South Shore Electric Inc.
South Shore Electric Inc. (South Shore) was founded in 1984; the company provides electrical contracting for institutional, industrial and commercial properties across Ohio. As a member of the Greater Cleveland Chapter of the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA), South Shore provides quality work and craftsmanship through its partnerships with the union and construction wiremen/construction electricians (CW/CEs).
Paul Zielazienski, president of South Shore, started the company working from a spare bedroom and his garage. Now employing approximately 65 people, South Shore is known for utilizing more CW/CEs than most NECA contractors.
“We’ve been able to mesh these people with the inside guys, so there’s no anger or anything,” explains Paul. “You have to start thinking like a merit shop. As a union contractor, we know what our guys are. When you start with a CW/CE, it takes some time to adjust.”
With a labor force that is somewhat distrusting of the CW/CE program, South Shore is innovative in its willingness to take on the risk of bringing in CW/CEs. “We do extra interviews when bringing on a CW/CE, to find out what they can do,” explains Paul. “We use them slowly as they start so we can continue to evaluate their knowledge base.”
Newly hired CW/CEs are included on the job with one of South Shore’s regular electricians, which not only allows for more training, but also allows the company to learn the extents of the CW/CE’s knowledge.
Paul is a proponent of the CW/CE program, and he actively works to help fellow electrical contractors understand the benefits of the system. “It’s a whole different mentality,” he explains. “You have to run and manage a job differently. It’s a whole different deal. But they know what they’re doing. I do have an inside guy running the job, but they’re working well. They show up on time. We have no problems.”
Maintaining the peace with his employees and regular subcontractors was critical when first beginning the program, as many workers did not understand how it could be of benefit.
“When we first started, there was some anger,” Paul explains. “They perceived it as a threat to their jobs. We did a good job of explaining how it works, and now more people see that it’s actually enhancing their work. There’s work that we couldn’t do before because we couldn’t be competitive.”
With more jobs available to South Shore, the company is able to compete on more bids which, in the long run, provides all of its workers with more jobs.
The importance of labor to South Shore is huge, whether it is long-term employees or subcontractors. “We retain people for 15 to 25 years,” Paul details. “I want low turnover; I treat my people right. I try to develop a strong loyalty to South Shore, not just the union. We have some guys who are extremely loyal to us. We’ve managed to put together a good group of people.”
Since access to labor can be a challenge in the industry, South Shore’s desire to keep its employees happy is a key to its long-term success.
Keeping good workers
With his employees sticking close to South Shore, Paul is able to navigate an industry where finding labor is the biggest challenge. “Construction in Ohio is nuts,” laughs Paul. “But we’ve got it down pretty good. We still have problems getting people, but CW/CEs made it so much better and easier to find work.”
Through its partnership with a local vocational school, South Shore has helped bring in even more workers to the industry. “They call us when they have a few good, sharp kids, and ask us if we want them,” Paul explains. “We interview the students and hire them in with a decent wage.”
From fieldwork to warehouse and pre-fabrication, all the projects South Shore connects the vocational students with give the trainees hands-on work experience. “We make sure they don’t work on something that can hurt them, but the school instructs them really well,” says Paul.
South Shore has projects across the industrial and commercial sectors. Some notable projects are at more than 20 Giant Eagle grocery stores in Northern Ohio. A series of light fixture changes at the Kalahari Water Park in Sandusky utilized some CW/CEs. The company has also worked for Lorain County Community College, and it regularly bids on new projects there. Paul considers the relationships with his customers to be critical to South Shore’s long-term success. “We’re supporting the people that support us,” he says.
South Shore is notable for its dedication to providing quality work, as well as its willingness to utilize CW/CEs when the industry hasn’t fully warmed up to the idea. “Some guys can’t change. I’m 68 years old, and I’m still changing,” he laughs. “I’m very progressive in how I run the company.”
With a loyal, dynamic workforce, South Shore Electric Inc. is continuing to light the way for smarter labor practices and more competitive projects across the state of Ohio.
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