Case Studies

Three D Electric Company

Lighting Up the Bay Area Since 1989
  • Written by: Three D Electric Company
  • Produced by: Three D Electric Company
  • Estimated reading time: 4 mins

David Whitt’s first job was at his father’s company, Whitt Electric, and David has now become an established third-generation electrical contractor. David, his father and brother founded Three D Electric Company (Three D) in 1989, proudly carrying on the Whitt family tradition.

“We started with three people,” explains David, president and CEO of Three D. “Myself, being David, my brother, being Darren, and good old Dad, being the third D,” he continues. Three D has grown over the last two decades and currently employs 80 people out of its office in Benicia, Calif. David bought out his brother’s and father’s shares about 10 years ago, and is proud to continue lighting up the Bay Area.

“The main part is electrical work,” explains David. “Our specialty right now is mixed-use podium-style electrical work, both commercial and residential.” Three D offers a variety of electrical services and products, including security systems and solar power systems. “Our alarm division specializes in low-voltage; basically Datacom, security alarm, fire alarm, CCTV and card-access,” reveals David.

Three D monitors all of the security systems that the team installs. The company’s solar division is a new addition to Three D’s business model. David’s team started retrofitting solar systems about three years ago for customers, but has since moved toward new construction. Three D is partnered with the SunPower Corporation and is contracted for panel installation through the corporation, instead of building contracts on its own with homeowners. “Our partnership with SunPower has made a huge increase in volume for us,” David reports.

Keeping It Diversified

“Diversity, especially in this economy, has helped us out immensely,” says David. “We’re very versatile.” Three D self-performs nearly everything. The company has hired one subcontractor in the last five years: a backhoe operator. At one point Three D had over 200 employees, but the recession has put pressure on the company. “We’ve been in survivor mode,” says David. “In the last four years margins have been a lot slimmer, so the profits just aren’t there. We’ve had to be frugal, but, you know, you hunker down and make it work.”

Things are starting to turn around for the team at Three D. The company has a few major initiatives going on, including UC Davis’ campus expansion in the West Village. “We’ve done a lot of cool projects,” says David. “Including some home construction for professional sports players, celebrities, but this campus project, as far as cool projects go, that’s at the top of my list.”

The campus is the largest net-zero energy community in the U.S. “The UC Davis project is high-tech and diversified,” David explains. The project has utilized every one of Three D’s specialized services, including dorm security, fire protection, lighting and solar power solutions. The campus features distributed audio technology, a recreation center and a theater, all the work of Three D. David is proud to be part of an initiative that is proving the capabilities of solar power and the practicality of net-zero energy on a large scale.

Three D is licensed in California and Nevada, although David says the company doesn’t currently have any projects out of state. “Reno just kind of died,” he explains. Before the market disappeared, Three D had a steady flow of contracts for multifamily residential buildings. David says if the market comes back, the team will be picking up work in Reno and Las Vegas again in the future. “We do some work in Northern California, Central California,” he says, but staying local is paying off for Three D. “There’s a lot of potential for growth right in the Bay Area.”

Broadening Horizons

Three D is always seeking new clients, and David knows the potential is there. Aside from picking up some sizable contracts, Three D has found a comfortable role performing lighting maintenance. “We have a monthly retainer to go out and make sure all their external lights are on and working,” David says. “That’s been growing really rapidly for us.” Offering maintenance services to clients provides a broader range of services, and brings recurrent revenue to the company.

Three D is set on expansion over the next few years as it nears its 25-year anniversary in 2014, and David has faith that things are looking up for Three D’s quarter-century celebration. “The good times are going to roll again,” he believes. “It’s a cyclical thing and I’ve seen it in the ’80s and ’90s. You’ve just got to get through it and this [recession] has been the longest.”

David’s positive outlook and an overwhelming amount of happy customers make a solid foundation for the company’s growth. Three D has over 75 years of cumulative experience in its management team alone. Combining its strategically minded management with a labor source that prides itself on achieving nothing short of excellence, Three D Electric Company is one of the strongest electrical contractors in Northern California.

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Spring 2018



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