SAIA Electric Inc.
The year 1960 was an eventful one. America elected a very youthful John Fitzgerald Kennedy as President. Cassius Clay, who would go on to change his name to Mohammed Ali, won his first professional fight. Ford introduced its latest model, the Falcon. U.S. audiences were introduced to Barney, Fred, Wilma and Betty. And in Baton Rouge, La., Frank Tickie Saia founded SAIA Electric Inc., which over the next 50 years would grow into one the region’s largest, most respected electrical contractors.
The company began as a fundamental player in electrical power delivery to South Central Louisiana. And over the years the company would introduce any more innovations, while always concentrating on keeping services as affordable as they were efficient. The company now operates under second and third generation family management. Tickie’s grandson, Frank Brian, has been successfully running the company since 1984. Brian certainly knows SAIA; he’s worked there his entire life. He worked in the summers when he was attending school, and part-time as an estimator while he was attending Louisiana State University. He joined the firm full-time as an estimator after graduating with a degree in Construction Engineering, and worked his way to the top from there.
Under Brian’s leadership SAIA has maintained a proficiency in understanding and providing exactingly planned, engineered and managed energy solutions for everything from high-rise office towers, governmental buildings, hospitals, casinos to production areas for high technology. The market downtown over the last couple of years has affected the company, just as it has affected the rest of the country, but Brian still guided the company to a respectable $10 million in revenue for the previous year.
The commercial electrical construction field is a highly demanding one, requiring innovative ideas and well-designed projects. Brian attributes some the company’s success to their strong ties with subcontractors and vendors. “We have a lot of relationships with general contractor that we’ve benefited from with projects that we’re able to negotiate, versus jobs where we have to bid on the open market. As well as the other end, we have vendors that have been with us for a long time and they have given us a competitive edge on some jobs. Relationships – that’s one thing that hasn’t changed in this business over the years that I’ve been in it. It’s a key to doing business; you have to have good relationships with both the vendors and the contractors that you work with.”
Being around for 50 years has afforded SAIA the opportunity to work on a multitude of projects. When asked which project he found most interesting, Brian relays, “The Department of Energy had the Super Collider project in Waxahachie, Texas. That was the project that was supposed to revolutionize the energy industry. It was a super conductor they were trying to come up with, and we did some work on that project – on the testing and manufacturing end of the project. Unfortunately, the Department of Energy pulled the plug on the project just as it was about complete, but that was an interesting project. Technologically, that could have made a big difference in the way people live now.”
Projects over the Years
A few of the more noteworthy projects that did get fully funded are the electrical construction on the Louisiana State University Assembly Center; the Baton Rouge Hilton Hotel; the Russell B. Long Federal Courthouse; the Mall of Louisiana; the Old State Capitol; the Baton Rouge Centroplex; the Woman’s Hospital; the Baton Rouge Community College; and No Limit Records.
Another key to the company’s success is SAIA has learned how to streamline projects in terms of time and budget by utilizing effective planning, engineering, energy management and telecommunications. This design-build approach to construction minimizes design oversights and labor and materials cost overruns during construction. It also ensures a strong working partnership with the project team, while eliminating up to a year of the construction process.
SAIA is not just the region’s premier electrical contractor; the company has a fully formed subdivision that stays abreast of changes in the constantly evolving telecommunications industry. SAIA Communications designs, installs and maintains voice and data networks for its customers. This includes Local Area Network (LAN) and Wide Area Network (WAN) systems. SAIA provides low-voltage installation and wiring services for large-scale computer and telephone systems as well. In additional, a custom audio-video division deploys wiring for presentations and transmissions.
What the Future Holds
Brian’s plan for the near future is to expand his firm’s market share. “We’re not a company that’s looking to grow our business or sales by a certain percentage number every year. If we have a dollar value that we’re comfortable with doing, then our mission is to complete projects at that dollar value and to support our customers to the nth degree. We work to grow our market share in the markets that we work in through customer service, not by just getting a million customers.”
Brian thinks SAIA has definitely made it through the economic wilderness of the past few years. He notes that sales have picked up dramatically, but that “there are always problems, problems when you do have work, and problems when you don’t. But I definitely prefer the ‘we have too much work problems.'” Thanks to a commitment to quality, service and effective leadership, SAIA Electric Inc. is positioned to have the “problem” of gaining more and more satisfied customers into the next half-century.
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