Case Studies

High-Light Electric Inc.

A full service contracting firm with electric roots

Pedro and Margarita Mendoza founded High-Light Electric Inc. (HLE) in 1997 as a family-owned and -operated electrical contracting business. Over the years, as the business has grown, the Mendoza family and the HLE team diversified the line of additional construction services.

In 2000 HLE combined resources with brother company Peter & Sons Construction Inc., becoming a full-service general contractor. While the team still concentrates in electrical work, HLE’s capabilities have grown to include all aspects of general construction, including a growing segment, underground dry utility installation and related civil improvements.

Erwin Mendoza, son of Pedro and Margarita, as well as current president of HLE, has taken on leadership of the family business. Erwin currently works alongside his mother, his brother, Peter Mendoza, and their wives in keeping the growth of the company moving forward. The company employs approximately 55 people, working from a single location in Riverside, Calif., serving a large portion of the state. Many of the company’s projects are for public clients, specifically municipalities, including Caltrans, the California Department of Transportation.

Specialty services

The company’s diverse capabilities have allowed HLE to take on a growing range of projects around the state. Portfolio highlights include F/O communications projects for highways and rail systems. The business has performed several dry utility projects, as well. As a general contractor, the team is taking on more highway and street improvement tasks such as grading, bridge improvements and fencing.

One of the more complicated projects Erwin recalls in recent years has been an emergency project on the Interstate 5 Freeway tunnel in Los Angeles, working for the owner, Caltrans, this past year. “A tanker truck exploded and burnt out the whole tunnel,” Erwin explains. “They ended up retrofitting the whole tunnel. Our scope of work involved the upgrading of the lighting from previous standards to the new standards to include LED lighting. We provided electrical protective measures, new conduit systems and distribution cabinets, as well.”

Erwin explains that the team also changed the lighting from traditional high pressure sodium fixtures to LED fixtures. “There were definitely some logistical challenges on this project,” he continues. “We were on a tight time frame, and the project had to be done in approximately two and a half months. With so much work, we were forced to work 24 hours a day with, and around, other contractors, through weekends and holidays to get it done and open the tunnel back up to traffic.”

The business has been involved with several rail projects, including grade separation work on Laurel Street. “Our scope was basically being part of a team of contractors in separating the railroad crossing from the street crossing,” Erwin explains. “This project realigned the street from an at-grade to an underpass below the rail tracks instead of having traditional intersection where traffic will be impacted by large trains. We were contracted to relocate the dry utilities, communication lines and lighting circuits, and any private property electrical changes to upgrade to new standards.”

A growing market for HLE has been in solar energy. Working with Spanish energy company Abengoa Solar Inc. – which is charged with the engineering and construction management aspect of the project – the HLE team worked on a 250 megawatt (MW) solar electric generating facility in Hinckley, Calif. The project will implement well-established parabolic trough technology to solar heat a heat transfer fluid (HTF) and will generate steam in solar steam generators, which will expand through a steam turbine generator to produce electrical power.

“The sun will provide 100 percent of the power supplied to the project through solar-thermal collectors,” Erwin explains. “This is a $1.1 billion solar project. We were tasked with the installation of the underground conduit systems, including the majority of the wiring, connections and all lightning and surge protection on most of the solar arrays.”

Making new connections

The company’s flexibility and diverse capabilities have helped HLE maintain growth and build relationships for more than 15 years. Erwin and his team have developed partnerships with contractors, engineers, suppliers and subcontractors that mesh well with the company’s high-quality performance and record for excellence. The business self-performs approximately 85 percent of work in-house. For the rest, the business teams up with reliable subcontractors. Many subs work with HLE on a repeat basis and the company has a strong, albeit small, network of strategic partners that Erwin can call on for projects that require outside trades.

The business is also involved with several trade associations on a local and national level. HLE’s memberships with the Association of General Contractors, the Western Electrical Contractors Association and relationships with several crafts, including electrical workers, union laborers and union operating engineers, which help HLE guarantee safety and expertise in employees at the site. These connections have helped HLE build award-winning projects throughout California while fostering growth.

HLE is on an upward trend of growth and Erwin has plans for expansion in a few directions. “We are looking to expand our range, outside of the state, and we are looking at some larger projects there right now,” he explains. “We have our sights on obtaining more rail and solar work, which are both picking up quickly in our region. There are 14 new solar projects down the pike for California coming up in the next two to three years and we hope to be involved in three or four of them.”

Diversification continues to be a theme as the business adapts to a changing market. Erwin and his team have been able to hone and build upon HLE’s expertise, constantly looking into viable markets and new opportunities within existing ones. Quality, integrity and innovation are at the heart of the business. It does not hurt that Erwin enjoys his products. “It’s a great feeling to build something new,” he explains. “We like to drive down the street with the family and see what we have built and how long it has lasted.” In the coming years, there will be more new structures and utilities to admire with pride as High-Light Electric Inc. moves ahead in the industry.

Published on: August 22, 2014

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