- Written by: Jeanee Dudley
- Produced by: Dave Gushee
- Estimated reading time: 4 mins
In 1974 Ron Oswald established Prairie Electric (PE) as a small electrical contracting business in Eden Prairie, Minn., 12 miles southwest of Minneapolis. For nearly 40 years, the business has experienced steady growth, serving commercial and public clients with diverse needs throughout the Twin Cities and neighboring communities. Today, the business has built a strong niche in serving schools and municipalities, as well as large private entities.
While Ron still owns the business and remains involved Scott Oswald, Ron’s son and current president, proudly stepped into his leadership role. Scott oversees a team of 52 employees, including managers, estimators, project managers and experienced electricians. The crew has a reputation for quality work, performing complex new construction and renovation work on time and on budget.
This reputation is the result of a strong commitment to customers that has been the driving force behind PE for two generations. Scott and his colleagues strive to build relationships with everyone involved on a project, including owners, suppliers and subcontractors. PE works as a team to execute strong projects regardless of time constraints or challenges.
While the crew performs most work in-house, specialty trades and services fall in the hands of a network of qualified and reliable subcontractors. PE subcontracts out core drilling, saw cutting, fire alarm and other low voltage work, as well as heavy equipment operation when necessary. Over the years, Ron and Scott have built long-term relationships with these partners who work with PE to meet and exceed the expectations of customers.
A growing portfolio
More than 50 percent of PE’s volume is work for schools, municipalities and other small service accounts. These clients know that Scott and his team can get the job done, whether it’s a small remodel or wiring an entire new building. The company employs skilled union labor, which means the crew has the experience, education and safety training to ensure a safe, efficient project.
More often than not, the team works directly for building owners and end-users. “We don’t do a ton of work for general contractors,” Scott explains. PE’s clientele includes a wide range of commercial customers, as well, ranging from mission-critical data centers to the Mall of America.
“We are the No. 2 preferred contractor for Mall of America,” Scott elaborates. “We have done a lot of retail work through that relationship, primarily build-outs. We have also worked for Comcast, as well as several international companies. These ongoing relationships offer us stability and they are very important to us as a business.”
Other recent work includes repeat business for Imagine Print Solutions, an international printing company with several locations throughout the United States. PE has performed millions of dollars in additional electrical work for the business. These contracts can range from light office remodeling to entire buildings as large as 500,000 square feet.
Data centers are a growing market sector for the business. PE has worked on data centers for Moneygram, CDW, Prime Therapeutics, as well as Starkey. The scope of work on these projects can include complicated systems and backup power installations. Generators are a frequent installation task for the team at these mission-critical facilities.
Over the last few years, PE has faced many of the same challenges as other contractors across the country. When the market declined throughout the recession, volume was hard to come by. Many seasoned professionals walked away from the industry. As the economy starts to gain ground again, Scott and his team are ready to grow. Of course, that comes with a whole new set of challenges.
“Now our concerns have changed,” he explains. “The market is improving and volume is increasing. We have to work harder to find and keep talent. There is a natural amount of turnover in our industry and we have struggled to find employees with experience in the industry.”
While the business faces growing pains, Scott expresses gratitude for his existing team. His crew works hard and performs well, but his staff numbers need to match volume. The crew works in sync with a shared goal of turning around high-quality, safe projects that are delivered on time and on budget. The company mission is to maintain a can-do attitude, helping clients meet individual goals and objectives.
Over the next few years, Scott says the market looks good. The Twin Cities hold a lot of potential for the PE team and the crew is excited to take on new challenging projects in a broad target market. The business will continue to offer big-company performance with a small-company attitude. Prairie Electric has the people, experience, equipment and diversity to meet virtually any electrical challenge.
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