Oklahoma Electrical Supply Company
More than a century has passed since Oklahoma Electrical Supply Company (OESCO) opened its doors in 1909. As the oldest continuously operational electrical contractor in Oklahoma, OESCO first made its name as an electrical supply house and small storefront. Today, the company’s scope of work spans any number of major health care, industrial and utility customers throughout the state and other parts of the country.
With an office Oklahoma City and Tulsa, OESCO now employs nearly 500 professionals. The firm consistently ranks among Engineering News Record’s (ENR) top electrical contractors in the country.
Over the course of 106 years, OESCO’s successful model has withstood the test of time by remaining grounded in family ownership and management and the highest quality electrical contracting services at a competitive rate. “We’re the oldest contractor based in Oklahoma,” says Tim Sardis, manager of construction of OESCO’s Oklahoma City office and minority owner. “There are a handful of others that are larger than us, but they only have satellite offices in Oklahoma. We’re the largest to be founded in Oklahoma and remain in the state.”
Diverse in-house capabilities
OESCO has grown by leaps and bounds since its initial role as a small electrical supply shop and storefront in Oklahoma City. Today, OESCO’s diverse range of skills – encompassing nearly every facet of electrical work – allows the company to thrive in multiple markets. “We do a tremendous amount of health care work for all of the major health care suppliers in Oklahoma – Integris, Mercy, Saint Anthony’s, Midwest Regional, Oklahoma Heart Hospital and more,” says Sardis.
“We enjoy this type of work and we have on-site staff at three major health care campuses that stay there all the time, performing maintenance and small construction services,” he continues. “But we also do plenty of hospitals from the ground up.”
An example of a long-running relationship with a major health care client is OESCO’s 40-year history with Oklahoma University (OU) Medical. “We built the original facility in the ’70s,” says Sardis. “Today, the campus encompasses a sizable area, including multiple towers and it’s an HCA-owned hospital. We’ve been doing work steadily for the last 40 years here; from the time it was built through all the major renovations and additions.”
Outside of the medical arena, OESCO has completed multiple projects on the OU campus. “We did the OU football practice center, the arts museum and the school of journalism,” adds Sardis.
About six years ago, OESCO began to build its presence in the utility services sector. “We started out by partnering with another small company doing camera work in substation yards, which turned into grounding jobs because we had a project manager that wanted to pursue this work,” recalls Sardis. “We eventually got into building substations and now it’s a whole other part of our company that’s been very successful.”
OESCO is currently working at a large data center in the Tulsa area and the company’s long list of substation services, including relay rebuilding and testing, continues to grow. “We’ve worked on many General Motors Corp. plants all over the country doing fiber and structured cabling,” says Sardis. “There was a large General Motors Corp. assembly plant in Oklahoma City, where we did a lot of industrial maintenance work, but it has since been closed and now it’s part of Tinker Air Force Base, where we still perform a lot of work today.”
Repeat business year after year
Like any construction business, Sardis says OESCO’s workload ebbs and flows with the economy and market demand, but the company’s diverse scope of services keep OESCO out of hot water. “We work all over the country with respect to the air blown fiber,” he says. “Our utility crews have also traveled to West Virginia, Texas, and other states, but the bulk of our electrical construction is completed in Oklahoma because we’re diverse enough to keep maintain a steady workforce.”
A solid backlog also comes from longstanding relationships; some of which OESCO has been building for decades. “We’ve enjoyed a long-running relationship with OU, for example,” says Sardis. “We completed the National Weather Center facility, operated by NOAA. The building has a tornado observation tower on top of the facility, which is pretty interesting. OU is a leader in meteorology, offering one of the top schools in the program in the country. We are proud to have completed this facility.”
Sardis says health care has really been an anchor for the business over the years. “We’ve completed a great deal of work for the Sisters of Mercy, starting with a patient tower in Ardmore in 2007,” he says. “We’ve worked for Mercy ever since, with ongoing projects at the Oklahoma City campus since 2007. OESCO is currently redoing their central utility plant and building a new cancer center.”
The road to foreman
Running so many large-scale jobs takes a diverse skill set, proper management and scheduling, but mostly, manpower – something Sardis says has become more of an issue in recent years. “The reality is we need people,” he explains. “Manpower right now is a problem.”
As a member of the Oklahoma Chapter of the National Electrical Contractors Association (OKNECA), OESCO has implemented the Construction Wireman/Construction Electrician (CW/CE) program to help leverage more labor opportunities. Sardis, who serves on the OKNECA board of directors, was an influential player in drafting the CW/CE program.
“I spent 13 months creating the program with other members and I’m a big believer in the CW/CE model,” says Sardis. He says OESCO uses the CW/CE program to gauge if an employee will work out as an apprentice for the long term.
“We currently have as many CWs and CEs as apprentices – this program is really working for us,” he adds. “We use CWs and CEs extensively and we work them like an apprentice, but the program serves as a proving ground for if a CW or CE wants to become an apprentice. By having them serve as a CW or CE first, we have some background on the person and we have a good idea if the apprenticeship is going to work out for them or not. The apprenticeship is not for everyone, and the CW/CE program gives these people another option for becoming a qualified union journeyman electrician.”
Sardis understands the commitment of apprenticeship, having gone through the program himself. “I took a similar career path, becoming a journeyman, foreman, project manager and so on,” he says. “I’ve been with OESCO since 1987 – close to 30 years.”
For OESCO continued prosperity is about sharing generations of experience, from managers to foreman, apprentice to CWs and CEs – the more shared experience the better. The company is committed to staying abreast of the latest developments in the industry through ongoing training and education, one of the hallmarks of NECA member contractors.
After 106 years, Oklahoma Electric Supply Company continues a tradition of safe, reliable, quality workmanship that withstands the test of time and economic highs and lows.
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