A Family-Owned, Unionized Contractor with Big Plans
George J. Martin & Son, Inc., dba “Martin Electric,” is a certified WBE, electrical contractor with over 75 years of experience under the stewardship of Joan (President) and Brian (Vice President) Hart. With its unionized workforce and determined executive team, Martin Electric performs electrical installations and maintenance in the heavy industrial, commercial, pharmaceutical, clean room, data center, and waste water treatment plant sectors.
Based in Rensselaer, NY, with a satellite office in Saratoga Springs, Martin Electric provides quality workmanship and responsive service to its customers in and beyond the Capital Region.
“[Our electricians] work on the most technical construction projects in our region. The type of jobs we do – industrial, pharmaceutical, heavy commercial – not many non-union shops can compete with due to the sheer demand of manpower and technical [nature] of the work we’re doing,” Hart says. Martin Electric draws on the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) for skilled laborers. The National Electrical Contractors Association, on which Hart sits as Chapter President, works with the IBEW to ensure every electrician is receiving the proper education and training needed to successfully and safely complete these technical jobs.
In addition to the 160 field electricians Martin Electric employs today, they have an additional 15 back-office personnel working to ensure a streamlined approach to business operations in fields such as estimating, project management, safety, accounting, and warehousing. Over the last five years, Martin Electric has experienced significant growth, doubling in size and sales volume. Five years ago, the company had “sixty electricians and about seven office personnel to put it in perspective,” Hart says.
“Two key additions were made to the team, Patrick Galgay and Aaron Harbeck. Both brought with them unique skill sets that filled the void Martin Electric was missing in order to maximize profits, win new business, and expand into new markets,” says Hart. Harbeck was hired on as Chief Operating Officer and Corporate Counsel to mitigate the company’s exposure with regards to: corporate policies and procedures; labor disputes; and contract review, in addition to overseeing manpower allocations.
“Estimating is both an art and a science. Finding someone who has both the technical acumen to navigate the bid software [Conest] and field experience to know when and how to manipulate different output factors of the program, is very rare and a challenge I think most, if not all, contractors face,” explains Hart. Martin Electric found its ace with Galgay who relocated for the position as Senior Estimator from New Jersey. Since joining the company, Pat not only puts out over $100 million bid packages each year but has also taken a leadership role in overseeing the company’s Project Management department. “[Galgay] has an intimate relationship with every job he bids, following it right through the end until the customer receives the final close out docs,” details Harbeck.
Rapid growth can be a double-edged sword. “Over the years, I’ve seen many companies who, on the surface, seem to be knocking it out of the park while their back-of-house operation is quietly drowning,” says Hart. For him, it is all about having the right people in the right places. Hart believes Martin Electric’s blend of new talent mixed with several dedicated and loyal staffers, many who have been with the company for more than 20 years, is why they have been able to sustain and succeed this wave of growth.
Martin Electric’s reputation for quality and professionalism is also what diversifies them from their competition. Martin Electric considers themselves an account-based company. “We really don’t have a marketing budget. We believe the quality of our work and professionalism when working with our clients sells itself,” says Hart. Martin Electric has a quality control program which enlists its Project Managers and Foremen to make routine on-site inspections and testing to ensure everything functions as it should. The focus on quality extends to vendors, as well. Martin Electric carefully inspects all purchases it makes from suppliers. “We don’t allow a piece of material to hit a job site prior to being inspected for quality and functionality,” states Harbeck.
Martin Electric is unique in that its customer base includes both end users and general contractors. Martin Electric’s relationship with Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, a relationship which spans over a decade, is a case in point. On some projects with this firm, Martin was hired by Regeneron direct while on other projects, Martin Electric worked through general contractors, like BBL, with the end user being Regeneron.
Given the potentially dangerous nature of its work, Martin Electric has an ingrained culture of safety. Martin Electric has a full-time Safety Coordinator responsible for identifying the risks of each job site and educating the employees as to these risks; customizing a safety manual for each job site; and ensuring all electricians have the proper training and certifications required to perform their tasks. The Safety Coordinator educates the team on job hazards and how to mitigate the risks by conducting “Tool Box Talks” also known as safety meetings at each site weekly.
Martin Electric’s outlook does not look to be slowing down. In 2016, the company won the contract to provide the electrical installation of the River’s Casino & Resort in Schenectady, New York. “It’s a huge challenge. Further, it is the largest contract Martin Electric has entered into,” states Harbeck. Martin Electric is in charge of the entire electrical installation for the casino, parking garage, hotel, and grounds. This includes electrical work for lighting, fire alarm, slot machines, surveillance, computers and generators. The company is also handling site and landscape lighting. With the casino opening on February 8th, Martin Electric is making its final push to complete the project. “I am proud of our team and the product we delivered to our client. I believe we have developed a great rapport with the General Contractor [LeChase] and look forward to working with them again in the future,” says Hart.
Other prominent assignments have involved the SUNY Polytechnic Institute Colleges of Nanoscale Science and Engineering, Global Foundries, Verizon, Met Life, and the New York State Department of Transportation.
While the future looks bright for Martin Electric, they can never feel truly confident in what the future will bring in an industry that “ebbs and flows like the tide,” says Hart. Construction projects can be cancelled or delayed with no warning. There are many uncontrollable factors in the construction industry that can change the tide and freeze the waters overnight. “Trying to make projections and plan ahead in our industry is merely an exercise of futility and one of the biggest challenges we face,” says Hart.
Another challenge, Hart explains, is the need for skilled laborers. The skilled trades sector is aging, with many older workers retiring and not enough young people coming into the field. This is partly a reflection of societal trends in which white collar work is more highly valued than blue collar work. For years, “it was almost taboo to get into trade work – which is crazy because trades are valuable and it is where the jobs are. We’ve got people making salaries close to double what a four-year graduate would make,” says Hart.
In order to combat these challenges, Martin Electric is looking to diversify its portfolio by expanding into new sectors and different markets. The company has recently expanded into solar, becoming a certified solar installer. Martin Electric is currently working on a complete design-build solar installation for Regeneron, and is responsible for designing and installing a solar system that will provide a zero output on their newly construction parking garage.
The firm is also looking to expand into other markets outside of the Capital District, like Western New York and Downstate. If the firm succeeds in expanding inside New York State, then “the next phase would be to look outside the state – Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont. I can see expanding into those areas as a natural next step,” Hart adds.
According to Harbeck, working for Martin Electric has been a unique and great experience. Being a family-owned business, with many family members still working for the company, the culture is very intimate and informal. Ownership provides their employees with the flexibility “to become whatever they want to be” within the company. “If you have a new idea or business lead, you are given the opportunity and resources to pursue it; however, with the flexibility also comes responsibility,” says Harbeck. Martin Electric is best suited for the entrepreneurial spirit who is motivated to work within a team that is working at max speed every day,” states Hart.