Electrical Contractors Share Optimistic Outlook

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – A steady combination of commercial projects and residential work kept the energy high for NECA-IBEW Electricians in 2023. Overall, the signatory Mahoning Valley electrical contractors and IBEW union locals project an above average year in store for 2024.

IBEW Locals 64 and 573 report that activity has cooled heading into the first weeks of 2024. However, the horizon is bright.

“Work is beginning on a new rehabilitation hospital on Belmont Avenue in Liberty. So we expect things to really kick up in 2024 with that project,” says Cody Hilliard, business manager, IBEW Local 64 in Youngstown. “We’re also hoping something will come through for the Meijer store in Austintown.”

Hilliard also mentioned there will be small-to-medium-sized projects for contractors in 2024.

Noteworthy projects for Local 64 in 2023 included the Youngstown Orthopedic Associates in Boardman and the Salem Regional Medical Center expansion in Columbiana.

Significant man-hours were invested into the Ultium Cells plant in Lordstown for more than three years up through the first half of 2023.

“Work is starting to wrap up at Ultium. But there’s optimism for the months ahead. More development is proposed for Warren,” says Tom Lipka, executive director, Mahoning Valley National Electrical Contractors Association. Lipka cites the acquisition of land in Warren by Kimberly-Clark and the multimillion-dollar development at the West Warren Industrial Park.

“We’re hopeful that the workload will be picking up by the end of summer. The occasional work is also continuing at Foxconn,” adds Mark Phillips, president/organizer, IBEW Local 573 in Warren.

With that upcoming development, plus the growing demand in the electric vehicle industry, Phillips predicts a busy next few years.

“It appears some car dealerships are putting time into preparing for EV with upgrades and installing charging stations. So, we’re looking to see more of that soon,” he said.

To that end, the Trumbull and Mahoning electrical training centers have been preparing both apprentices and journeymen for what’s ahead with EV work.

A strong push remains for the new year in terms of building the roster of electricians. Recruiting for the apprenticeship program, visits to schools and career fairs remain a priority.

“We’ll continue a heavy presence at the high school level and attend the Skilled Trades Expo. Local 64 is also hosting the SkillsUSA Northeast Regional Competition in February. Like every industry, we’re vying for the best and brightest,” Hilliard said.

An important message regarding the electrical trade is that it’s not just a stepping stone – but an industry that provides a life-long career.

“We’re trying to catch kids early. Many realize college isn’t the only option now. The apprenticeship offers great pay, benefits, and you’ll be debt-free,” Phillips added. “It’s a career for anyone at any age.”

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.