Preferred Electric Inc.
With locations in New Iberia and Covington, Louisiana, Preferred Electric Inc. (PEI) is a licensed electrical and mechanical contractor serving utility, industrial, oilfield and marine customers throughout the Gulf Coast region of the U.S. The company was established in 1989 by current owner and president, Ronald Stoute, along with a partner. The pair set out with the goal of providing reliable, integrated electrical services to the marine industry and has expanded steadily ever since.
“Our diversification is what sets us apart from other electrical and mechanical contractors,” Stoute explains. “We have two divisions: one exclusively serves utility companies, performing underground utility work. The other serves industrial, oilfield and marine customers.”
Ronald now employs around 100 people – a skilled and dedicated team. The business has little turnover and many of these employees have been with the company for a decade or more. The team is split with approximately 60 percent in the industrial division and 40 percent in utility work, although there is some crossover when necessary. Both divisions perform work throughout PEI’s expansive territory – the company is licensed in Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi and Alabama and performs marine work beyond that scope.
PEI’s employees are highly trained and maintain certifications to conduct work for utility companies, industrial facilities, oil and gas companies and service companies, shipyards and marine transportation companies. The business is ISNetworld, PEC Safety and PICS compliant and performs design-build work in all segments.
In the utilities sector, the business has tackled a number of complex underground jobs. Recent projects include the Ambassador Caffery Extension in Lafayette, Louisiana, where the PEI team installed three miles of underground primary distribution cable. Scope of work included installing conduit by means of excavation and directional boring, installing 1000-MCM wire and building concrete foundations for transformer pads as well as installing the transformers, street lights, and all terminations.
One of the company’s more unique industrial projects has been a complete electrical overhaul of the railroad swing bridge in Baldwin, Louisiana. Scope of work included installation of a new generator package, distribution panels and running of conduit, including running and installing submarine cable through the river and up onto the center of the bridge. The team also installed a new control system to control the bridge mechanisms.
Other industrial projects include chemical plants, shipyards and dockside facilities, tank farms, well sites, and warehouses. PEI performs industrial new construction, maintenance and service including switchgear, MCCs, VFDs, automation systems, fire and gas systems, conduit, electrical wiring, lighting, custom panels, metering, and power service. All work is completed to the appropriate code depending on the location of the facility.
PEI has completed several distinct and complex oilfield projects in recent years. One of the more challenging has been the construction of remotely operated vehicle (ROV) buildings. The team performed the design and build-out of the electrical system and fire and gas detection system for over 100 sets of zone-2 blast-rated control vans and work vans.
The company regularly performs electrical construction, service and maintenance for drilling rigs and production platforms in all parts of the Gulf of Mexico. This electrical work includes complete wiring systems, cable tray installation, lighting, grounding, control systems, living quarters, and MCCs. All electrical work PEI performs on these facilities meets the standards outlined by the various agencies (ABS, USCG, DNV, BV) that oversee oil industry construction, depending on where the rig or platform is located.
The marine sector remains strong and stands as PEI’s largest industrial target market. The team recently completed work on two State of North Carolina Ferries – a new construction project located at a shipyard in Orange, Texas. The contractor performed the complete electrical package, including the power distribution system, generator packages, and all cable tray and cable installation for all systems. PEI performs several of these types of projects throughout the Gulf Coast on a range of vessels. Scope of work typically involves all the automation, alarm and monitoring, fire detection, steering, interior/exterior communications, safety systems, navigation systems, propulsion control and entertainment systems.
A strong backlog
Stoute says the economic downturn did not have the same effect on his business as other contractors. “It wasn’t a big challenge for us – we had some employees cross between the divisions when one slowed down and the other sped up,” he says. “We like to hang onto our employees, and we kept them working so they’ve stayed with us. The last two years of the recession we were running around 75 employees so we’ve grown quite a bit.”
With a growing backlog, PEI is facing new challenges. “Finding labor is always tough, but Louisiana Works is a big help,” Stoute notes. “It’s not the only way of helping find employees – we work with trade schools as well – but it helps us to get guys on jobsites.”
The business is on track for continued, steady and stable growth over the coming years. Stoute is taking it one day at a time, ensuring that Preferred Electric Inc. is able to maintain high levels of service, efficiency and safety in its diverse electrical projects.
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