Case Studies

Shanahan Mechanical & Electrical Inc.: A Family of Electrical and Mechanical Experts

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Shanahan Mechanical & Electrical Inc. (SME) got its start in 1958 as a hardware supplier, and grew to be a large and highly specialized company, a development of which the founders could only have dreamed. Almost 55 years later, SME has advanced from the local store it once was and become one of the most respected and busiest mechanical and electrical contracting companies in Nebraska. From its headquarters in Valparaiso, Neb., the company works for clients throughout the eastern part of the state.

The family-owned and -operated company is co-managed by Marvin Shanahan and Steve Shanahan, who will continue the firm’s tradition of providing honest, dependable service. “We’re a full-service electrical and mechanical contractor and we work primarily in the commercial, educational and industrial markets,” explains Steve Shanahan, vice president of SME. “We’ve been in business for more than 50 years and I’m proud to be carrying on the company that my dad, Tom, and uncle, Marvin, set up.”

Built on Hard Work

Having grown up around the family business, Shanahan understands first-hand exactly what had to be done to build the company to where it is today. “At 16, my dad told me to get up and go to work,” recalls Shanahan. “I was loading trucks, changing oil and working on houses until I went to college and got a degree in business administration. Once I came back to work for the company, I had to prove myself by working on larger projects than I had experienced and the company just kept on growing, but I’ll always remember those summers of hard work. Marvin, our president, who is 74, still has the best work ethic of anyone I know and is an inspiration to all of us at SME.”

SME, after making it through multiple recessions, recognizes how to weather the worst of storms and focuses on combating the market changes to the best of its ability. “These days, nothing is the way it used to be,” explains Shanahan. “Especially after 2008, people just want things done faster and done cheaper than they have ever before. On top of that, we are a commodity-dependent business.

“If the price of copper wire or steel goes up between the time we estimate a project and actually have to purchase the materials, we could be in big trouble,” continues Shanahan. “Even though that’s not a new thing, it’s something you always have to keep in mind, because it has been difficult at times to deal with the suppliers and manufacturers. Sometimes we might get a piece of equipment that just isn’t quite right and we have been combating these adversities through better communication.”

The company has been able to maintain a steady amount of business in the past few years, despite a challenging economy and wild fluctuations in the price of materials. “We’re not affected as much as other companies in the area are,” says Shanahan. “We’re really a middle-stream company, and in general Nebraska hasn’t been hit too badly so far, so we’re still growing as a company.”

For example, SME finished work on a new medical center in Lincoln, Neb., which was one of the company’s large contracts in recent years. “We had a $3 million job for BryanLGH Health Systems Medical Center at the East Campus involving all of the electrical, heating, piping and plumbing work across two stories,” says Shanahan. The work was part of the center’s major renovation and expansion efforts, which aim to increase the available services at the medical center while consolidating its existing departments.

Looking to the Future

The firm has also been a trusted partner of the University of Nebraska (UNL) at Lincoln over the years, providing expertise and manpower to assist the school’s continued development. “We worked for Sampson Construction and UNL on a smaller-scale project that involved relocating all of the steam and electrical utilities for the Memorial Stadium East Expansion,” says Shanahan. We have just been awarded a contract for the remainder of the mechanical and electrical portion of the $60 million-plus project. “Also, we’re the prime contractor on a project to construct a 2.5 million-gallon tank for the east campus’ chilled water system.” The project will ultimately provide the campus with an energy-efficient way to store cold water for the chilled water system.

Soon SME will be focusing on already contracted projects, along with trying to improve its areas of specialization. “We have an electrical job with Farmers Mutual Insurance at a new office building, as well as finishing a five-story office building for Assurity Life Insurance Company,” says Shanahan. “Other than that, I think we’ll just continue on the path we’re on. It’s still a tough marketplace and there will always be competition, but it’s better than it was and I’m confident that things are getting better. I don’t know if we’ll ever be comfortable, though. We’ll always be thinking of what else we can do.”

Shanahan’s positive reinforcement, along with a long family tradition of diversification will lead Shanahan Mechanical & Electrical Inc. into a promising future.

Published on: March 9, 2013

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