Case Studies

Echo Powerline LLC: Delivering Power to the Southeast and Midwest

  • Written by: Echo Powerline LLC: Delivering Power to the Southeast and Midwest
  • Produced by: Echo Powerline LLC: Delivering Power to the Southeast and Midwest
  • Estimated reading time: 4 mins

It’s not often that three brothers can get along well enough to work together, but the Bernard brothers are different than most. Chad and Randy Bernard and Chad Luneau are cofounders of Echo Powerline LLC (Echo), aided by Cory Bernard as project manager. Echo, based in Bunkie, La., has been an industry leading power line construction company since its establishment in 2006.

The company’s success can be attributed to the team’s drive, and of course, the power of family. The Bernard brothers have not always agreed on everything, but their individual passions align. Cory started working in the industry with his brothers during college summer breaks and has been in the electrical industry since 1999.

When Chad expressed his enthusiasm for owning his own power line construction company, Cory helped formulate the business plan that launched Echo. The company started with 15 employees and three crews. Cory was one of the linemen.

“We have 65 employees now,” says Cory. “We’ve been in business for six-and-a-half years and at least 15 of our employees have been with us since the beginning.”

According to Cory, the longevity of employment is a direct result to the fact that upper management is family, and treats all employees like family. “We don’t treat our employees like numbers,” he says. “Every day I probably have half-a-dozen guys call me and they’ll have a question or two about work. Then they’ll just want to talk with me. That means a lot to me that they don’t look at me as someone they can’t talk with.”

Echo’s compassion doesn’t stop within its own walls, however. While Echo works with a wide range of power companies in Louisiana, Iowa and Texas, the company recently became licensed to do work in Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas.

In some cases when natural disaster demands a need, the company will travel to provide aid. When Hurricane Irene hit the East Coast in fall 2011, Echo sent a crew of 60 to New York City to help with recovery work. For those who went to work long hours repairing power lines, it was the furthest north they had ever traveled, according to Cory.

“That was certainly interesting,” says Cory. “We saw a lot of different people, different scenery, and it was a different type of area with a lot of rock up there. They work differently than we do down here.”

Spools of Wire, Miles of Line

Echo provides the workforce to do line work above ground and underground, as well as to perform power restoration. The average job the company completes is between five miles and 10 miles of line. However, the company is boosting its average with a recent project in Iowa.

“There’s 335 miles of power line that we’re working on right now,” says Cory. “That’s been a real challenge for us.” The $11 million project is a complete overhaul of power lines in Iowa that were damaged by a major ice storm in 2008. According to Cory, power lines were patched after the storm to provide electricity to residents in a timely manner. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) allocated funds to Iowa to help install new lines to replace the old, patched system.

The company was about halfway done with the project in fall 2012. Normally, Echo provides the manpower and equipment for projects, but this time the company had to provide the materials as well. That was a major adjustment for Cory, adding to the project difficulty. “This is probably the most challenging project we’ve had thus far,” he says.

Power with Safety

When dealing with high-voltage wires, it is Echo’s priority to make sure on-the-job teams are safe. The company has a full-time safety director on staff, who is dedicated to improving safety awareness through education and certifications in all aspects of the work place.

All Echo employees are expected to participate in ongoing training, as well. Echo monitors jobs for safe workplace practices and regularly performs safety inspections. All this is done to ensure potential injuries don’t happen. For this reason, Cory points out Echo rarely subcontracts out work. “People working for us have to know what they’re doing,” he says.

Additionally, Echo follows OSHA standards with foremen and supervisors completing 10-hour and 30-hour training classes. Each jobsite is evaluated prior to starting to establish a safety plan. All new hires are expected to sit through an orientation. Foremen lead weekly toolbox talk meetings and employees are always welcome to consult with management regarding any concerns.

It’s this high standard of safety that keeps Echo a leader in the industry. According to Cory, business ebbs and flows on a regular basis. The quality of work provided helps when pursuing work. “You may go scrambling trying to find work and pushing hard,” he says. “Then boom, something will pop up and we’ll get three or four bids in at once.”

One thing that has a major impact on the profit margins is the price of fuel. Echo has a fleet of large trucks that idle a lot during the day and get about five miles a gallon when driving. When the price of fuel goes up, the profit goes down and vice versa. Even with high fuel prices, Echo is still pushing forward and expanding. In the next few years Echo Powerline LLC hopes to establish itself in new territories and further expand into the Southeast.

Published on: April 19, 2013

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