- Written by: Molly Shaw
- Produced by: Sean O'Reilly
- Estimated reading time: 4 mins
Rick Milota, vice president of National Electric, says the Nebraska-based company is unlike most electrical contractors in the region. “We’re a little different from most contractors you might talk to,” he reveals. “One thing that sets us apart is our longstanding history. Our company will celebrate 70 years in 2014 and we’re still family-owned.”
Milota, along with his cousin, John Milota, now make up the company’s third generation of family ownership. “My grandfather founded National Electric in 1944 and was preceded by my father and John’s father,” he shares. “I have been an active owner for a little over a decade and John for about three years. We’re equal, 50-50 partners.”
Supporting Longstanding Customers
The family-owned and -operated company has been serving the Omaha, Neb., area for seven decades, focusing on long-term service agreements with repeat clients. “We’re a mid-sized electrical contractor,” notes Milota. “About 80 percent of our work is negotiated and we generally don’t bid on a whole lot of open projects on the street, such as a new shopping center or strip mall coming into town.”
Instead of running out to bid every job that comes up, National Electric supports customers the company has retained for 30, 40 or even 50 years or more. “Some of the clients we serve today have been with the company longer than John or I have,” reveals Milota. “Our forte is negotiated commercial and industrial electrical service contracts; we don’t really dabble in the residential arena and many of our clients have been in this area longer than we have.”
National Electric generally serves greater Omaha, but has traveled to Wyoming, Missouri, Iowa and Kansas for special projects. “About 99 percent of the time we’re operating in the local Omaha area, but if I have a good customer who asks us to go to a remote spot in South Dakota for a project, well that’s the exception,” adds Milota.
The company currently has approximately 30 regular employees. “We work with the local International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers [IBEW] union and that allows for flexibility within our workforce, Milota explains. “At times we’ve had up around 150 electricians, but it obviously depends on the project.”
Over the years, National Electric has forged relationships with some of the biggest names in the local industry, including Kellogg’s Cereal (Kellogg’s), the First National Bank of Omaha (FNBO) and CenturyLink.
“Kellogg’s has a large manufacturing plant in Omaha that we have been serving for more than 28 years,” reveals Milota. “We have an on-site foreman at the plant who is very familiar with the plant, as he has been there over 25 years. We typically have our electricians there doing ongoing maintenance, projects and support.”
National Electric also holds a longstanding presence with FNBO. “We’ve been supporting the bank since the early 1940s or 1950s,” notes Milota. “We have built their child care center, as well as office facilities. We also support new branch development, as well as maintaining existing branch facilities.”
But National Electric’s support and service spans well beyond banks and industrial-grade food processing facilities. “We work with large-scale data centers, as well,” says Milota. “Our foreman that supports CenturyLink has been working with them since the 1950s when it was Northwestern Bell Telephone Company. He retired in January 2013 after 44 years with National Electric and about 40 of those years were spent working with this one client.”
One of National Electric’s customers operates sizable data centers in the U.S., with one located in Omaha. “The electrical UPS systems in the Omaha operating center was about 20 years old and in need of updating,” explains Milota. “Outdated systems from equipment to backup power make it difficult to find parts as technology changes. They had completed a project of updating another one of their data centers and selected us to mirror that in Omaha. This was a two-year $3 million project and the customer chose us because we already had a well-established relationship.”
National Electric has also recently been involved in the development of petroleum stations in Omaha. “We’ve been doing this kind of work for 25 years, but everything is now on a larger scale,” reveals Milota. “Years ago we used to deliver gas stations with a convenience store, a few islands and a car wash with the electrical totaling $100,000, now some easily run upward of $750,000, because everything is more modernized. There are 26 islands going in with lights and 100-footlong tunnel car washes.”
No matter the job, Milota says National Electric’s affiliations with local organizations such as the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) of Nebraska help keep business move along smoothly. “My father was a board member and past president and governor of NECA and I have held office as president for the last year and have been a board member for over the last decade,” he shares. “NECA gives us the power to negotiate with the union and acts as a go-between to settle contracts.”
IBEW provides National Electric with a flexible skilled labor pool. “Part of this business is a fluctuation in labor,” notes Milota. “I can slow down and lay guys off and know they have a good option to go back to but I can also call and have 10 or 20 extra guys if I need it.”
After 70 years, the family-owned and -operated company has developed time-tested service and trusted relationships with clients and organizations such as NECA and IBEW. National Electric builds on decades of success supported by repeat business with a familiar face.
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