From its headquarters in Wausau, Van Ert Electric Company, Inc. has grown from a five-person team in 1964 to an established national contractor with nearly 500 employees across the Upper Midwest.
“We are very proud of our company and love the opportunity to show what we can do,” says Steve Harnitz, board member and part owner of Van Ert based in the company’s Kaukauna office.
Instead of “reinventing the wheel from facility to facility,” many of Van Ert’s national customers, such as Kimberly-Clark and Agra Industries, retain the company for projects outside Wisconsin and the Midwest. Being part of The Electric Group and NECA is critical to allowing Van Ert to do this work.
“Being a national contractor, we’d be at a competitive disadvantage if we didn’t have NECA and The Electric Group backing us. I can’t imagine doing this without them.”
With six offices across Wisconsin, Van Ert works in the heavy industrial and commercial fields, serving industries such as pulp and paper; power generation, infrastructure; ethanol and biomass markets; health care; and more. The company offers customers a broad range of services from low-voltage telecommunications systems to high-voltage equipment installations.
In addition to electrical services, Van Ert has provided engineering services to its customers for 30 years, complete with a full CAD operation and the ability to do 3D modeling.
“3D modeling is really big. We are taking the lead on that, and have added additional staff,” says Harnitz. “What’s great about 3D is that we can build a project virtually and get all the interferences taken care of before going on site. Structure steel, large process piping, air ducts … with 3D, we can see how all those things interact with our systems virtually and identify problems or manage multi-craft choke points better. 3D really helps us do our job better.”
Van Ert is also using onsite “mobile factories” for projects such as large hospitals to better control the environment and quality of work.
“In a project like a hospital where you have all these rooms that are identical, we basically create a small factory in a mobile trailer or semi-trailer and have electricians assembling mostly repetitive items in a controlled environment, instead of trying to do it on site competing with other trades or even the elements. We’re definitely seeing more and more of that in the industry.”
As a family-owned company, Van Ert has a strong, family-like culture; “we do a lot of extracurricular activities outside of work together as well,” says Harnitz. Similarly, he adds, the company is built on responsible individuals who are willing to work hard to get the job done right.
“The guys and gals we have working for us are self-starters. We have expectations, but we allow them the ability to make decisions in field,” says Harnitz. “A lot of our folks enjoy the fact that we don’t hover over them and micromanage.”
We encourage our employees to explore other opportunities within the company.
“One advantage is that as a fairly diverse company, you can find your niche here, whether that’s in the field, in engineering, in the office. We want to put round pegs in the round holes and give our staff the ability to excel.”
Not only do Van Ert employees bring safe, quality and cost effective service to customers, as IBEW members, these employees are also highly trained and motivated. “They are good folks and we’re honored to be associated with them.”