Case Studies

Holmes Electric

Energizing and connecting Seattle for 69 years

Holmes Electric (Holmes) has been energizing Seattle’s Puget Sound region with innovative electrical contracting for nearly seven decades. Based in Kent, Wash., Holmes is one of the last standing family-owned and -operated firms in the market. Holmes is building on three generations of trusted service and modern construction, touching some of the area’s biggest landmarks, from the Seattle Seahawks training facility to University of Washington Husky’s football stadium.

“We’re a diversified organization – communications, mission critical operations, large-scale new construction – we do it all,” shares Mike Holmes, third-generation family owner and president of Holmes. “We have a good sized service and special projects division and we’ve just added a high voltage group to support substations and utility work in the downtown area. The market has been slow, but it’s picking up and we’re growing back to our former glory.”

Focusing on a family feel

Jay Holmes and Gene Richards started paving the company’s way out of the basement of Jay’s home in 1945. “My grandfather, Jay, started the company when he was 35 years old,” reveals Mike. “He was your typical founder; he really didn’t have a lot of hobbies, this company was his whole life.”

Mike’s close-knit relationship with his grandfather sparked his interest in electrical contracting. “He was my inspiration to get into this business,” he recalls. “I would go up to his office and talk about the industry and he would tell me about how he started out. His career began with Fox, wiring silent film theaters for sound. He traveled all over the world doing that before returning to Seattle where he began teaching electricity classes to military personnel.”

In the 1950s, during the postwar expansion, Holmes was selling and installing the latest high technology appliances, from stoves to refrigerators. People needed new wiring for electronic devices, and Holmes quickly became the area leader in electrical services. The company continued to focus on residential work until the 1960s when developers within Kent Valley needed wiring for warehouses. Holmes transitioned from residential to commercial construction to meet the demands.

Even after a 69-year run, Mike says Holmes has stayed grounded in family ownership. “We have a culture of taking care of clients and keeping the family feel in this organization,” he explains. “People like to work here because we’re a little less corporate than our competitors.”

Wired for success

Today, Holmes employs over 200 electrical professionals and serves the Puget Sound Basin all the way to eastern Washington, Oregon and Idaho. With bright orange vests and bright white helmets, Holmes tackles jobs of all shapes and sizes within the region, including new construction, mission critical facilities, tenant improvements, health care, low voltage and technology updates, education, entertainment venues, mixed-use and retail, industrial and transportation projects.

Over the years, Holmes has left its mark on considerable landmarks throughout Seattle and beyond. “We did all of the communications and broadcast work for the University of Washington’s 720,000-square-foot Husky Stadium,” notes Mike. The design-build job included network infrastructure, public address, broadcast, security, audio visual and IPTV systems.

From the collegiate level to the NFL, Holmes also played an integral role in the construction of the 225,000-square-foot Seattle Seahawks training facility and headquarters. With 100,000 square feet of indoor practice areas Holmes offered electrical construction, network infrastructure, audio-visual controls, broadband, security and broadcast PA services.

Mike says the company has more sizable jobs to look forward to down the pipeline. “We’re finishing a large project for the Boeing Company,” he details. “We’re moving their engineering staff into the 737 Plant in Renton, Wash. We have also landed an exciting Amazon.com job for Vulcan and Turner Construction.”

Bouncing back and charging forward

As the market makes a comeback with new projects on the horizon, Mike says he’s confident in Holmes’ ability to recover from what’s been a challenging stretch. “We’re back and going strong and looking at a better economy for the next three to five years,” he imparts. “We just took an aggressive approach into different markets, such as communications and service, when things started to get bad. Now, moving forward we have stronger divisions than we had going into the recession.”

Mike says combating the recession has been a question of maintaining Holmes’ trusted reputation. “To maintain who we are we need to hire the right people and we had people showing up in groups looking to work for us,” he reveals.

Being a member of the Puget Sound Chapter of the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) has also helped Holmes pull through tough times. “NECA keeps us in tune with what’s happening in the industry and not just with the local market, but what’s happening on a national scale,” explains Mike. “NECA’s programs bring knowledge to us to help us make better business decisions and help us stay out of trouble. They’re looking toward the future and the things you might miss if you’re focused on your day-to-day operations.”

What started as a two- man operation has now emerged as one of Seattle’s most entrusted electrical contractors. For 69 years, Holmes Electric has energized and connected both buildings and people.

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Spring 2018

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