YOUNGSTOWN – NECA-IBEW Electricians, an association of IBEW union locals and signatory electrical contractors in the Mahoning Valley, leveraged their workplace safety track record to ride a strong year despite the obvious hurdles put up by the pandemic.
“We adapted quickly to the changes required to meet customers’ needs because prioritizing workplace safety is nothing new to us,” says Jim Burgham, IBEW Local 64 business manager.
Burgham says very few major construction projects around the Mahoning Valley were impacted significantly by COVID. Most projects were budgeted and funded and were only briefly stalled. Once customers had faith the economy would survive and employers could keep workers safe and conform to social distancing guidelines, projects resumed.
“We just had to learn how to work around the pandemic and adjust to the changes,” says Mark Phillips, president, IBEW Local 573.
NECA-IBEW Electricians member contractors kept busy on several large projects. Among them were Youngstown State University, Mercy Hospital, Meijer, Vallourec, wastewater treatment plants in Youngstown, East Palestine and Mineral Ridge, PurFoods in North Jackson, and TJX in Lordstown.
Many of those projects continue into 2021 and could be joined by a ramp-up of activity at the Ultium battery plant, Lordstown Motors and potentially the second Lordstown Energy Center, among other projects.
“Our contractors and union locals overcame some unique challenges throughout the year, particularly in March and April. Their collective strong response and positive attitude enabled us to have our best year in a while from a man-hours perspective,” says Tom Lipka, Mahoning Valley NECA executive director.
Residential electrical work also thrived in 2020.
With low interest rates, stimulus money and many people choosing to forgo vacations and stay home instead, the number of remodels and renovation projects soared. Swimming pools are a good example.
“We get involved in swimming pool work because it’s a specialty service to safely and properly ground the electrical, and there was a lot of that last year,” Burgham says.
Home generators, LED lighting, service upgrades, and inspections and repairs related to the brisk real estate market were other drivers of growth.
Steady work throughout the year enabled NECA-IBEW Electricians to support many community service causes. Highlights included projects involving veterans, children, college students and the family of a firefighter in Warren who died from COVID complications.