Tri-State Industrial Group
Tri-State Industrial Group (TSIG) is a large, growing infrastructure services provider serving customers in energy, industrial and commercial markets across the United States. Gary Allison, CEO of TSIG, founded the business in 1983 as a small electrical contractor; however, the company has surpassed his expectations.
Allison grew up in Oklahoma, and after high school, he moved to Chicago for a few years. Upon returning to Oklahoma, Allison secured a position as a maintenance man at the local Ramada Inn. Meanwhile, Allison took night classes to learn a trade as an electrician. “I remember as a young man having two companies bargaining for my services,” he says. “That’s how I started out. Eventually, I became the general manager of a large electrical company.”
In 1983, the local market crashed in Oklahoma City, where Allison and his family were living. While many rejected the possibility of success as a contractor in those hard times, he was not swayed. He founded TSIG with little more than a tool belt and a Rolodex, and the company began to grow. Today, Allison is still involved with the business, although Larry Winters, current president of TSIG, has taken on many of the CEO’s former operational duties.
Winters began working in the construction industry at 15 years old. He continued to do so throughout college, eventually completing graduate school for business. He taught throughout his master’s program and continued to do so before getting into the information technology field. Winter’s work as a project manager and programmer, working with clients in a wide range of industries, has allowed him diverse experience and insight for TSIG’s current ventures.
Unique Business Structure
“In recent years, we have expanded on our core competency to optimize for the large firms we work with,” Winters explains. “We do turnkey instrumentation and we can almost do any heavy work. We work for general contractors and we can be a general contractor ourselves, but we generally choose not to. We have done contracts directly with customers and have had great success doing it. We have entered the commercial and heavy industrial sector, as well and we started to grow.”
According to Winters, for the first 25 years, the company was a small electrical contracting business. “Most of our growth has been within the last two to four years,” he details. “We have grown due to sheer will power and commitment to our financial philosophy, workmanship and craftsmanship. We were No. 5 in the fastest growing companies in the Oklahoma City metro area last year and this year we are the fastest growing company.”
TSIG added services such as excavation, concrete, engineering, power construction, heavy construction and manufacturing in the early 2000s, thus enhancing its reach. “One day at a time, one year at a time, we expanded,” Allison explains. “Our growth has been very organic. We have not grown so much by acquisitions. It benefits us more to expand our offerings internally. The best way for us to grow is to take on people from other companies who want to come on board. We hire the right skill and build around it.”
TSIG performs a wide range of services, broken down into four main divisions: excavation and construction; concrete and foundations; electrical, automation and control systems; and power construction. “We do new construction projects and we put an emergency clause in our agreements where if something happens, we make up a large portion of the response work,” says Allison. “This kind of service is booming with our work on sub stations, the large high voltage stations where transmission and distribution lines come in.”
According to Allison, TSIG works with construction specific companies; companies that build facilities, schools or installations. “We have built some really strong relationships,” he continues. “We offer a lot of construction friendly services where a general contractor can reach out to us. We join with them to take on multiple aspects of the building. Right now, we have the honor of working on the weather warning facility here in central Oklahoma. We are doing some concrete, foundations, excavation, some electrical, some leveling out and building the pad and the foundation for the structure that will be built there.”
Much of what the company does is not public work. Often projects are in remote areas, adding unique challenges to each contract. As with any construction company, challenges and setbacks are sometimes part of the process. To compensate, Allison has great people.
“In regards to the clients, we believe that when you empower your people you get the result of people who take ownership in what they do,” he explains. “In turn, our employees take interest in what they do and, therefore, the client. The clients belong to all of us and we are all taking ownership and taking care of the clients’ wants and needs and schedules and budgets as if we owned the project.”
Above all else, Allison has a good head on his shoulders. “To be successful, you don’t have to avoid all mistakes,” he continues. “You just have more successes than failures. If the mistakes have to be done, they come with learning and cost; there is always monetary cost associated. It’s almost like tuition, because you learn. We have a robust project management department today because we learned from the mistakes we made yesterday. Those things are very painful but you work your way through them and put something in place to make sure it does not happen again. This process will never end, especially as we grow. We work toward being mistake free, but when we have them, we just try to adjust as quickly as we can.”
The constantly evolving team offers Allison and Winters a deep sense of pride. “The best I can do is to hire the highest level of technical skill and associate with people who deliver my mission,” says Allison. “I can get out of their way and let them do their best work. Putting people in a position to do what they are good at gives our clients the best, highest quality of service available. Our growth comes with both excitement and fear. I want to do it as long as we maintain our values, our culture and our vendors as we grow.”
As the company grows, the team also gives back. Allison is involved with a number of community organizations. “The ability we have to give back to our community because of our commercial success is one of the finest joys and accomplishments any man can experience,” he says. Allison currently serves on the Regional Food Bank board of directors, Sunbeam Family Services board of directors and Oklahoma City Philharmonic board of directors, among other organizations. With a continuing community-minded approach backed by hard work, safety and leading service, Tri-State Industrial Group continues to grow inside and out.
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