Shining a Light on St. Louis

Kaiser Electric

Established in 1952, Kaiser Electric has been engineering solutions for commercial and industrial clients in need of electrical design, construction and maintenance. It is a full-service electrical and communications contractor working in the private sectors for clients from single-tenant finishes to the most complex industrial and commercial facilities such as hospitals.

The company has an enviable track record of awards and achievements such as the St. Louis CNR Regional Excellence Award and an incredibly impressive eight ASA Safety awards received in the past ten years.

St. Louis, Missouri: a heartland city defined by music and the performing arts. The vibrant and colourful city on the banks of the famous Mississippi River has a reputation for stunning buildings – from the classical architecture of the Old Cathedral to the forward thinking Gateway Arch. Another institution in the city, one that has quite literally facilitated success story after success story by providing the needed power and energy, is Kaiser Electric.

The company started out as family owned operation in 1952 when electrical engineer and entrepreneur Robert Kaiser purchased the small electrical contracting company, Chapleau Electric. In the early days, the company was run full-time by Ed Belt with Robert Kaiser, still working for Moloney Electric, helping out on weekends. The company only had a staff of five and a small office in South St. Louis. Business was good and the company was successful enough that Robert Kaiser had bought out Ed Belt in the 1960s and was now working at Kaiser Electric full-time. Generations of the Kaiser family became involved and are still present in the company at board level.

Robert Kaiser ran the company until 1998, and in 1988, he passed ownership over to his three sons who ran the company as family operated until 2009.

President Ken Naumann joined Kaiser Electric in 2000 but, in 2009, took on a different role. “The majority of the company was sold to four employees: Steve Giacin, who is the past president; myself; Mike Lundry, who is our CFO; and Mike Murphy, who is head of operations in St Louis,” Ken explains.

When Ken joined the company as a project manager, little did he know that in a matter of years, he would be its President. “I came in as project manager in July, 2000,” he says. “I worked on several large projects for them. Rob Kaiser and the other brothers were looking for a succession plan… they were looking for a plan to keep the company going. They didn’t want to sell it outright so they approached the employees; Rob picked us. He picked four employees that he wanted to offer the ownership to.”

Suffice to say, this decision had a massive impact on Ken and his colleagues. He was now a part-owner instead of an employee which brought with it a challenge in itself. “People get used to it differently. You now have a stake in a company, but I always looked out for the best interests of the company. That was one of the reasons that Rob chose us. He saw that we had his best interests at heart. It changed, but it didn’t change.”

In terms of its clients, Kaiser Electric provides services to a very broad base of industries. The team can apply their in-house expertise and knowledge to any electrical application and takes a multidisciplinary approach, tailoring projects to clients’ specific needs.

“We do a lot of commercial [work] but the biggest part of our business now is in the healthcare market,” shares Ken. “We got into the healthcare market back in the 1970s when we built St. Luke’s Hospital. We have been at that site since.”

It is no surprise that Kaiser Electric is still working with the hospital many years on. The company offers an after build service which maintains and manages projects long after the initial work is complete. “We will stay on site and do any maintenance type work. We have the same type of arrangements with several hospitals here in St. Louis.”

The fact that Kaiser Electric is so keenly regarded as the electrical services provider for a great number of hospitals in the city goes some way to showing the high level of service, safety and value it offers its customers. This strong link to local hospitals began with the St. Luke’s Hospital project and it is a connection that Kaiser Electric is very keen to embrace and maintain. “That was our first major healthcare project. We just continued to grow that market. We do a lot of work with SSM healthcare – a large provider here in St Louis. We do a lot of design build projects; we also do a lot of maintenance.”

Once the company gained experience in the process of servicing a hospital, it began to garner a reputation for reliability and high standards in that industry. “We pitch [for new work],” explains Ken; “we go out after them. But, once we are awarded a project and perform on that project, our customers are happy with us and they keep us around. They keep coming back to us for our services. We go after these projects and we look at those opportunities like we are on a team. We look out for the owner; we look out for the construction manager. We work as a team to keep the cost down and give the owner a quality product.”

Looking to the future, Ken identifies a design assist project at Memorial Hospital in Shiloh, Illinois as a prime example of Kaiser Electric showing just what it can offer a client. “We were asked to propose on that project by Holland Construction and Pepper Construction, a joint venture. It’s seventy-eight patient rooms and about 200,000 square feet. After submitting a GMP and rates we were chosen as the electrical contractor for the project. The project is now under way and we have been working on site over the past several weeks completing our BIM coordination and layout.”

It is an exciting prospect for Kaiser Electric but it is not the only aspect of the business where Ken sees the potential to grow and develop. “We would like to continue to grow our design/build capabilities as well as our out-of-town design/build. We do a lot of design/build out of town; we would like to continue to expand that area. I would like to expand out-of-state work on a design/build level.”

It is clear that, by continuing to provide an extremely high level of service, Kaiser Electric is fast becoming the electrical service and design solutions expert for many. The company is experiencing the most growth in the healthcare sector, and its upward trajectory shows no signs of abating. Though no longer fully family owned, the new generation at the top of the company has just as much care and love for the success of the business as its previous owners. Watch this space – Kaiser Electric may well be around for another sixty years.

For more information about Kaiser Electric, please visit http://kaiserelectric.com/

August 18, 2017, 11:29 PM EDT

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