In 1984, John Gaylor started an electrical contracting company in Indianapolis that encouraged open competition and a free-enterprise approach to construction based on merit. Determined to provide first-class service and outstanding job performance for clients, Gaylor also wanted to deliver the best wages and benefits, quality equipment and continuing education and training to employees. Thirty-five years later, having added thousands of employees and ranking 27th on ENR Midwest’s Top Specialty Contractors ranking with $122.28 million in 2018 regional revenue, Gaylor Electric has been named ENR Midwest Specialty Contractor of the Year.
“I would say when I first came here back in 1990, we were a pretty small company, but we had a tremendous visionary and leader in John Gaylor,” says Chuck Goodrich, who took over as president in 2014 and is now the company’s CEO as well. John Gaylor remains chairman of the board. “When he made me president in 2014, we had a long conversation about this. There’s ups and downs in this business, but [our success] has really been a true blessing of our people. We just have unbelievable people, and they build relationships [and] they get work done.”
Offering engineering and design in addition to electrical construction, its bread and butter, Gaylor’s commitment to delivering high-quality construction has made it successful in the Midwest states of Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio and Michigan, but also in North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama and Florida.
Under Goodrich’s leadership, Gaylor’s commitment to education has expanded beyond its employees and now includes a high school opened on the company’s Noblesville, Ind., campus called the Gaylor Electric Crossing School of Business & Entrepreneurship. Gaylor partnered with the Crossing Schools, based in South Bend, for the academic program. The school is a vocational institute that trains and teaches electrical contracting and engineering. It’s geared toward at-risk teenagers, and students spend half of their day engaged in the Crossing’s high-school curriculum and the other half learning the electrical trade in Gaylor’s fabrication production warehouse.
Upon graduation, students leave with a high school diploma—not a GED—and hands-on experience in fabrication and production. So far, the school has graduated 22 students who have started careers in the field in the Associated Builders and Contractors’ electrical engineering apprentice program. Some of the graduates are working toward their associate degree with the ABC, and they get advanced placement in that program because of their work at the Gaylor Electric Crossing School. The company eventually wants to graduate 100 students a year from this program.
In 2020, Gaylor is planning to expand the school as part of improvements to the Noblesville facility, including opening an additional 50,000-sq-ft production innovation center. The new building will host three new classrooms for the high school, a 33,000-sq-ft fabrication and engineering innovation center as well as employee offices and conference rooms.
“So, our goal is to double graduation every year, and we’ll be to 100 in five years,” Goodrich says. “Retention is 100% because I truly believe that when you show this kind of investment to our kids, you teach them how the electrical field and trades field fits into their education.”
This do-it-yourself approach to the labor crisis is typical of the way Gaylor approaches industry-wide problems and the challenges its project teams confront in the field. One such project was the $120-million NeuroDiagnostic Institute in Indianapolis, a 215,700-sq-ft psychiatric hospital, the first of its kind built in Indiana with rigorous standards for 65 of the 159 beds dedicated to children who are inpatient admissions to the hospital.
Gaylor installed 4-in. PVC underground wiring, switch gear, transformers and terminations. Working for construction manager Pepper Construction, Gaylor was also responsible for UPS and backup systems for redundancy and looped new construction with an existing hospital.
“The demands on the electrical contractor were high,” says Dan Lowe, Pepper’s project manager. “Lighting was specialized for different areas of treatment. The patient section’s doors almost all had locks that needed to be able to be opened and closed electronically. The day rooms required high level security. The meeting rooms are middle level, and you get back to the staff and the staff is low level, and that’s a major coordination issue because the high level is about 40% higher than the medium level. But, cost-wise, the medium level is about 15% higher than what would regularly be specified.”
Lowe said Gaylor and Pepper worked together early on in construction to go through the plans and identify sections of the facility where higher end outlets, fixtures and different finishes were necessary and added more personnel to those sections to get the job done on time. At one point, Gaylor had more than 100 electricians on site and delivered the project with no recordable incidents.
Beyond the written demands of the Institute, both Gaylor and Pepper were aware that while behavioral health facilities have some of the same needs as other medical facilities they also have special requirements. The NeuroDiagnostic Institute wanted to move toward more personalized approaches to treating mental health.
“It’s amazing what we heard from the ... [old] style hospitals of just what behavioral health professionals had to deal with when they didn’t have what they needed and couldn’t treat patients the proper way,” says Lowe. “This is the first project of this size in the Midwest that has dealt with behavioral health in this way.”
This customer-first mentality has helped Gaylor win data center projects as far away as Spokane, Wash.
“From Northern Indiana down through Lafayette, Indianapolis, through Columbus, into Nashville, to Huntsville [and] Birmingham, we’ve got offices in every one of those locations,” Goodrich says. “Then we’ve got Charlotte, and the idea is to make sure that we have the Midwest and Southeast covered well where the growth is in the economy, but I would tell you that our number one philosophy about work is customer first. Some people say that, but they don’t live it—but that’s what we live from getting the work through our pre-con meetings and the job itself.”