Madison County — Higher energy costs coming from Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and other electric power companies in the region could provide an incentive for industrial businesses to invest in energy saving equipment. That may provide new business opportunities for The ASSET Company, which provides electrical equipment and comprehensive engineering solutions to utility, industrial, consultant and contractor organizations in the South.
“When outsourcing is necessary for power system projects, The ASSET Company is here for utility, industrial and contractor clients,” said R. Neal Rich, P.E., president of The ASSET Company. “With our experience and specialized power engineering tools, we can meet needs relating to the design, protection, control, communications and metering of electrical systems. Whether customers need a complete transmission switchyard or one plant feeder, sophisticated line protection or motor fusing, the ASSET Company has the solution.”
Picking up a trend
There is an increasing trend for industries and utilities to outsource services of the type provided by the ASSET Company. Rich said industries or power companies have an interest in maintaining only enough employees for a “base load,” and hiring contractors to support them during peak periods of growth or change.
“And, the industrials have largely disbanded the corporate engineering pool and use consultants such as ourselves at a lower cost,” Rich said. “They also benefit from our broad exposure to the technical problems and solutions in other businesses.”
The ASSET Company, which employs six people including Neal and his partner, Benjamin H. Barnette III, P.E., see municipal electric systems and rural electric cooperatives as a growth area for their company.
Barnette said the outsourcing trend continues to increase because industrial clients are continually adapting to the ever-changing market place. “They shift resources and personnel to meet those demands,” Barnette said. “Many times there are not sufficient resources in-house to be used for new construction projects and/or upgrades. It increases as municipal, cooperative and investor owned utilities are requiring additional support to maintain their systems while keeping their operating cost as low as possible.”
As they gain more exposure to utility companies, they are finding more and more opportunity to serve them.
“Exposure to the prospective clients continues to be a challenge,” Rich said. “There are a number of industrial and utility clients who could and would utilize our services. But the time it takes to market to new prospects while maintaining existing accounts leaves many prospects uncalled.”
Another challenge is the lack of available, experienced talent who wish to live in Central Mississippi. Rich said the location is not as much of an issue as the absence of trained, experienced specialists.
There are very large engineering houses in places like Atlanta and Kansas City. The ASSET Company competes by working to keep it personal.
“We have positioned ourselves in the market to sell ourselves, even by individual names, building on the reputations and varied experiences of those who have joined The ASSET Company,” Rich said. “We make ourselves available for consulting at odd hours. Often we will assist the complicated startup and commissioning of a new electric substation or other project installation in person or by phone, and that type of work happens at nights, on Saturdays, on Sundays and many holidays.
“We’re there, or at least standing by, to make the project go. And lastly, in our business, to be successful one must suffer a bit from an obsessive-compulsive disorder to be sure that things do work when they should work and do not work when they shouldn’t. Safe delivery of reliable electric power depends on that attitude.”
Matter of trust
Barnette said that in the current business climate, clients are looking for assistance from others who have their best interests at heart (i.e., the Golden Rule).
“I believe that type of concern, which Neal describes, has been the key to our current measure of success, and future successes,” said Barnette. “But I don’t think we’re alone. Most small businesses operate by this guiding principle.”
Regarding the outlook for future business, generally speaking the utility/industrial electrical oriented business lags the economy by two years. So when other businesses were seeing growth last year, utilities were still in a slower time.
“But the cycle has now moved,” Rich said. “Our market is on a growth curve. Also, we are seeing repeat business from satisfied clients, and those same satisfied clients are referring us to new friends who are requesting our services. We anticipate adding another professional or two in the next six to nine months, filling our renovated office in Canton.”
Rich and Barnette are excited about being part of the Canton business community. While not part of the Nissan support structure, they chose Canton based on “an amenable business climate, small town atmosphere, progressive city government and friendly folks who have embraced us.”
In 2003 The ASSET Company formed a strategic alliance with PowerComm Engineering Inc., located in Tampa, Fla. PowerComm Engineering is a multi-discipline engineering firm, providing engineering services to the electric utility and wireless telecommunications markets.
“Through this partnership, ASSET and PowerComm can offer a larger, more diverse workforce to the energy delivery marketplace,” Rich said. “With offices in Madison, Tampa and Atlanta, the alliance also provides a broader presence throughout the Southeast. The ASSET Company and PowerComm Engineering can now provide all aspects of transmission, distribution, substation and industrial power system design.”
Barnette said both companies share the desire to offer personalized, detailed, high- quality engineering and project management services to any organization, whether large or small.
“Our separate businesses allow our clients the flexibility to utilize either company exclusively for the small project, and retain the services of both companies, operating as one fluid organization, for those projects of increased scope,” Barnette said. “In short, this alliance affords us each the opportunity to do larger, more comprehensive work scopes for municipal, cooperative and investor-owned utilities that individually we would not be able to secure.”
The ASSET Company also has a sister company, ASSET Builders, which is engaged in the construction of new and rehabilitation of older buildings.
“We anticipate developing our open lot on South Liberty Street in Canton in the next 24 months as multi-tenant office space,” Rich said.
Contact MBJ contributing writer Becky Gillette at email@example.com.