Case Studies

CW Electric Inc.

Providing diverse electrical contracting services for the energy sector

Corky Wells established CW Electric Inc. (CWE) in 1985 as a small electrical contracting business. The company started out performing odd jobs for mining facilities. While CWE comes from humble beginnings, Corky laid out a strong foundation that has allowed the team to grow and diversify for nearly 30 years. From day one, his team operated along a simple philosophy: provide the best possible all inclusive solutions on time and within budget.

In 1986, Corky’s son, Shannon Wells joined him in the family business. In 1993, Shannon acquired 50 percent interest in the company. He became full owner in 2001 and now serves as the company’s CEO. The company has experienced growth both organically and through acquisitions over the last 15 years, building up CWE’s capabilities and adding qualified staff members to the team. As of 2014, the business employs more than 350 people between the electrical division and CWE’s sister company that performs diverse construction services.

Standing out from competitors

“We operate as a design-build electrical contractor,” Shannon clarifies. “What sets us apart from other companies is that we are a lot more technical in our work. We are delivering full design-build solutions whether we are working on a parallel substation or PLC controls. We also provide design-build, turnkey solutions for prepping stations and blending applications for our end users.”

A majority of the company’s clients are involved in coal production and processing. Other markets include aggregate, steel and petroleum customers, but the coal industry rakes in the largest percentage of revenue for Shannon’s team. The crew has established longstanding relationships with a number of coal companies, including Consol-Fola, Greenbrier, Appalachian Fuels, Massey Energy and Peabody among others. “Our success can be measured through performance,” Shannon says. “We know we are only as good as our last job. We have a lot of repeat business and we have gotten to where we are by building a reputation for the quality of our work.”

The company recently completed a deep water port for Kinder Morgan. “We did an electric design-build project for the train dump facility in Houston where the client brings coal in by train cars,” says Shannon. “They dump the cars upside down and the system takes it out to the stacking system. A reclaim system puts the coal on oceangoing vessels. This was one of our more challenging projects because of the tight time schedule. We had 100 men on that job. Right now we are doing a new prep plant for Murray Energy. We also do some work for homeland security from time to time, which is pretty interesting.”

Maintaining a market share

The energy market has proven challenging over the last few years, especially with new restrictions on coal. Shannon estimates the regional market has shrunk by around 75 percent. The Appalachian coal fields are shutting down and it has become harder for people to make a living in the coal belt. From working throughout Kentucky, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio, the company has expanded horizons. Now, CWE is providing turnkey electrical services for energy companies in Texas, Washington State and even Mexico. “People used to be able to make a living here,” Shannon notes. “The effects have been devastating. We have to travel further and further away and that is hard on our employees and their families.”

While the market has been tough, Shannon believes in his team and maintains low-level optimism for the future of the market. “We’ll always make a living,” he says. “We are too driven not to. We pay medical for our people. We are a very family oriented outfit. We will succeed and be here because we have dedicated people. Over the years, we have been able to adapt to whatever situations arise. Our company has been around a long time and we have a lot of depth in our talents.”

Shannon takes a lot of pride in his crew and the progress the business has made over the years. The company started out with virtually nothing and has grown to a national corporation with several diverse, integrated branches. “I am very proud of our organization,” he elaborates. “We have good people who have been here forever; we do not lose any type of management.” Now, the focus is shifting, but the philosophy remains the same. The company will continue to provide high-quality services on time and under budget. In order to stay ahead of the market, Shannon continues to seek out new markets for CW Electric Inc.

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