Doing Business with Principles
Access Electric brings power to the people
Electrical power enables the production of most everything we use in our society—from cars to cans, from A-frames to Z Strips. Access Electric, an industrial electrical contractor based near Modesto, California, offers electrical power to agricultural, commercial and industrial clients.
Along with its sister company, Access Industrial Automation Inc., Access Electric provides services ranging from multiple distributive applications to high-voltage electrical substations. “We do electrical design, electrical system installations, motor control and programmable logic controller (PLC) programming and installation,” says Walter Resendes, President, who founded the company almost 20 years ago. “We’re also doing more in the renewable energy sector with microgrid-type systems, including solar and generator power.”
How the Company Grew
“In 2002, I quit my full-time job and ventured out on my own,” Walter says. “Several customers and people that I knew in the industry said they would keep me busy, and they did. Within the first month and a half, I needed two more employees,” he says. “My current business partner Pon Phimmachack, Vice President of Access Electric, came on about six months after it began, and by the end of the first year, we had increased to 10 employees servicing the industrial market in the Central Valley area. The second year we doubled to 20 people.”
The company now has 80 employees, including journeymen and apprentice electricians along with estimators, industrial programming engineers, field superintendents, foremen and project managers. “And we are continuing to grow,” Walter adds. In 2016, Access Electric created Access Industrial Automation Inc. to provide PLC Programming and Engineering services to its customers.
“We’re doing a lot of industrial work right now, and we’ve had quite a few interesting commercial projects in the past,” he says. In 2008, Access Electric worked on The Bass Pro Shops location in Manteca, California, one of the largest commercial projects it had done at the time. “The Bass Pro Shop was the first of its kind in Northern California. The unique lighting and the lighting controls for that building are extensive. They do a really good job of decorating their store with taxidermized animals and artistic work that needs to be lit up and highlighted. It was fun to stand back and see the effects of our work,” Walter says.
Another interesting job came about when Mercy Medical in Merced, California, built a four-story building housing a laboratory and doctors’ offices in front of the hospital. “That was a pretty neat job that ran for a couple of years,” Walter says. “Starting with the shell of the structure, we brought power to the building and then to every floor. It was a generic process because they built it like a spec building—not knowing who the occupants would be.” Prospective tenants had leased only sections of one floor and the rest of the building was empty. “We finished that part of the job and immediately went into design-build and tenant improvement as they continued to lease the building out,” he says.
On the agricultural front, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, California is the largest producer of food products when compared to the other 49 states. Access Electric has done quite a bit of work for agricultural clients. One project involved remodeling a poultry plant in Sanger, California. Mary’s Free Range Chickens of the Pitman Family Farms replaced its tiny plant with a three- story concrete fabricated building.
Starting with the shell, Access Electric brought in the main service then power to the floors. Over the next two and a half years, Access Electric was involved in powering every aspect of the process from the eviscerating department, to the cut up and packaging area and on to the chiller. “This is the only poultry plant that I know of in the U.S. that has an air-dry chiller. That doesn’t sound very exciting, but one important advantage of an air-dry chiller is that it allows the processor to avoid the use of chlorine, an unwelcome element to many people,” Walter says.
Almond and walnut production in California has increased significantly in the last 20 years. Access Electric has had the privilege of working for several producers in the area. One design-build project for Del Rio Nut Company, an almond processing facility, proved to be a unique opportunity. With the equipment standing inside, the original wooden barn-type holding facility was demolished. A beautiful metal building was then placed over the equipment.
Access Electric restructured the electrical systems for the plant, including designing the power to the equipment and controls. It upgraded the facility’s control to a PLC. Now plant operators can use a touch screen to start the entire operation, run the nuts through the process and then shut everything down as needed. “It turned out really nice, and I believe the Del Rio Nut Company feels the same way,” Walter says.
Investing in People
“That’s what we do our best to achieve—happy customers,” Walter says. “Everyone probably says that, but it’s true. We strive to instill the goal of achieving customer satisfaction in our company culture all the time. If we can do that, we’ll never have trouble keeping the phone ringing. We’ll never worry about keeping members employed, working and productive.”
“My next greatest concern is ensuring the team knows that we value them,” he says. The company hosts employee-appreciation barbecues at least three times a year, if not four, and it gives decent bonuses. Last year Access Electric divided $200,000 among its 80 team members, he says. “When times are good, I choose to invest in our people.”
Next-Gen Educational Goals
That investment continues with in-house learning-management systems. “We have partnered with GotSafety.com to keep up with Cal/OSHA regulations and HSI (formerly Vivid Learning Systems) to provide our staff with safety training. This keeps us current with safety requirements and new developments in work methods and technology,” Walter says. Foremen also lead each crew in weekly Tailgate Training sessions that cover various safety topics.
In addition, the company also runs the AccessToPower YouTube channel that has posted 36 videos on such topics as Electrical Theory: Understanding the OHM’s Law Wheel and What is Power Factor Part 1 and 2. With over 20,000 subscribers, the channel clearly extends Access Electric’s educational reach well beyond its own staff and customers.
The educational emphasis continues as Walter works toward offering accredited vocational training for high school graduates who want to pursue the electrical trade. “We are a long way from being able to offer something accredited, but that is my goal and something I think is well worth pursuing,” Walter says. “It will be a great benefit to the community if we can see this through. We’ve already built a facility with a 6,000-square-foot classroom and lab area. The prospect of reaching young people who want to enter the electrical field excites us,” he continues.
Four Principles Exemplified
Walter explains that learning, after all, is the foundation of three of the firm’s guiding principles: self-assessment, personal development and situation improvement. “Add the fourth principle, honesty, and you’ll have a complete picture of how Access Electric conducts business,” Walter says.
The team reflects the ownership’s dedication to these standards. “Our values, ethical practices and hard work have given us a sense of joy in seeing our accomplishments and watching a reputation for quality grow,” he says. “As a result, most of our projects come from repeat business. I believe that is proof that the community we serve trusts us to provide access to the power they need.”