace, gift shop, garden, educational rooms and museum.
At the 300,000-square foot Panduit Headquarters in Tinley Park, Ill., Continental provided Lutron lighting and shade control, structured cabling, security, audio, visual, fire alarms, power monitoring and a heat trace and snow melt system. The project was completely LEED Gold certified with up to 225,000 feet of conduit, a 1.5 MW generator, a 10,000-square foot data center designed for future paralleling switchgear and over 3,800 lighting fixtures of 100 varying types.
As with both high-profile and smaller projects, safety is always a top priority for Continental. The company’s current Experience Modification Rate (EMR) consistently falls between .51 and .73, one of the lowest in the industry.
Always looking to reinforce its best practices, Continental prides itself on self-performing over 95 percent of its work in order to ensure safety continues. “We work with a handful of the same suppliers,” explains Steven. “We limit the number of vendors we work with so we can be assured we are getting the best service possible.”
Although Continental has witnessed harder times over the last century, the past few years have proven a challenge. “It’s been an interesting past few years,” says Steven. “We’ve had to cut staffing from about 700 to 450 employees. There’s just less work, and more people bidding on it. We used to see five contractors bidding a project, and now there are 10.”
Despite a rough patch in business, Steven believes a turnaround is eminent. “When the market turns around we will hire and train more people to keep up with new methods in the developing data center market,” he details. Steven expects his family at Continental Electrical Construction Company will continue to do what the team does best, offering quality services to the city and surrounding areas the Witz family loves for another 100 years.
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