Case Studies

East Tennessee Chapter of the National Electrical Contractors Association

Leading the electrical industry by example in Chattanooga and beyond

With organizational roots in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the East Tennessee Chapter of the National Electrical Contractors Association (ETNECA) was chartered May 14, 1957, when Herbert Halie was installed as president. ETNECA became one of 119 U.S. chapters of NECA, which represents more than 4,500 members nationwide.

ETNECA has more than 40 electrical contractor members as well as 30 associate members, including suppliers and vendors throughout the state. Member companies include Young Electric, Triad Electric, Lawson Electric and Service One Electric. These union companies come together for the advancement of the industry, raising the bar in standards from safety to ongoing education, professional development and more within the electrical contracting sphere.

“We’re a very cohesive group,” says Chase Pendergraft, executive director of ETNECA. “Since 1957 we have shared a strong legacy of service and leadership to the electrical construction industry in East Tennessee.”

Major market share

ETNECA covers five divisions: Chattanooga, Knoxville, Nashville, Oak Ridge and the Tri-Cities. “The bulk of our membership is in Chattanooga, also where our office is located,” notes Pendergraft. “The NECA members in Chattanooga control much of the market as compared to much of the Southeastern United States.”

All in all ETNECA members power middle and eastern Tennessee, generating more than 6 million man hours a year. “Our contractors do a variety of work from strip malls to nuclear facilities, hospitals to the Volkswagen manufacturing plant in Chattanooga,” says Pendergraft. “They perform work at schools, churches, semiconductor facilities – they do it all. Our members continued working steadily through the recession because there was plenty of industrial and health care work in our area. The residential sector is also hot, particularly in Nashville, which is experiencing a huge apartment boom. These units can’t go up fast enough.”

Things are also moving fast for ETNECA members in the competitive bid environment – especially in the commercial sector – thanks to a strong Construction Wireman/Construction Electrician (CW/CE) labor program. “The CW/CE programs in East Tennessee have been up and running since 2006, but the program in Knoxville should be used as the model nationwide,” says Pendergraft. “Our training director in Knoxville was actually the person who wrote the language for the CW/CE program in 2005 that was adopted by national NECA and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers [IBEW]. We adopted the program in our area shortly after the program rolled out. We wanted and we needed the CW/ CE classification.”

In Knoxville and Nashville the program quickly took off. “Our members knew they needed to implement CWs and CEs to maintain their market share,” says Pendergraft. “The Knoxville program is the model to follow because they follow the national language verbatim.”

“This means the apprenticeship program is responsible for the evaluation, classification and maintaining of records and advancement for CWs and CEs,” explains Pendergraft. “This means the apprenticeship performs evaluations tests to gauge the person’s experience for CW/CE classifications. If a CW or CE wants to advance, or even apply to the apprenticeship school, they have to take classes assigned by the apprenticeship program. ”

Fostering the next generation

Not only is ETNECA attracting more potential apprentices through the CW/CE program, the chapter is also proud to announce the establishment of a NECA student chapter at the University of Tennessee (UT) Knoxville. This student chapter joins 32 other NECA student chapters throughout the U.S. and Canada, creating a talent pipeline for electrical contractors that want to hire qualified college graduates to sustain and grow their businesses.

Heading up this student organization is Abbas Rashidi, Ph.D., M.ASCE, assistant professor in the department of civil and environmental engineering at UT. “These student chapters are important because they expose students to industry-related educational programs, help arrange internships with local NECA contractors and organizes field trips to contractors’ offices and work sites,” says Pendergraft.

The NECA Show 2015

Pendergraft says his members are also active on a national level and many serve on NECA’s important committees and organizations. “Mike Young of Young Electric, who is also our chapter governor, serves on the National Management and Education Committee,” he says. “Another one of our members, Mike Owen of White Electric, is a member of the National Electrical Code Panel, which consists of inspectors, fire marshals and many other electrical professionals. This is the body that sets the national code followed by all cities and municipalities across the country. It’s a major, influential panel within our industry.”

After 12 years in a management role with ETNECA, Pendergraft says the turnout for this year’s NECA national convention is set to be one of the best yet. “We have 40 delegates registered, including spouses, but it’s the biggest group I’ve had since I’ve been a chapter manager,” he says.

Pendergraft urges attendees to take advantage of the wealth of information the NECA show has to offer, including the opening and closing general sessions. “These are always top-notch, first-class events,” he says. “Every year the keynote speakers are some of the most amazing, talented people. Their stories will inspire you and leave you with a new perspective.”

With so much to do at the industry’s largest trade show and convention, Pendergraft says contractors, including his ETNECA members, always benefit from the opportunity to earn continuing education units (CEUs) while at the NECA show. “I have members that go and in one week get all of the CEUs required to maintain their state contractor license through the coming year,” he says. “This is a huge advantage of the many educational sessions at the show.”

From at home in the Smokey Mountains, to the networking and learning on a national level, the East Tennessee Chapter of the National Electrical Contractors Association is leading by example.

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Spring 2018



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