LOWELLVILLE – During the early 1980s, Ralph Conti saw a need to establish an electrical contracting company to complement his already successful plumbing and heating business in Lowellville.
It was a risky venture. At the time, the Mahoning Valley was beset with economic problems. The retrenchment of the steel industry produced a serious ripple effect that eliminated tens of thousands of jobs over the next decade.
“During the late 1970s and the early 1980s, the economy was really struggling around here. But my dad’s philosophy was to always look ahead,” recalls his daughter, Lisa Donofrio, who along with her husband, John, are second-generation owners of Enertech Electrical Inc. “He knew that he could do the best work.”
Today, that vision is firmly rooted at 101 Youngstown-Lowellville Road, as the family-owned company celebrates its 40th year in business and a transition to its third generation of leadership. Lisa’s sister, Nicoletta Wilaj, and her husband, John, are also co-owners of the company.
Enertech is a commercial and industrial electrical contractor that over the last decade has kept busy with major projects such as school construction and renovations, or work on municipal wastewater treatment plants. The company employs about 40 out of its shop in Lowellville.
“We’ve probably done about 50 schools in three states since 2007,” says John Donofrio.
Today, he says, technology has allowed for more electrical content in buildings to serve voice, data and video capabilities in schools, for example. About 75% of Enertech’s contracting business is tied to school construction and retrofits, while another 25% is devoted to public projects.
Among the more memorable projects the company has tackled over the last decades are at the Akron Zoo and that city’s bio-solids plant.
“Right now, we’re doing one new and three retrofit and remodeling projects,” Donofrio says.
Among the innovations Enertech has put to use over the years is prefabricating its fixtures at the company site in Lowellville. Pre-assembling these fixtures based on schematics for a new school project, for example, allows for easy installation and cost savings for the customer. “We’ll assemble them in the shop, test them, and then plug them in.”
The company is also active with its service division across the region – a business launched during the Great Recession of 2008, adds Dominic Donofrio, marketing manager and part of the third generation preparing to lead Enertech into its future.
This division became pivotal to Enertech with the onset of COVID-19, since the company was deemed an essential business and has remained open throughout the pandemic, he says. And although the health crisis has affected the bottom line on just about every business in the region, Enertech was able to maintain a steady order book last year.
“We gained some customers in retail and medical,” Dominic Donofrio says.
In 2019, Enertech expanded its service division to include an office in Columbus. Two years later, that office provides electrical contracting services and staffs six electricians and a general manager.
The market is beginning to open up again, John Donofrio says, as construction activity gains strength, clients are paying more attention to preventive maintenance, and emerging markets such as charging stations for electrical vehicles present future business streams.
“We’re starting to see a lot of opportunities,” he says.
Other services Enertech provides include an apprenticeship training program, as well as continuing-education classes and seminars designed to apprise electrical technicians of the latest developments in the industry.
“We’re a diverse company,” Lisa Donofrio says. Often, engineers working on projects unaffiliated with Enertech consult with the company on design issues. “These are outside engineers that call my husband for design advice. When we go out on a job, we take our reputation right with us. We’re old school this way.”
There is also a fierce loyalty to Lowellville, a small hamlet along the Mahoning River of about 1,100 people.
“This is where my parents grew up and a lot of our employees live here,” she says. “They loved this community so much.”
Pictured: John Donofrio is the president of Enertech. His son, Dominic Donofrio, is the marketing manager.