Case Studies

Shelby Electric Co. Inc.: Where Tradition Meets Modernity in Memphis

  • Written by: Shelby Electric Co. Inc.: Where Tradition Meets Modernity in Memphis
  • Produced by: Shelby Electric Co. Inc.: Where Tradition Meets Modernity in Memphis
  • Estimated reading time: 4 mins

Since 1919 Shelby Electric Co. Inc. (Shelby) has made itself just as much a part of Memphis, Tenn., as Beale Street and barbeque. What began as a small motor repair shop now provides customers with the gamut of electrical-mechanical product sales and offers a full-service contracting operation for commercial and industrial assignments. The product selection may have changed over the years, but Shelby’s hard-work ethic and straightforward, no-nonsense approach continue to set the company apart from the competition. Above all, the Shelby team takes pride in making every customer feel like part of the family, leveraging decades of industry experience to ensure each customer’s success.

The Shelby team represents well over 500 years of combined industry experience, but maintains a careful balance of tradition and modernity. For one thing, Shelby has operated out of the same headquarters since 1930. Secondly, the company represents some of the most advanced electrical contracting experts in the region, working with some of the latest electrical and mechanical systems on the market. It is this combination that ensures customers across Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi continue to rely on the Shelby team for the spectrum of electrical contracting services.

Even 93 years later, Shelby continues to offer clients complete motor repair services. The company is a member of the Electrical Apparatus Service Association (EASA), underscoring the team’s ability to service small electric motors to major electrical generators. Shelby supports its experienced motor repair specialists with complete machine shop facilities and the latest in testing and repair equipment, including computerized vibration analysis.

No Matter What

Above all, the Shelby team takes pride in being there for each of its customers … no matter what. “My phone is always on,” chuckles Cole Bryan, CEO and owner of Shelby. Likewise, the Shelby motor repair team is on call 24 hours a day, as is the Shelby electric service team, both of which can be mobilized to complete on-site repairs with the help of a fully stocked service vehicle. The Shelby team can also be enlisted to help with any unexpected surprises during normal business hours.

All Shelby electricians are members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 474 chapter and many have been with Shelby for the majority of their career. Bryan joined the company over 14 years ago after serving in the military and eventually worked his way up before buying it in 2011. “I started out as a gopher, just doing whatever needed to be done,” expands Bryan. “I started from the bottom and take pride in the fact that I have been an employee. In order to establish expectations for your employees you must first be able to meet those expectations yourself.”

The Shelby team continues to push itself to do whatever needs to be done for each customer. The company will even arrange for crews to complete work overnight or through the weekend if needed, and subcontractors are usually only called in if the Shelby team needs an extra bit of manpower. In fact, the only things the company regularly subcontracts are any ancillary paving, drainage or concrete work. Even then, the company insists on choosing from a group of experienced, vetted and reliable contacts.

Shelby employees provide service for outdoor lighting systems, roadway and mast lighting systems, overhead power distribution systems, underground distribution systems and traffic signalization systems. Over the course of 93 years the company has accumulated a number of regular customers in the area, including Memphis Light Gas and Water Division (MLGW) and the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDoT).

New Frontiers

Shelby’s extensive experience positioned the company to find success even throughout the worst of the economic downturn. Shelby’s reputation and experience, as well as its ability to scale up with extra union labor, ensured the team could compete in the industrial and heavy civil contracting market, where competition wasn’t quite as fierce, by Bryan’s account. “We do very little light commercial and almost no residential work,” explains Bryan. “In order to be successful in a particular area we must first be competitive.”

When Electrolux Home Products (Electrolux) announced it would be constructing a brand new 700,000-square foot manufacturing plant, Shelby went to work. The team signed onto the $190 million project in early 2012. According to Bryan, Shelby’s work at the plant is ongoing and will hopefully continue for many years as the plant is expected to churn out 700,000 units annually.

In fact, the announcement of a new Electrolux plant prompted TDoT to move forward with a major reorganization and expansion of the interchange between I-55 and Mallory Ave., located adjacent to the new plant in Memphis. The Shelby team also provided all of the interstate lighting and traffic signalization for this project. The interchange serves as a critical intersection leading to the greater Memphis area.

Nevertheless, the Shelby team remains cool as a cucumber about its future prospects. “The only thing that keeps me awake at night is my golf game,” jokes Bryan. “As long as we come to work every day and do things right the first time, the rest will take care of itself.” As the Shelby team inches its way toward celebrating 100 years in 2019, the company’s longevity and tradition of putting the client first will provide plenty of opportunities to grow. In the process, the team solidifies Shelby Electric Co. Inc.’s place as a leader in electrical contracting.

Published on: March 13, 2013

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