MERIDIAN — When describing James D. “Jimmy” Alexander, co-founder of A&B Electric Company Inc., a number of adjectives and titles can be applied. Perhaps none is quite as fitting, however, as “visionary.”
“We at A&B Electric Company Inc. know the power of vision,” Alexander said. “It is instilled that when you believe in yourself, in your work, in your fellow employee and in your company, anything is possible.”
This vision for future opportunity has not only allowed Alexander to see a quarter of a decade of success as an electrical contractor, but has also allowed A&B to diversify into such fields as manufacturing, mechanical contracting and communications.
Alexander said he has never forgotten the “man in the ditch,” mainly because he was once that man. For 18 years, he served as an electrician for Service Electric, By 1974, he had worked his way up to supervisor.
That same year, Alexander was approached by Henry Burns, an Amoco oil and gas distributor, about starting a business. Alexander admitted he wasn’t at all sure about his qualifications as an entrepreneur. He had no history in business, no bonding track record and the mid-1970s economy was abysmal. But he sensed Service Electric was possibly slowing its business, so he stepped out with Burns.
The early days of A&B Electric were meager indeed. He had only two employees — his wife, Ann, and his brother. He said there was no such thing as a 40-hour week. He worked on projects during the day and bid on them at night.
Today, A&B Electric, a full-service electrical contracting firm, has customers all over the Southeast including the textile, chemical, pulp and paper, utilities, automotive and gaming industries. In its commercial phase, it handles hospitals, municipal buildings, prisons and multi-purpose facilities. The utility division’s projects include transmission, distribution and substation construction, with voltages ranging from 7.2KV-161KV. Projects completed range from $20,000-$11 million.
However, Alexander’s vision focused beyond only electrical contracting. In 1980, A&B Enterprises was established in Raleigh as a remanufacturing operation and dedicated supplier to Delco Remy. That was the beginning of a myriad of expansions and acquisitions in the 1980s. In 1985 A&B Communications opened its doors to serve commercial and residential needs for telephone, alarm systems, paging and answering services, followed that same year by the acquisition of Morton-based tool manufacturer R&L Tool Company.
In 1986, A&B added more automotive manufacturing with Reman Inc. of Polkville which manufactures rack and pinion power steering gears for General Motors, and the following year with Dalex Inc. of Bay Springs, maker of refurbished alternators and light duty motors for Delco Remy.
In 1988, the company tacked on three more businesses. A&B added Tel-Tec Inc., originally formed in Kentucky, which installs communications fibers and fiber optic cable primarily for government installations throughout the Southeast. More out-of-state activity followed that year when Alexander and Burns purchased Music City Armature, with plants in Heidelberg and Gallatin, Tenn., which remanufactures armatures, rotors and stators for aftermarket and related companies. And A&B Management was formed to provide management and accounting services for all its manufacturing concerns.
The early 1990s saw A&B Electric add two more locales — Pascagoula (1991) and Tuscaloosa, Ala. (1993). In between those two events, re-manufacturer A&B Cores opened in 1993.
After a quick breath in 1994, A&B Electric started 1995 by selling its remanufacturing facilities, except Reman Inc., to Delco Remy. But a brand new industry was added that same year when Industrial Mechanical Contractors, LLC, was established. The company manufactures and installs air conditioning and heating systems for commercial and industrial buildings, and also handles process piping and non-hazardous liquid storage and piping for the manufacturing and food processing industries.
Finally, in 1997 A&B diversified even further when it opened Blackwater Creek Treestands, LLC, to manufacture treestands emphasizing performance, quality and safety.
Overall, A&B Electric employs more than 400 workers at 75 separate sites, and its other ventures bring another 800+ to its payroll. While the landscape has drastically changed for A&B over time, one aspect remains in place — the employment of Alexanders. Ann is still an important part of operations as secretary/treasurer. Two daughters work for A&B, and there are brothers, sisters, cousins, uncles and nephews associated with the company.
A glance at the management team reveals a lot about A&B’s employment practices. The average experience of the 14-person team is more than 20 years. They have a combined 284 years of experience.
“We feel our people are our greatest asset,” Alexander said. “Our people bring vast experience, extraordinary ranges of talent and commitment to excel. Most of our people have been with us from the start.”
Not just diversifying so it would look good on his r