2 min read November 2021 — The biggest challenge most companies have today is the labor shortage, which is a demand issue, said Henry Brown, CEO of Miller Electric Company, in an interview with Invest:. Brown added that one solution is just to have the best company to work for. “The biggest factor for us is focusing on being an employer of choice, providing a great environment for our employees and making sure that they have everything they need to be successful, providing the development opportunities and future growth opportunities,” he said.
What opportunities or challenges are you grappling within the electrical market?
The electrical market is part of the broader construction industry. The construction industry is robust right now, and I think that’s because our economy has done well over the last several years. Companies have been investing in their facilities and their infrastructure. During the early months of the pandemic in 2020, we had to pause and many projects were put on hold, shut down, or just deferred. What’s happening now is that there is a tremendous amount of demand in the construction market in addition to completing the work deferred last year, so we’re at an all-time high for our company. From an employment standpoint, we’ve added over 800 jobs since the beginning of 2021 and that’s just heating up. We need several hundred more jobs tomorrow to keep up with the demand from our customers and we will be adding those as fast as we can.
It’s a robust market for construction in general and electrical is playing an even more critical role in company facilities, particularly if you include the technology and communications infrastructure. If you include electric vehicles and transportation electrification, there are even more opportunities for electrical contractors to expand their businesses and play a bigger role with their customers.
What trends do you see regarding sustainability?
We’re seeing more and more of our customers concerned about sustainability, and we’re able to work with them in various ways to help reach their environmental goals. We can work with our clients on building efficiency, for example. Buildings and the power they use make up a very large percentage of greenhouse gas emissions so the more that we can work with our clients to help them reduce power consumption the better for sustainability. We also help our clients to use renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar. We have worked with our clients to add solar to their rooftops or parking lots, and we have worked with utilities to build out utility-scale solar and energy storage. Renewables are taking off because they are more affordable than ever before and it’s easier to store the power they’re generating. There have been advances in energy storage technology that allows it to be more on-demand, mitigating the need to rely on when the sun is shining or the wind is blowing.
Have you been affected by the supply chain disruptions, and how are you mitigating them?
I think everyone has been impacted by the supply chain disruptions and shortages, especially for materials that are coming from overseas. We install a lot of different components for our clients and their facilities and we’re reliant on the supply chain to get that material to us. We’re fortunate we have strong relationships with suppliers that have been able to help us and shield us from a lot of the supply chain disruptions over the last year. That has been our strategy. We work very closely with our supply chain partners to make sure that we understand where the disruptions are happening, working with them to plan how to mitigate whatever those disruptions might be and find alternative sources when necessary.
The biggest supply chain impact for us has been the volatility and uncertainty of commodity pricing, such as copper and aluminum. We work closely with our vendor partners to try to anticipate changes in the market and work with them to try to hedge that cost and minimize the impact on our clients.
What is the greatest challenge for your business now?
The greatest challenge that we’re facing right now, along with most companies, is the labor shortage. Even though we’ve added over 800 new jobs this year, it has been a challenge to be able to keep up with the demand. To be able to serve our clients, we need to have a good pipeline of electricians.
The biggest factor for us is focusing on being an employer of choice, providing a great environment for our employees, and making sure that they have everything they need to be successful, providing development opportunities and future growth opportunities. We want to make sure our company is a place where people in our industry and our communities want to work.
What do you think is behind this labor shortage?
I think it’s because of the high demand. It’s not so much a shortage of people leaving the industry or not wanting to work. We have more people working in our industry and in our company than we’ve ever had before, and we’re seeing more people wanting to come to the company. It’s just that the demand is so high that it’s hard to keep up.
We also have a very robust economy. There’s a lot of capital investment happening, especially in the Southeast. A lot of people are moving to the Southeast, moving to Florida, moving to Jacksonville. The talent shortage isn’t from people leaving, it’s from the high demand, and then it’s just figuring out how we can continue to grow and continue to attract new people to the industry.
What is your outlook for your company and the Jacksonville electrical market in the next three to five years?
Jacksonville is going to continue to grow and we’re fortunate to be a big part of it. We will engage heavily in the community in a lot of different ways. There are exciting things that are happening in Jacksonville, such as the development of the riverfront in Downtown, the Jacksonville Jaguars are going to have a new practice facility, there’s a new Four Seasons Hotel, and the potential renovation of the stadium. Those are huge projects that we haven’t seen here before and that’s going to be the foundation for other projects to follow.