Case Studies

Service One Electric

Complete electrical service and maintenance based in Knoxville, Tennessee

Since 2001, Service One Electric has been a go-to source for all commercial and industrial electrical projects throughout the Southeast and beyond. Operating as a union contractor, the company is a member of the East Tennessee Chapter of the National Electrical Contractors Association (ETNECA). Service One deploys more than 100 experienced union electricians with extensive knowledge of today’s industrial-commercial electrical requirements for office buildings, hotels, apartments, restaurants, hospitals, schools and a range of other facilities.

“We’re mainly an industrial and utility contractor, operating anywhere in the spectrum of commercial and industrial facilities,” says Barry Vaulton, general manager of Service One. “Our customers range from utility companies to industrial plants, oil terminals and refineries to schools and hospitals and more throughout east Tennessee and well beyond. Recently, we’ve traveled into the upper Midwest and coastal Carolinas.”

Cutting out the middleman

Unlike most electrical contractors that step in on a subcontracting basis, Service One’s capacity surpasses just electrical knowledge. The company delivers more than 90 percent of most projects in-house as a general contractor, running skilled trades such as carpentry and millwright service. “Some of our jobs encompass much more than electrical facets,” explains Vaulton. “We offer our own engineering and general contracting services.”

Service One Electric

Vaulton says the company has made this shift to more general contracting and running its own jobs in an effort to land more work in the competitive bid world. “We’ve moved to the general contractor side for the simple fact that general contractors always go for the low bid for electrical work,” he explains. “We cannot be the lowest price every time due to our union labor rates.”

“We decided to cut out the middleman and now we are the general contractor,” continues Vaulton. “Not only does this allow for more control over the schedule and quality of the project, but this is also where we gain leverage by doing the whole job, as well as the electrical components.”

Running its own jobs has allowed Service One to branch outside of the Southeast market. “Our focus is still eastern Tennessee and about 65 percent of our work remains in state,” says Vaulton. “Any given day we have approximately 80 to 120 field personnel on-site. We travel quite often, from North Dakota to Louisiana and North Carolina; the market in Knoxville can be tough, so we often venture out.”

From creating and installing custom electrical solutions to upgrading existing systems and seeing a project all the way through – concept to completion – as a general contractor, Service One has been the choice contractor for a range of high profile projects. “We completed a hydro-electrical project for Alcoa in North Carolina,” says Vaulton.

Alcoa is one of the world’s largest producers of aluminum. “This was a sizable job with time constraints, but we managed to beat the deadline,” adds Vaulton.

Service One has also been involved at the Pigeon Forge Wastewater Treatment Plant and the company recently installed a new substation at Dale Avenue for the Knoxville Utilities Board (KUB). “We built the $2.5 million KUB project from the ground up as the general contractor, doing the whole deal in downtown Knoxville on a tight site,” says Vaulton.

Competing in the low-bid market

Vaulton says Knoxville is a very competitive market, especially for a union contractor with greater labor costs that is unable to deliver a low price on every project. As a member of ETNECA, which represents contractor members in Knoxville, Chattanooga, Nashville, Oak Ridge and everywhere in between, Service One has been able to get a leg up in the bid world through the use of Construction Wireman/Construction Electrician (CW/CE) labor.

“We’ve been using the program since NECA introduced it about six years ago,” says Vaulton. “Today we employ 20 or more CW/CEs.”

Vaulton says the program has benefited Service One in numerous ways. “For one, if local jurisdiction allows, CW/CEs can travel more freely than apprentices and we also use it as a feeder program to get more workers to enter the apprenticeship,” he says. “Many of our apprentices and even some of our now superintendents and foremen have been CW/CEs in the past.”

Service One utilizes CW/CE labor mainly in the commercial market. “We do a lot of lighting retrofits for customers such as the Knoxville County Schools where it’s always a competitive bid against an open shop,” says Vaulton. “Without CW/CEs, we just couldn’t compete price-wise. Our guys don’t have a problem allowing a nonunion person in on a job, as long as they’re there to work and do a good job.”

In the competitive Knoxville market, Service One Electric is leveraging CW/CEs and a diverse range of in-house services that include the full general contractor scope to stay ahead and continue to thrive.

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Spring 2018



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