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JBL ELECTRIC, INC.
Amid the Difficult and Dangerous, Safety First
THE MAGAZINE FOR CONSTRUCTION EXECUTIVES
JBL Electric, Inc. location, and moved to the more industrial area of Patterson New Jersey. By 1996, the company was growing into the niche market it serves today. JBL Electric today has between 70 and 125 employees, depending on the week, and is headquartered in Totowa, New Jersey. Their services have stretched throughout the northeast to New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire, and even all the way to Texas. With annual revenue fluctuating between $17 and $20 million, JBL specializes in offering both utility and telecommunications engineering services. Serving the tower industry, the company also completes heavy industrial and electrical work. Making sure operations run smoothly internally, JBL Electric has extensive oversight and management from the top down. “Even with the size we are, Jim and I are very involved and know a little bit about everything that is going on, from project management down to foreman,” said Vice President Terry Craig.
Amid the Difficult and Dangerous, Safety First Produced by James Tingley & Written by Shelley Seyler From traffic lights and street lighting to the complexity of telecommunications construction, JBL Electric has come a long way since the days when James Leary and his partner, Birger Brink-lund, were working out of James’ basement. Recognizing a demand in this specialty market, Leary’s business gradually grew and when he acquired a second truck, his wife encouraged him “to find a home for his business.” Leary rented a local yard and eventually outgrew this
Terry has been an electrician for 20 years and with JBL since 1996 when he was “lucky enough to be hired by Jim.” Beginning with the company as a foreman, he has since climbed the ladder and been in the vice president’s seat for four years. “Most of what we do is service oriented so it is done directly from the shop… Managers and foreman all work directly out of the shop,” he added. As a union contractor, JBL brings managers up through the ranks and hires new employees through the union board apprenticeship programs. JBL’s operating engineers run in house equipment such as their own crane, back hoes, and excavating equipment. The company occasionally relies on subcontractors for civil work, which also increases their competitiveness. “It is cheaper to sub out some of the civil work on our telecommunications side,” explained Terry. With a manager slated to manage this aspect of the business, JBL often works with the same subcontractors but does allow them to bid on projects. Always looking for ways to become more innovative, JBL often invests in new equipment, aware that this means a more efficient labor force and therefore saves them money. “We can compete as a union contractor on telecom projects because of efficiencies gained on equipment and training,” explained Terry. “We are always looking for the newest tools. Labor is most expensive so if we can pick up efficiencies with tools it makes sense.” Their ability to complete both utility and telecom work makes JBL a valuable
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and versatile company. Their reputation precedes them and allows the company to reap the benefits of word-of-mouth advertising. JBL enjoys the patronage of world-famous clients like Sprint, AT&T, and CNBC, and relies on these relationships for work; so far, this has worked well.
Difficult and Dangerous JBL embraces the difficult and dangerous. When cell sites and tower work were new challenges, many shied away from these projects; but JBL tackled them head on. “There were a lot who wouldn’t do it but we got into the high-voltage work and that has a lot to do with our growth,” explained Terry. “As that industry grew, we went with it.” “We take pride in doing that. A lot of people won’t pursue those avenues but if you are doing it right and doing it safe it
gives you a niche.” To counterbalance the dangerous nature of the work, JBL is meticulous with their safety programs. With a NATE (National Association of Tower Erectors)-trained safety manager, JBL uses their system when it comes to climbing and tower safety. Each employee is trained and certified and aware of the company’s unique policies that sometimes supersede those of NATE’s. JBL typically has 20 projects in progress at any given time. One of the company’s more unique projects was completed for a Global Terminal ship yard in Jersey City. JBL replaced four existing cranes with four 336-foot-tall super postpanamax cranes. The company installed a new 7.5 MVA substation and new 13.2 KV circuits to each crane. Naturally located on a port, JBL ran power to four new cranes under
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the pier. Much of the work was completed off of floats in the water. Also installed was a 259 KW emergency generator system for the administration building and area lighting for the shipyard.
for a month in order to restore power to all those residents that were devastated by Hurricane Ike.
There in Moments of Strife
“Getting into the right work at the right time;” Terry recognizes that a little bit of intuition goes into picking projects that will add to the company’s success. In addition, he knows JBL has to be a leader in the industry: “being at the cutting edge of things happening,” is paramount.
During some of the country’s darker hours, JBL Electric was on the front lines. One of the most important brought the company to New York City the day after 9/11 to help restore telecommunication services to the city. The world trade towers had antennas that provided wireless services and their destruction made the city’s chaos even greater; so JBL came in to help. In another act of great assistance, son of founder James Leary, Brian Leary, led 65 men to Texas in fall 2008, staying
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Spring Edition 2009
Bigger and Better
Moving forward, this will likely mean branching into alternative energy such as windmills and solar power. “We have the equipment and the skills to lend ourselves to these areas.” The company also has its eyes set on the substation area of utility work. “Those projects are funded for the next seven to 10 years and it is just getting going now,” explained
Terry. Hopeful that President Obama’s stimulus package will help salvage the floundering economy, Terry is also aware that 2010 may yet see more cutbacks. “Budgets were already done for 2009 and in progress so we might feel it in 2010.”
As far as JBL is concerned, many clients are still going strong. Some wireless carriers have reduced new construction of sites; but the company rests rather easily thanks to their niche and ability to take on what others fear.
COMPANY AT A GLANCE Established : Early 90's Employees : 70 - 125 Annual Revenue : $17 - 20 Million Founders : James Leary & Birger Brink-lund
US Developers Journal
Spring Edition 2009
JBL Electric, Inc. 130 Furler Street Totowa, NJ 07512 United States