Despite uncertainty about how the design and construction industry will weather economic, supply chain and workforce challenges, company leaders at Cannon & Wendt Electric Co. remain bullish on their future. The Phoenix-based contractor racked up nearly $100 million in revenue in 2021, up 46% from 2020—just one of several reasons Cannon & Wendt was chosen as ENR Southwest’s Specialty Contractor of the Year. This growth was linked, in part, to the completion of some big projects, such as the West Tower expansion at the Mayo Clinic in north Scottsdale and a 20-megawatt data center for Iron Mountain in Phoenix.

“Health care and data centers make up about 80% of what we do,” says Shane Snyder, Cannon & Wendt president, adding that as a union shop, the firm typically catches about 10% of the local market share. Approximately 425 of Cannon & Wendt’s nearly 500 employees serve in the field, and the company’s approach to recruiting and retaining talent involves including all employees in its initiatives.

Snyder says the firm uses various committees, each focused on an issue, such as insurance review, community involvement or safety, to ensure that feedback at all levels is shared and heard, helping democratize the decision-making process.

“We never want to have a safety decision come from a place of dollar signs. It comes from a place of caring for our people. So, giving the people a say in that, it’s really about ownership,” Snyder says. “Everyone has a role. Everyone has responsibilities. We include everyone.”

BetMGM Sportsbook

Crews work on connecting electrical infrastructure at BetMGM Sportsbook.
Photo courtesy of Cannon & Wendt

Place of Belonging

Cannon & Wendt has operated under a variety of structures throughout its 77 years in business. Originally called Cannon & Gross Electric Co. when it was formed in 1945, the firm started as a multi-owner business. Albert Wendt was hired as an apprentice electrician two years later, advancing through the ranks, and in 1957 the company’s name became Cannon & Wendt. Upon Ernest Cannon’s retirement in 1964, Wendt became the sole majority owner until 2006, when he sold the company to his employees via an employee stock ownership program. Wendt remained involved as president of the board until his death in 2011.

Snyder says the ESOP is key to their success, saying it helps “people feel that they’re a part of something bigger.”

“We offer employee ownership to every one of our employees,” says Sterling Woods, senior vice president of field operations and a 30-plus-year company veteran. Employees must work 1,000 hours their first year to qualify, and they become fully vested after three years of service.

“They’re my go-to, especially when I need things quickly or we have emergen-cies.”
—Jason Pfaff, Vice President, Iron Mountain

Cannon & Wendt has increased its staff 36% from last year to help meet the needs of its core markets. “Data center work is off the charts in Phoenix right now,” Snyder adds.

Jason Pfaff, Iron Mountain’s vice president, North America operations, says that sense of belonging from the firm’s employees has been evident throughout the 15 years he’s worked with Cannon & Wendt on numerous data centers. He says he has confidence in their capabilities and the quality of their work, whether the project is a putting a charger out in the parking lot or building huge infrastructure for very large customers. That quality is key to avoiding risks or downtime, which is vital on mission critical facilities.

“Highly qualified company, very thorough company,” Pfaff says, adding the firm’s range of talent impresses him. “It’s the people that they have and the people that they’re able to retain. I can’t say enough good things about [them], and the people are what makes up a company.”

Cannon & Wendt was part of a team delivering Iron Mountain’s 20-MW AZP2-P2 data center. The scope included critical systems such as medium voltage power, generators, uninterruptible power systems and redundant systems integration.

“They’re my go-to, especially when I need things quickly or we have emergencies,” Pfaff says. “They’ve always made me feel like I was their only customer.” He also cites their flexibility and willingness to take on more responsibility.

“We might ask them to act as the general as opposed to just the electrician and they’ve been willing to do that, they have supported me in that, and they have done a fantastic job there as well,” he says.

largest data centers

A view of one of the largest data centers Cannon & Wendt has built.
Photo courtesy of Cannon & Wendt

Speed and Efficiency

Though Cannon & Wendt’s focus on data centers and health care bodes well for current market needs, they are active in other areas such as industrial and sports and entertainment—and not only for ground up construction.

“Service work is booming,” says Snyder, estimating it currently makes up approximately 10-12% of the firm’s revenue. The facilities maintenance service enables the firm to stay directly in front of key clients in health care as well as for organizations such as the Arizona Cardinals football team.

“If you take a look at any of your major stadiums in the valley, we’ve had our hand in them,” he says.

Chandler Regional Medical Center

Walking the Chandler Regional Medical Center jobsite.
Photo courtesy of Cannon & Wendt

Troy Peterson, director of construction for the Arizona Cardinals, says he appreciates how Cannon & Wendt finds a way to make things happen.

“Because of game schedules, we don’t have a lot of flexibility in time, and things change a lot in the middle of the process,” says Peterson. “Cannon & Wendt has been excellent to work with in both accommodating our schedules that aren’t always reasonable and also in their flexibility during the course of a project. They find solutions that work well and push through to get things finished.”

Current projects include the 16,800-sq-ft BetMGM Sportsbook project on the north side of the Great Lawn at the Cardinal’s State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. In addition to medium voltage services, Cannon & Wendt is managing the fire alarm system as part of a low voltage scope on the project, a service the firm formalized in 2001 by creating a technologies group.

To address ongoing changes in those technologies and electrical scopes, the company built an onsite training academy adjacent to its headquarters on land donated by Albert Wendt. Employees attend the academy for a minimum of two hours a month to help improve safety and productivity and enhance skill sets.

In the health care market, the firm’s recent work includes the West Tower at the Mayo Clinic, a seven-story, 630,000-sq-ft expansion that includes a new lab, emergency department and support for the intensive care unit. Cannon & Wendt has also completed several projects for Banner Health, including their current Desert Medical Center Women’s Tower Expansion— which is a four-story addition on top of an existing wing—and a recent completion of a 300,000-sq-ft emergency department for Banner Boswell in Sun City, Ariz.

Health care work

Health care work requires strict quality assurance.
Photo courtesy of Cannon & Wendt

Community involvement at Cannon & Wendt includes fundraising for organizations such as the 100 Club of Arizona or hosting blood drives for the American Red Cross. Last year, Snyder accepted the Electrical Contractors Association’s Comstock Award on behalf of the firm. The award recognizes outstanding contributions toward improving labor relations in the electrical industry.

Snyder says he believes the company’s reputation in the valley will help them as they consider expansion to other parts of Arizona, saying he wants to make sure the firm does it the right way.

“We want to be a good community member,” he says, adding that Cannon & Wendt will “build slowly in those locations and we’ll earn the respect and earn the trust of the communities and hopefully become a bigger part of them.”