Knight Electric Inc.
Rob Hernandez founded Knight Electric Inc. (KEI) in 1994, targeting a growing market in central Ohio. His career began in high school, when Hernandez began to focus on electrical industry. He wanted to get into a trade and learn a lifelong skill that would help him build a successful career.
“I was studying solar engineering and taking electrical classes before I graduated,” Hernandez recounts. “I knew I wanted to start my own business eventually and I attended seminars about bonding and insurance. After school, I began an electrical apprenticeship in Toledo, Ohio. That grew into estimating and project management before I moved to Columbus, where I met my wife.”
Columbus was selected for its diverse economy, as well as Kansas City; two cities that had managed to survive previous recessions well. Over the last 20 years, the business has experienced steady growth due to outstanding quality in work, competitive pricing and longtime experience.
“We are very aggressive,” Hernandez explains. “Our work is superior and we have never had any issues or recalls. We go toe to toe with electrical contractors of all sizes in our region.”
Hernandez and his team serve a range of commercial and industrial customers. With major in-house capabilities, the business is vertically integrated, allowing KEI to offer greater value than contractors who subcontract out significant portions of work.
Occasionally, the team works with excavation companies and lighting protection specialists, although depending on size and scope, the crew can usually take care of everything without involving partners. When these trades are necessary, Hernandez relies on a select few contractors to take care of business.
The KEI crew consists of approximately 30 employees, including experienced and skilled electricians, as well as journeymen, project managers, estimators and administrators. The company has affiliations with several trade organizations, unions and government agencies that support professional growth, training and networking.
Furthermore, Business First has named KEI among the top 25 minority-owned businesses in Greater Columbus for the crew’s abilities, resources and professionalism. Time and again, Hernandez and his team have lived up to that recognition.
Recent work includes several high-profile projects. KEI completed work on the new Safari Africa Exhibit of the Columbus Zoo. The site hosts more than 150 animals in an engineered natural environment for interaction with visitors.
Over the coming months, the team will finish another major contract, this time at the Ohio State University Critical Care Cancer Center. The project involves standard components of a typical hospital project, as well as the installation of an integrated robotic delivery and retrieval system.
In the industrial market, KEI has worked for the Central Ohio Transit Authority. The company completed a major project for the authority’s natural gas filling station, the largest on the east side of the Missouri River. The crew has also performed several contracts at regional wastewater plants.
Building a reputation
As a National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) member company, KEI is able to make change in the industry while benefiting from the association’s programs and support. “I think one of the greatest benefits of membership is just having the resources of NECA behind us should that be needed,” Hernandez explains. “There is a sense of quality customers find working with a NECA contractor. Our clients seek our expertise partly because of that affiliation. We are also held to a higher standard because of this reputation. It doesn’t bother us, because we are always ready put the work in to meet and exceed those expectations.”
Hernandez served on the board of NECA’s Central Ohio Chapter for several years, including a stint as chairman. Over the company’s years of involvement with the organization, he says he has been able to interact with other regional contractors.
“We are all working toward the same goal,” Hernandez explains. “We have worked alongside many of the other members on projects over the years. All in all, we have good relationships with our fellow members.”
While NECA membership offers a guarantee of quality, Hernandez and his employees work hard to back it up. “On every job we perform, the end goal is to walk away and have a customer for life,” he explains. “Customer satisfaction is our greatest indicator of performance. We want to meet their needs and their budgets and deliver on time.”
As time goes on, Hernandez says those relationships will continue to play an integral role in the company’s success. After a rough patch through the recession and slow recovery, he says growth is in the future.
Over the next few years, the team is looking to branch out into new markets. Knight Electric Inc. will be increasing volume, adding skilled and experienced electricians to the staff in order to continue filling a diverse niche in the central Ohio construction industry.
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