Bring on the Power
M-W Electric, Inc. provides diverse range of services
From a dream of starting his own business, Mike Woods and his wife, Kimberly D. Woods, have built M-W Electric, Inc. into a diversified electrical contracting company that will celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2022.
Operating out of Red Springs, North Carolina, just south of Fayetteville, M-W Electric provides electrical contracting services, including residential, commercial, industrial, utilities and data communications, and boring and digging services principally in southeastern North Carolina and part of South Carolina. Mike holds an unlimited electrical contracting license and a general contracting license for public electric utilities in both states, which enables the company to bid on a wide range of projects.
Solely owned by Mike and Kimberly, M-W Electric is a Minority-Owned Business Enterprise (MBE), a Historically Underutilized Business (HUB), and for nine years, the maximum amount of time allowed, was a certified participant in the Small Business Administration 8(a) Business Development program for disadvantaged businesses. Mike is also proud that M-W Electric is considered a veteran-owned business—he spent 20 years in the National Guard—and is a member of the Associated General Contractors of America.
With Mike as President and Kimberly as Vice President, the pair has built a company of around 50 employees, many of them long term, with $6.5 million in annual gross sales.
Over the years M-W Electric has been involved in diverse projects. “We are really proud of the large projects that we have completed,“ Kimberly says. “We have done state and government projects. We have done municipal projects. We are currently doing a renovation of a wastewater treatment facility,” she says. The company’s portfolio includes work for the City of Laurinburg, the Pembroke Town Hall, the Red Springs National Guard, Hospice of Scotland County, The University of North Carolina at Pembroke and Pembroke Place student housing, and Fayetteville State University. The company also has completed several underground distribution projects at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro, North Carolina, setting transformers and switches to convert overhead power lines to underground.
A lot of electricians focus on providing services inside buildings, Kimberly says, but the Woods’ company is “a lot more diverse.” The company has a heavy utility side and owns excavators, backhoes and other equipment used to perform underground distribution projects.
That kind of diversity is what makes M-W Electric stand out. “We do a lot of different types of projects, and we can supply a lot of different services for a client,” Kimberly says.
Nation’s First Solar School
One project that M-W Electric is particularly proud of is its work on the construction of Sandy Grove Middle School in Lumber Ridge, North Carolina. Opened for the 2013-2014 school year, Sandy Grove is the first net-zero energy school in the nation to be leased from a private developer. The LEED Gold-certified facility uses solar power to produce energy, and its photovoltaic system generates about 40 percent more energy that the building uses.
In addition to Sandy Grove, M-W Electric has completed multiple electrical installations for other school projects across North Carolina including in Scotland, Cumberland, Harnett and Moore counties, as well as in Horry County in South Carolina.
People want to work for M-W Electric because of that diversity of projects, Kimberly says. “They want to work with us to gain knowledge and experience because we have done electrical contracting for so long. They come to work with Mike because he is very particular. He trains, he tries to educate,” Kimberly adds. Employees tend to stay long-term. “Our longest is probably 15 years.”
Launching a Dream
Mike incorporated M-W Electric, Inc. in March of 1997 and then took early retirement from Pilkington North America, formerly Lof Glass, in Laurinburg, North Carolina, in October to devote himself full time to building the business. His father had been a licensed electrician, so Mike had been exposed to the business at an early age. After receiving an associate degree in electrical engineering from Southeastern Community College in Whiteville, North Carolina, he also worked for Carolina Power and Light Company, now Duke Energy, as a technician servicing three nuclear power plants.
While Mike dreamed of starting his own electrical contracting business, he didn’t have any experience in the industry. Neither did Kimberly, who was a high school math teacher and had just had their third child when Mike took early retirement.
“Mike started doing small electrical projects, primarily residential, just to get his feet wet. But, he found out that he had to learn more or he was going to starve in residential,” Kimberly jokes. With her numbers background, while she was on maternity leave she began helping with invoicing, writing proposals, doing payroll and paying the bills. She left teaching in the summer of 1998 to work full time with the business, but went back briefly at the school system’s request for the 2000-2001 school year. But she resigned again after that year.
For the first two years, M-W Electric was based out of the couple’s home. But in November 1999, it moved to its own building in Red Springs, and in September 2020, relocated to a 25,000-square-foot complex with office space, warehouse, maintenance shop and a large equipment yard. M-W Electric purchased the complex from the Lumbee River Electric Membership Corporation.
Kimberly remembers when the company was just getting going and landed its first true commercial job with Dollar General stores in the late 1990s. “We probably did 12 Dollar Generals,” Kimberly says. “We just kind of started on small commercial, and we worked our way up to where we now do large projects.”
Although M-W Electric has grown to provide industrial and underground utility services, the owners remember its roots. “We keep a full-time service technician to work in the local community, and we do a little residential. But it’s just something for clients that we’ve had a long-term relationship with and that we know, and they want a few lights, a fan hung, some light fixtures changed out. Simple things,” Kimberly says. That community connection also extends to some local buildings, like senior citizen housing, she says, “that due to insurance requirements can’t even change out a switch. We help out on those small projects.”
M-W Electric also supports its local university—the campus of The University of North Carolina at Pembroke, where Kimberly got her degree. “We try to give back and help school programs because I came from the education side.” The company has also donated funds to help children attend summer camp as well as donating through golf tournaments for local community fundraisers. “We’ve donated to ball teams in the community. And when our teams have traveled outside the state or for competitions, we have always donated there.”
Building a Family Business
As a family business, Kimberly says, “We work extremely hard and we are now training up a second generation.” Mike and Kimberly’s two sons and their daughter all work in the business. Daughter Miranda Woods Chavis and son Kyle Woods both do project management and estimating. Son Cameron Woods, who is studying electrical engineering at NC State University in Raleigh, helps out with project management and project estimating in between semesters. Each son has an associate degree from the Electric Utility Substation & Relay Technology program at Richmond Community College in Laurinburg, North Carolina.
Miranda had not intended to be part of the family business. She attended The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and studied to become a physical therapist, mom Kimberly says, but discovered she didn’t like the health care industry. “She always said, ‘I don’t want to do what you do momma,’ but after getting into the working world, she found out that what mommy does wasn’t all that bad. So now she does exactly what mommy does,” Kimberly says. She adds, “Miranda now wishes she had gone into something where she could have gotten some electrical background. But, she is learning, and I remind her that I didn’t have an electrical background either. So, I’ve come a long way too.”
Mike and Kimberly hope to pass the business on to their children. But electrical contracting is a broad field, and “we are trying to explain to the kids that there are other areas that need to be looked at. You know Mom and Dad took no business and turned it into what it is today. But there are other avenues to get into,” Kimberly says.
One area that the company would like to move into is electrical testing, ensuring that the different aspects of an electrical system are in proper working order.
Son Cameron worked in Nashville for two years with a testing agency. “That was out of M-W Electric’s realm for sure,” Kimberly says, “but he brought a lot of good knowledge back on electrical testing—what the requirements are, what type of clients require electrical testing. We would like to offer that service in southeastern North Carolina.”
The changes in technology in electrical contracting over the years have been tremendous, Kimberly says. “Electrical contracting today is not the same electrical it was when we started the business.”
One of the most challenging aspects has been the automation of systems such as lighting controls.
As an example, she cites Iowa-based Musco Lighting, a specialized lighting system provider for sports venues. Musco’s Remote Facility Management System uses an app to remotely cut on and cut off sports lighting on a ballfield and will also notify Musco of any problems. “Someone in Iowa is able to tell you that you’ve got a light out at the ballfield. They’re sitting in Iowa, and they can tell which head on which pole that light is in. You get an email that says the bulb is out, and we shipped a replacement for it,” she says.
While electrical contracting evolves with the industry, the Woods see a bright future where innovations create positive change. “If you don’t learn something daily in this business then you’ve got a problem,” Kimberly says. And learning and growing each day for nearly 25 years equates to a lot of knowledge.