Case Studies

Select Electric Inc.

Providing Specialty Electrical Services for the Transportation Sector

Select Electric Inc. (SEI), founded in 1972, is currently a fully-owned subsidiary of the Meruelo Group. The group includes a number of construction, development and property management agencies throughout California. SEI is a growing electrical contractor serving Southern California, headed up by executive vice president, Craig Degenfelder. Degenfelder’s experience in the electrical industry in a range of roles offers him unique insight to the business. He leads a team of around 130 people working from offices in Poway and Norwalk, Calif.


Degenfelder got his start as an electrician in the 1990s. “I worked through the Local 58 in Detroit,” he recounts. “I came up through the field and attended college at a private engineering school. I’ve worked as an apprentice, a general supervisor, a project manager and an estimator.” He soon found his way into the management end of the business, leading millions of dollars in work over the years. Degenfelder had worked with SEI’s previous owner before the company was purchased by Meruelo and returned in April 2012.

Diverse Capabilities

SEI specializes in transportation electrical contracts. The team has worked for the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) regularly, often collaborating with highway contractors to light up the road and keep toll roads powered up. “The work we do is pretty much all of the highway lighting along with toll road sensors, and traffic monitoring systems,” Degenfelder explains. “We do all of the electrical on a freeway including communications and camera work. The nature of our work is more high-risk. Caltrans wants it done in a certain amount of time, and we are constantly negotiating around the existing freeway, with traffic and other risks on the wide-open public roads system. Integrating our work effectively and safely is always a challenge.”

The business is the oldest traffic electrical contracting firm in the region, celebrating 40 years in 2014. For four decades, the team has completed a number of unique and challenging projects across the region. In 2013, the crew finished up work on Interstate 905, a contract under Flatiron Construction Corp. Similar to another recent project on Interstate 15 SEI provided electrical support for lighting, tolls, and monitoring systems. The crew has also landed work connecting State Route 91 to Interstate 15, a large expansion project with new toll lanes and including 38 intersections.

Degenfelder describes his team’s capabilities as “Planes, trains and automobiles.” Other projects include bridges, airport systems and rail systems. SEI recently completed a project on the green and orange lines in San Diego’s heavy and light rail systems. The portfolio also includes a number of bridges.

Broad Horizons

SEI’s reputation for high-quality electrical and communications work has opened up new opportunities beyond transit work. “Although most of our work is on the transportation end of things, we have been doing quite well in the building side for telephone, data and fiber,” Degenfelder notes. “We have a three-year blanket contract for University of California Los Angeles. We are entering the third year now and this has been a very successful project. I think data and communications will become a growing part of our business as well as the integration part of what we do. With experience in intelligent traffic systems, the same people at our company can work on buildings. With the growth in communications right now, this is a really good fit for us.”

Much of the company’s growth in all areas has spurred internally, however Degenfelder and his team are connected with the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) as well as the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW). These connections, specifically with the San Diego chapter of NECA, have offered the team opportunities for training and building business relationships with other contractors and strategic partners.

“NECA and IBEW combined on the contractor side add value. When we team up in the industry there is a lot more power behind us and we can work towards more fair-wage jobs in the market.” – Craig Degenfelder, vice president

“NECA and IBEW combined on the contractor side add value,” Degenfelder explains. “We have strength in numbers. When we team up in the industry there is a lot more power behind us and we can work towards more fair-wage jobs in the market.” As far as collaborating with competitors, he rarely sees any issues. “There’s enough work in the market that we can all play nice in the sandbox and go after it,” he continues. “We have teamed up with other contractors when a project is too big. We can learn from eachother and nobody likes to see a good contractor dragged through the mud.”

The NECA network has been a crucial component to SEI’s success in the market over the years. The association offers unique training and collaborative opportunities to help the industry as a whole keep moving forward. Relationships have become a major part of the growth plan. Whether within the offices or when dealing with strategic partnerships, SEI is fair and friendly.

“We have been able to build a great reputation and we are really proud of that,” Degenfelder explains. “The people we have here are what really make the company. We’ve gotten over some stumbling blocks over the years and I’m happy to serve this team.”

As transportation infrastructure and communications technology continue to grow in California, Degenfelder and his crew are looking ahead to growth in several directions. Meruelo offers a strong financial backbone that will continue to support its subsidiaries in different fields. In the coming years, the crew is looking for greater geographic expansion throughout California. Regardless of size, Select Electric Inc. maintains a strong commitment to its core values: innovation, professionalism and safety.

Published on: October 20, 2016


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