Writer: Max Crampton-Thomas
2 min read May 2021 — Based in South Florida, Hypower is an electrical and utility contractor comprised of several divisions that range from commercial electrical to telecom engineering. Ranked by ENR magazine as a top commercial electrical and utility contractor in the Southeast, Hypower works with some of the leading general contractors, utilities, developers, and institutions in the United States. Founded in 1991 and headquartered in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Hypower is a family-owned company that currently employs more than 400 people and has successfully completed over 1,000 projects valued at over $1 billion. President and CEO Bernard Paul-Hus spoke with Invest: about the company’s contribution to managing the pandemic and the areas that were most affected in the past year.
What has been your contribution to the successful management of the pandemic?
We have gone through this successfully due to the attitude we took when it started. The first month was uncertain, but we are an essential business, so we could stay open. We were being provided with recommendations to follow. Since we are in construction, we do everything we can to keep our workers from getting hurt. We work up to a million hours per year and we only had four OSHA recordable incidents last year. Our workers are used to wearing a hard hat, eye and ear protection, work books, long pants, proper shirts and gloves. We have a tremendous safety culture. For us, the message for the workers in the field was that wearing face masks is only another piece of PPE.
In which areas did you see the most and the least demand for your services and how have you adapted?
The division that was impacted the most was our service group. The part of our company where electrical technicians go out on service calls was virtually shut down for several months. This happened primarily because people work in their facilities and if they aren’t at their facilities and something breaks, they are not worried about fixing it until it is needed again. We could not go into condominiums or into assisted living facilities because of the restrictions. We took those electrical service technicians and put them where we could. We put them on a high-rise building downtown, or anywhere else we were building. We made room for them throughout the company. The PPP money helped us make that decision because otherwise the typical reaction when revenue goes down is to cut costs. In this case, the money that we would have otherwise lost was pretty much replenished by PPP. That was a huge help and made the decision of what to do with these highly skilled craft workers much easier because we do not like letting good people go; there is a lot invested in each worker here.
The next biggest impact was geography. In a Downtown Miami setting there was a lot more concern about working in terms of having a lot of people working on a big project. For instance, we were moving people on elevators in batches of four or five at a time where it used to be 20 people crammed in there. These measures reduced the production on these projects. Yet the people who own and finance these very large projects need the work done and cannot afford to wait, so adjusting to that was difficult but it was a problem our customers looked to us to solve and, quite frankly, absorb. After all, they did not cause the pandemic and we are supposed to be highly adaptable, and we were. Meanwhile, we are building a 700-acre solar farm in the middle of nowhere in Virginia. On a solar farm, you would not even know COVID was happening because there is little population and impact, even though we still applied the same safety requirements.
In which industries have you seen a change in demand and what would you attribute that to?
The primary reduction in demand has been driven by the inability to get materials at a price that fits the budgets that were established before the start of the pandemic. The price of everything from plywood to copper wire, steel and aluminum has gone up drastically.
Transporting supplies has not been a big deal, but getting the raw materials has been the challenge and this has not been exclusively due to COVID. The hurricanes have had a huge impact on anything like PVC, polyethylene pipe, insulation for wire and fiber cable on a supply basis. It is now getting to the point where it is impacting decisions on which jobs get shelved and which get built. We got through COVID without supplies being a big deal primarily because we were using the existing inventory, but prices are skyrocketing and the impact is getting severe now. Even if you are willing to pay the higher price, finding and getting raw materials is challenging.
What are the areas of growth for your company?
From an energy basis, I am pleased to see there is continuing momentum to do away with overhead power lines as well as fiber optic cable and coax cable lines. Everything is going underground, and when the hurricanes come through, people do not lose power and communication as easily. What we are seeing is a combination of people just wanting their utilities underground and needing them underground so that they can get through these hurricanes much better. This costs between $40,000 to $60,000 per home in most cases. It’s a massive investment but at the same time, it’s also light given the damage that happens to homes during a hurricane, not to mention the inconvenience of not having power for three weeks, the lack of safety, the need to rent hotel rooms somewhere, and the inability to live in a home. I expect that will accelerate and we will see more of those projects.
Solar is also a big deal for Hypower. People are always surprised to learn how much solar power there is in Florida and throughout the United States. I am bullish on it. Florida’s energy construction is driven by the fact that this is a growing state and as long as it grows, no matter how much more efficient we make everything, our energy needs will continue to grow. For example, It takes a lot of energy to run an electric vehicle charging station. You are going to see a tremendous number of car-charging stations. Electricity is becoming even more of a convenience than ever before!
How has the Pandemic affected your contribution to your community?
Supporting our Community is a Core Value. As an important part of our company culture, our 400+ employees have been involved in numerous events raising hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years. In 2020, even during these uncertain times, Hypower decided to more than double down on its financial commitments to local non-profit organizations. Clearly many were not able to sustain their charitable giving during the pandemic so we stepped up and doubled what we gave the previous year to help offset the impact caused by the pandemic. Afterall, we were allowed to continue working as an essential business. Hypower is a main sponsor of HANDY (Helping Abused Neglected and Disadvantaged Youth), 4KIDS of South Florida, as well as a significant contributor to Boys and Girls Club, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Construction Angels and many others.
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