Preferred Electric Company
- Written by: Molly Shaw
- Produced by: Sean O'Reilly
- Estimated reading time: 5 mins
As one of the largest locally owned union shops in the Carolinas, Preferred Electric Company (PECI) has provided quality electrical installations for more than 30 years. The Charlotte-based company specializes in the commercial sphere, tackling premium office outfits, mission-critical data centers, energy centers, high-rise units, call centers, health care facilities and more.
“We just celebrated our 30-year anniversary last year; the company was founded in 1984,” says Dale Handley, marketing director of PECI. “We’re a union shop with more than 200 employees, primarily serving the Charlotte area, but PECI is also licensed in Virginia and South Carolina.”
PECI is locally-owned and -operated by Terry Lette and David Howard. Lette formed PECI in 1984 and Howard joined shortly after.
As president, Lette primarily manages the financial aspects of PECI. He graduated from an International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) apprenticeship in 1982 and before PECI, served as an electrician, foreman, estimator and project manager with other companies.
An active member of the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) Atlantic Coast chapter, Lette has served as a board member for the Charlotte Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee (JATC) for 15 years. In addition to this role, Lette has served as a NECA divisional representative and more recently, governor of the Atlantic Coast chapter. He also serves on the NECA Business Development Task Force.
David Howard, executive vice president of PECI, works with the firm’s design-build team, estimating department and material procurement arm. Howard has more than 35 years of experience in the electrical industry and upper level management. Over the years, he has served as an electrician, foreman, project manager and estimator, managing projects of all shapes and sizes, from fast-track shutdowns to multimillion dollar new construction.
With Lette and Howard at the helm alongside other key personnel, PECI has grown by leaps and bounds since inception and continues to be awarded projects in the growing Charlotte metropolitan area and beyond. Even through the recession, PECI’s trusted reputation allowed the company to move forward with year-over-year growth.
A high-profile client base
The company’s portfolio includes a long list of major clients, including Time Warner Cable, Food Lion, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Duke Energy and many other large names. For these premier clients, PECI installs and manages a variety of specialty electrical systems, including power distribution units, uninterruptible power supply, switchgear and generators.
In terms of preconstruction, the company delivers design assistance, project budgeting, design development and progress pricing, project environment research and schedule development. Customers can be confident in PECI’s electrical installations because the company backs its service with 24/7, on-call, service and maintenance at numerous locations throughout the Carolinas.
Premium office outfits
While PECI’s scope of service is quite broad, the company truly specializes in the commercial sector with premium office and tenant projects. “We have had great success in the commercial up-fit market; this is where our electricians stand out,” says Lette. “PECI has the knowledge and experience to know what it takes to get a building ready for a new tenant, installing everything from receptacles to generators and everything in between.”
PECI is currently underway at 300 South Tryon, the largest high-rise office tower constructed in Charlotte since the Duke Energy Center. “The owner is Spectrum Properties and we are working as the prime electrical subcontractor under Balfour Beatty Construction, the general contractor,” says Handley. “This is a 25-story office tower and there is a lot of buzz around this project.”
PECI also managed the electrical installation of five floors at the LEED-Platinum Duke Energy Tower in Charlotte. The 101,360-square-foot construction project incorporated many energy saving systems, including daylight harvesting, occupancy detection and building management to help reduce the overall energy consumption of the tower.
In the upscale South Park area of Charlotte, PECI is in the midst of completing the first of two towers of commercial office space complete with parking decks and featured retail space at the Capital Towers. “We are working for Shelco Construction,” says Handley. “Our scope of work includes all electrical installations as the prime electrical subcontractor.”
“We’re also involved in the new Lash Group building at Kingsley Park, a five-story, 250,000-square-foot office building,” adds Handley. “This is a Childress Klein project with Shelco Construction as the general contractor.”
Mission-critical data centers
Another specialty area for PECI is the mission-critical data center market; the company takes great pride in this client base, working with some of the largest companies in the world. “We do a great deal of data center work,” says Andrew Williams, operations risk manager at PECI. “We’ve completed several large data center projects for Apple, Facebook, AT & T, Windstream and other large names.”
PECI has a dedicated group of data center project managers, field supervisors and support staff that can handle any size project, from the design phase all the way through to a fully functional facility. “We are currently underway on Project Bishop, a large confidential data center with Gilbane Construction,” adds Handley.
At the SFR data center in Charlotte, PECI converted the existing 38,000-square-foot office building into a fully functional data center, including two 2,250KW generators, four 750Kva UPS’ systems and eight, 300Kva PDUs over the course of six months.
One of the company’s most impressive data center projects is Apple’s $1 billlion iDataCenter facility, measuring more than 500,000 square feet in Maiden, North Carolina. “This project is so massive, it’s visible from space,” notes Handley. Over the course of 24 months, alongside Hunt Electric, PECI installed equipment such as 2,500KW generators and 850Kva UPS modules at the LEED designed building.
Teaming up with fellow NECA members
PECI enjoys many longstanding relationships with area owners, general contractors and even other electrical companies. “We partner and team up with other NECA contractors across the country,” says Williams. “One of such jobs is our work at the $9.5 million Charlotte Premium Outlets with 90 tenants. With more than 100 union tradesmen on the job we were able to turn it around in a little over seven months.”
PECI partners with fellow NECA contractors across the country when a company comes to the Charlotte area and needs qualified labor. “Some of the bigger, out of town shops have a customer base in this area,” explains Williams. “They have the customer and we know the local labor, so we work together to gather manpower.”
Another means of ramping up manpower that PECI has seen great success with is the use of Construction Wiremen/Construction Electricians (CW/CEs) on commercial projects. “CW/CEs are a large part of our business today,” says Lette. “The Carolinas Initiative started here seven years ago and PECI was involved from day one, helping to get it off the ground. We continue to use CW/CEs as big part of our business model every day.”
“Some are tasked trained and we can utilize them to help with the cost effectiveness and production of the job,” adds Lette. “When we don’t have enough apprentices available we use CW/CEs for manpower; apprentices are our future and number one goal but CW/CEs can help supplement.”
PECI has certainly seen the benefits of this program and has garnered more market share in a competitive labor pool. But it’s the company’s trusted 30-year reputation that has really kept business moving for Preferred Electric Company as it continues to be one of the largest players in North Carolina and beyond.
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