Case Studies

Kelly Electric

34 years of family-operated electrical solutions

Providing the best service without compromise has been the philosophy and business practice for John E. Kelly & Sons Electric dba Kelly Electric since it was founded nearly 35 years ago. Headquartered in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, Kelly Electric is a family-owned, midsized electrical contracting firm in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.

Kelly Electric began when the Kelly’s established the construction company in 1982. Throughout its existence, Kelly Electric has gained extensive experience in commercial, institutional and industrial construction and remodeling projects. Clients for the company have included the U.S. Military, General Services Administration, Lucent Technologies, Red Lobster Restaurants, Federal Bureau of Investigation, UPS, The State Department and many others. A union contractor, Kelly Electric maintains signatory agreements with International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 26, IBEW Local 24 and IBEW Local 70. “We seek the best journeyman electricians and apprentices,” says Steve Kelly Sr., president of Kelly Electric. “Our rate of retention is very strong with many field employees staying with the firm for more than 10 years. We strive to make this a great place to work.”

Kelly Electric

The solar market

In 2007, Kelly Electric made the leap into the solar energy industry and installed the first power purchase agreement system in the state of Maryland on its own roof with Washington Gas and Standard Solar. Once other clients got wind of what Kelly Electric had accomplished, the company’s phone began to ring with calls from customers and other solar integrators looking to install similar systems.

Since then, the amount of solar work that Kelly Electric performs has continued to increase dramatically. With solar integrators getting commercial institutions such as Target, BJ’s and Wal-Mart to jump on board, 30 percent of Kelly Electric’s revenue is now generated by its solar division.

As more electrical companies jump on the solar energy bandwagon, Kelly Electric welcomes the competition. “The competition is good because it means the industry is growing,” says Steve Kelly Jr., vice president of energy solutions. “We have done really well with it. We have our retired vice president, Steve Skolnik, to thank for initiating it within the company.” Steve Jr. feels confident in the future of the solar industry for Kelly Electric. With the market increasing in Virginia as well as the D.C. market, the company is continuing to bid on solar projects as it increases opportunities for its workers.

Kelly Electric has also established a niche in high-voltage work. With the amount of safety issues, expenses and training involved, many companies tend to shy away from high-voltage work, leaving the market open for Kelly Electric. Steve Sr. says that this aspect of the company creates opportunities where the team often performs work for competing firms. “We may bid a large-scale project but only end up with the high voltage portion,” Steve Sr. shares. “This really allows us to maintain close relationships with other companies in the electrical business.”

Industry dealings

As a union contractor, Kelly Electric chooses not to utilize the CE/CW program. This is mostly due to the scope of work the company performs. While one might assume that the solar aspect of the company would lend itself to the use of CW/CEs, a majority of the work is performed by solar energy companies with Kelly Electric completing the electrical component. “A lot of the work is done in areas of D.C. where they don’t have CE/CWs,” says Steve Sr. “That’s really where a majority of our work is.”

When it comes to legislation within the industry, Steve Sr. hopes to see some discussion regarding contract protection for subcontractors. “What has happened is the general contractors and owners have put some horrible things into play that places all the risk on us,” Steve Sr. says. “They try to get everything done for free and then use us as the bank.”

In managing and coping with these issues, Kelly Electric handles situations by remaining an organized and professional business with quality people. “I have some great project managers that do all of the paperwork properly, which really saves us,” says Steve Sr. Through the numerous challenges of the construction industry, Kelly Electric maintains its reputation providing customers with the best service, remaining honest in business dealings and standing behind its work.

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