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Rosendin Electric has carved out specialized niche

Uploaded: Nov 5, 2018

Rosendin Electric is a familiar brand on major construction sites in the Bay Area. The company has been led since 1992 by Danville resident Tom Sorley.

During that time, the firm has expanded across the country and revenues have climbed to more than $2 billion in 2016. Revenues were in the mid-$80 million in 1992. When Sorley took over for the founding family and the company was sold to its employees seven years later, the firm didn't have a sterling reputation in the industry. Within a couple of years, the reputation of the company had changed within the construction industry.

Speaking to the Pleasanton Men's Club earlier this fall, Sorley stressed that the company is built on providing excellent service (on time and on budget) to its who's who list of clients. That includes Silicon Valley longtime stalwarts such as Intel, Apple and Microsoft as well as Facebook and Google.

Showing a chart of the firm's almost $2.8 billion in jobs in progress and under contract and the diversity of the business sectors was notable. Lots of work on hospital and in the health care sector.
What many of them shared was the unusual niche the privately-held company has carved out -- large, complex projects.

In the Bay Area, that includes Facebook's new campus, Apple's spaceship campus, SAP Arena in San Jose, the remodeling of both Memorial Stadium and Haas Pavilion at Cal, and the Golden State Warriors' new home in San Francisco, Chase Center.

Sorley said the firm entered in a joint venture to work on the BART extension to San Jose and then used that expertise to earn the contract to build the people-mover at Los Angeles International Airport.

What's interesting is how the firm expanded. It simply went where its clients were locating new facilities. That was Portland and New Mexico for Intel. It now has offices in Texas, Hawaii, Virginia, Maryland, Arizona, Nevada and North Carolina and has built across the country.

The CEO also discussed how the industry is evolving. They have their own manufacturing division that builds complex electrical components in a factory and ships them to the construction site for installation. He expects this trend to grow stronger as companies strive to cut costs and time.

They also are using virtual reality to test and train electricians and equipment operators. The testing gives the firm an assessment of the person's skills before they potentially learn the hard way in the field. The company's construction work force is unionized (the cost is $115/hr in San Francisco with $71 in wages). He pointed out for a person working 45 weeks a year, that's an annual salary of $128k and no headaches to take home (my addition).

Like other construction industry leaders, he stressed the failure of schools to encourage young people to consider careers in the trades. The industry is striving to encourage the rebirth of job-focused classes for high school students, so they understand that there's a quality career path that does not involve going to college. He also showed slides of construction workers using tablets in the field as well as specialized equipment to compare actual installations with what were required in the plans -- a step that can save plenty of time and money.

In his introduction, Bob Doust, a former electrical contractor himself, noted that Tom started for the University of Nebraska football team coached by Tom Osborne and finished up in the Orange Bowl. He's been married to his high school sweetheart for 43 years and, yes, he was the quarterback and she was the cheerleader.