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Electricians in short supply as construction booms.

MECHANICAL AND ELECTRIcal subcontracting firms find it hard these days to keep their manpower up to speed with the available amount of work. For that reason, most firms on Arkansas Business' lists of largest subcontractors saw small increases in revenue, though the increases weren't nearly as drastic as what might have been if manpower weren't an issue.

But it's not just the abundance of work straining the industry--it's the growing number of contracting firms fighting for qualified employees.

"There are simply more electrical contractors than there are electricians to do the work," said Bob Killion, executive vice president of Marrs Electric Inc. in Springdale. "The training is there. The thing is, in this market, the work has come about so quickly that it's been difficult to get all of the training requirements met in a timely enough fashion to put them to work."

According to Killion, electricians end up spending between 600 and 700 hours in the classroom over four years, and they need 8,000 hours on the job to qualify to take a journeyman's test.

"When all that work starts coming in and your quantity of work is greater than your quality of people to do it, then all of a sudden you're lagging behind," Killion said. "I mean everybody statewide is seeing the same thing right now."

But too much work is better than limited work, as Killion said the business goes in trends and might be on the other end of the spectrum in as little as a decade.

The hurricane destruction along the Gulf Coast also lured a limited number of qualified electricians away, but not nearly as many as some feared.

"There are electricians who are always on the move to where the money is," Killion said. "Fortunately, I don't think Arkansas had to deal too much with that--maybe further south, but not much from what I've been hearing."

Mechanical Match

Multi-Craft Contractors Inc. of Springdale stayed at the top of the mechanical subcontractors list and moved up two spots to the top of the electrical subcontractors list by increasing total revenue by nearly $13 million. No doubt the increase was partly due to the company landing remodeling contracts with Tyson Foods Inc. of Springdale and the Clorox Co. in Searcy, along with Multi-Craft not losing any of its list-leading 350 total employees.

Not only did Multi-Craft stay atop the mechanical subcontractors list, but the company also saw the largest increase in revenue by nearly $10 million.

The rest of the companies on the mechanical subcontractors list stayed the same in the rankings, though Comfort Systems USA Inc. of Fayetteville saw the second-largest revenue increase at nearly $7.5 million.

Both Middleton Heating & Air of Bryant and Mountain Mechanical Contractors Inc. of Fayetteville saw a work force increase of about 20 but no significant change in revenue.

It's Electric

The list of mechanical subcontractors may be unchanged, but the electrical subcontractors were on the move.

I-K Electric of Little Rock can be blamed for shaking up the list the most, mainly because last year's No. 1 opted not to report its revenue this year, automatically moving it from first to worst.

The company did report it had lost about 55 employees since its reported $18 million revenue in 2004.

Multi-Craft topped the electrical list with a nearly $3 million revenue increase, while Central Industrial Electrical Co. of North Little Rock remained virtually unchanged at No. 2. CIECO reported an increase of $300,000 in revenue from $14 million to $14.3 million after picking up big contracts with Pulaski Technical College of North Little Rock and Heifer International of Little Rock.

Marrs Electric Inc. jumped from No. 7 to No. 4 and increased its revenue from $5.6 million in 2004 to $7.1 million in 2005.

"Some years you're able to land the bigger contracts and some years you're not," Killion said. "2005 was a good year for some big projects for us."
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Title Annotation:List Overview
Comment:Electricians in short supply as construction booms.(List Overview)
Author:Hinkel, Nate
Publication:Arkansas Business
Geographic Code:1U7AR
Date:Mar 13, 2006
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