Case Studies

The Morse Group

The single solution for turnkey electrical service for more than 70 years

The Morse Group (Morse) and its subsidiaries – Morse Electric, Industrial Electrical Engineers (IEE), FBP Systems, Amp Electric, Automation Solutions of America (ASA) and The Rockwell Group (Rockwell) – are working together to rewire the way electrical trades perform, eliminating multiple platforms and creating a single-source for turnkey solutions. Ranked among the top 50 electrical contracting firms in the U.S., as one unit, Morse brings industrial products, engineering, contracting and automation services together to support the commercial, industrial and utility markets with complete systems and answers to unique requirements.

The goal of each member company is to be recognized as a leader in its own skilled trade, providing customers with incomparable value and quality. The Morse philosophy has led to exponential growth for the nationwide conglomerate and a proven method that has even withstood the trials of the recent recession.

“We’ve been growing every year since the recession and diversity is the key to our success,” reveals Lou Rotello, president of Morse. “Our goal is to turnkey any project with entities within our company. We offer more solutions in-house than the competition, in both diversity and sophistication.”

Rotello is proud to note that Morse has been in business for 70 years. “We do everything, from fiber to power plants, industrial to commercial, wind farms to design-build projects with several in-house PE’s,” he details. “You name it, we’ve done it.”

From Freeport, Ill., to the world

Bitten by the entrepreneurial bug in 1944, founder Don Morse Sr. launched Morse Electric, fulfilling his dream of opening an electrical contracting company. Morse Electric was born, stemming from the simple concept that customers deserved quality craftsmanship at a great value and on time, a philosophy that remains the foundation of Morse as a whole, seven decades later.

“When Don Sr. passed away at the young age of 39, his wife, Joyce, as well as his son, Don Morse Jr., who was a freshman at the University of Illinois at the time, stepped in to take over,” Rotello details. “Younger brother, David Morse, joined the family business after college in 1973 and became a journeyman electrician, coming up through the ranks to become vice president of marketing.” When Joyce passed away in 1976, Don’s wife Janey came back on board.

A savvy businessman, Don Jr. was the key leader who recognized opportunities and surrounded himself with outstanding individuals, solidifying the growth and potential of the organization. Through expansion and innovation, his goal was to differentiate Morse from the competition, always looking forward.

“When he passed away suddenly in December 2011 his wife stepped in as CEO to help keep the 70-year dream alive and flourishing,” details Rotello. “Today, Morse remains a family-owned company.”

Since joining Morse 22 years ago, Rotello has seen the company grow astronomically, from the small shop in Freeport, Ill., to all over the U.S. “ASA started as a full-service system integrator, 12 years ago with just one employee, Shawn Sullivan,” Rotello recounts. “Now, ASA has about 90 employees and there are another 600 to 700 Morse employees across all subsidiaries.”

Since incorporating in 1944, Morse has expanded operations throughout the U.S., Canada and Mexico with office locations in Illinois, Iowa, Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Nevada, with satellite offices in Florida and Ohio.

“We’re licensed in 22 states currently,” shares Rotello. “Las Vegas is our newest expansion and we’re using that office as a hub to expand in the Southwest and we currently have a project in Puerto Rico and will travel anywhere to satisfy our customer’s needs. We will respond to any challenge driven by our customer base and their needs.”

Breaking it down by division

Morse works with customers across major sectors of the industrial, commercial and utility markets, from retail stores to hospitals, schools and universities to financial institutions and heavy manufacturing lines in the automotive, packaging and food and beverage industry. On the utility side Morse and its companies serve waste water treatment plants, power plants and renewable energy outlets, such as wind and solar farms.

“We’re an industrial-based contractor with strengths in medium voltage power distribution, as well as commercial and industrial processes,” details Rotello. “It’s the multiple assets we offer within our company that allow us to tackle nearly any size and scope.”

Morse’s all-inclusive in-house service is the result of highly specialized divisions:

Automation Solutions of America (ASA): ASA’s custom automation engineers tailor automated solutions for various manufacturing processes, from initial concept, through installation and commissioning. ASA designs, builds and integrates automated assembly stations and systems with a focus on cost effectiveness, flexibility and reliability.

Industrial Electrical Engineers (IEE): IEE provides design, engineering and commissioning services for large commercial, industrial and utility customers with experts in cogeneration, heat recovery, back-up power and UPS systems. IEE’s professionals can evaluate and design a complete electrical system and see it all the way through installation.

Morse Electric and Amp Electric: Morse Electric and Amp Electric work hand in hand as the Morse electrical construction specialists, from computer network installation and fiber optic cabling to large power distribution systems and complex 345-kV transmission substations; Morse Electric and Amp Electric run the gamut in electrical contracting.

FBP Systems (FBP): Finalizing a project with innovative sound, lighting and video design is FBP. With vast capabilities such as distributed audio systems and design, video systems integration, architectural and theatrical lighting and design, automation, interfaces, control systems and design, digital signage solutions and more, FBP’s specialists and certified programmers make any audio, video or lighting project come to life.

The Rockwell Group (Rockwell): On top of a range of expert electrical services, Morse also employs Rockwell, a framing, drywall and painting division to cover carpentry needs. From steel and structural framing to fire-rated and metal-finish systems, spray texture, epoxy coatings and wall coverings and much more, Rockwell delivers turnkey carpentry service.

Turnkey teams do it better

With such a broad in-house skill set, Morse’s divisions join forces to tackle projects in the $5,000 range to $60 million and up. “Turnkey construction offers enhanced accuracy as project budgeting is provided by the company responsible for both design and installation,” says Rotello. “There’s no finger pointing between the engineering firm and the contractor, because it’s one in the same. Also, any project changes can be approved quickly, reducing schedule impacts. With only one company responsible for both design and installation, there’s no need for traditional RFIs and equipment approval processes.”

“Morse values their dedicated employees and strives to hire some of the best people in their respective industry, remembering that our greatest asset is our people,” Rotello details. “The level of trust among management and employees throughout all companies is beyond expectation and our reputation for quality service from our exceptional employees outshines our competition, enabling us to perform at the highest level.”

Morse’s field personnel are brought in during the design phase to deliver input on constructability and expedite the installation process, allowing the superintendent familiarity with design and design intent.

“This leads to more efficient project management during construction, because all parties are on the same team with a unified goal,” assures Rotello. “By self-performing 85 percent of our work, we also ensure more complete delivery.”

Morse has been offering more complete contracting for some of the nation’s biggest names, including Chrysler, General Mills, John Deere, Mac Equipment, Nissan North America, Kohl’s, Wal-Mart, Target, Duke Energy, Frito Lay, General Motors; the list goes on and on. More and more big-name clients call on Morse for total turnkey competencies.

“A shining example of nearly all of our divisions working together is our recent work with Epic Medical Software [Epic], a vibrant, rapidly growing organization in southern Wisconsin,” notes Rotello. “We have been on Epic’s campus for several years in which we have constructed a 10-MW wind farm, a solar farm, office buildings and other infrastructure, a data center and a 45-MW standby generation plant. Morse has also completed campus-wide utility restructuring and design-build delivery of Epic’s Campus Four with each individual building averaging between 98,000 to 110,000 square feet.”

Epic’s massive campus also encompasses a food service building and a 13,000-seat event center auditorium. “Every part of our group has been involved to a certain extent, from data and communications to medium voltage to framing drywall and painting with Rockwell,” reveals Rotello.

In Fort Madison, Iowa, Morse has completed a commercial turnkey delivery for Siemens Wind Turbine Blade Manufacturing Plant, including a full scope of design-build services from electrical engineering to equipment specification, medium voltage site power distribution design, emergency generation, power distribution and lighting, as well as low voltage systems, energy monitoring and testing and verification.

“We were also involved in the terminal three expansion at the McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas,” details Rotello. “In addition, we provide many services for Chrysler, particularly their expansion in the Belvidere area and have completed projects for Nippon-Sharyo, manufacturers of light rail vehicles. At the present time, we are involved in the grass roots construction of a 400,000-square-foot Woodward Governor manufacturing facility in northern Illinois.”

Survival of the fittest

With hundreds of various clients in any number of industries, Morse has been steadily growing through the recession. “We’ve remained profitable, growing from coast to coast,” says Rotello. “We’re pretty proud of that fact. It’s all about having the right customer base and key backlog projects that have carried us through. We have many repeat clients on the industrial side, where there is always modernization and technology upgrades going on that helps maintain a steady revenue stream.”

According to Rotello, another critical factor in recession-proof business is performance. “You only get one opportunity to deliver and perform,” he says. “This is especially important when you’re talking about processes and facilities that turn out millions of dollars of product a day; on-time delivery is huge for these kinds of clients. If their production line isn’t up and running, they’re losing money.”

Rotello says Morse fosters this tradition of superior performance by passing on the company culture to younger employees. “It’s about giving them the opportunity to grow and advance and when given these opportunities, it brings huge success to Morse,” he shares.

Being a member of the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) also opens the door to opportunities for Morse. “We’ve been a NECA member for many years, serving on labor management, negotiation and apprenticeship committees,” says Rotello. “David even held a leadership position at one point as the governor of the Northern Illinois NECA chapter. You have to give back in order to advance the industry.”

In the coming years, Morse is focusing on its own geographical advancement as the company extends operations in Las Vegas and further into the southwest. “We’re looking at California, Arizona, Colorado, the Northwest and New Mexico as the economy grows,” reveals Rotello.

As a leader in providing an extensive customer base with exceptional value through in-house electrical design, engineering, automation and construction, The Morse Group continues to set the standard as the single source for turnkey solutions.

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