Lee Electrical Construction Inc., which started as a one-crew operation in 1988 in president Jerry Lee’s home in Aberdeen, NC, now has more than 525 employees and is expanding its services in high-voltage power line construction from the Carolinas into Virginia. Lee attributes his aspirations and the company’s success to his father, Robert E. Lee, and many uncles because he and his brother, Robert “Donnie” Lee, vice president, were following in their footsteps as they ventured into the business of power line construction.
The Lee family has a combined 95 years of experience in the power line construction industry. Before Jerry and Donnie founded Lee Electrical, they worked for their father, who alone has 50 years working in the industry.
“We followed in his footsteps,” said Jerry. “We left working for our father and started our own company.” Another brother, the younger Wade Lee, is employed as well and manages the company’s underground operation.
Lee Electrical is headquartered in Aberdeen, NC, and the company has always provided services in North and South Carolina. The brothers often considered branching out into Virginia so that the company could expand. Recently, Dominion Power of Virginia presented Lee a chance to do just that.
Jerry explained it: “Dominion Power was impressed with our safety record and employees and equipment, which presented an opportunity for a long-term contract to assist them in upgrading the utilities in Virginia as well as eastern North Carolina.”
Now that the company has a license to operate in Virginia, Jerry would like to expand more in the state.
“We hope to begin bidding with municipalities and soon co-ops,” Jerry said.
Lee Electrical has approximately 860 active pieces of equipment in its fleet including digger derricks, bucket trucks, track equipment, boring machines, excavators, and a float track. The company maintains that its power line equipment fleet is the most modern and updated in the Southeast. Included in its fleet are Case brand backhoes and trenchers, which have been purchased from the Raleigh office of Briggs Equipment. Lee also has bought horizontal directional boring machines from Ditch Witch’s Charlotte location. Other sources of equipment are Terex Utilities and Altec.
“With the rapid growth of the company, we purchase equipment frequently,” Jerry said. “We buy, finance and lease depending on what the situation calls for.”
Lee currently has seven boring machines, model years 2000 to 2004, that are equipped for any directional drilling needs. Also in use are seven directional drilling rigs designed to be very portable and to operate efficiently in lengths up to 2,000 ft. (610 m). For its distribution jobs, Lee Electrical has more than 400 bucket trucks, digger derricks, backhoes and trenchers in service.
In order to keep its equipment operating at peak performance, Lee Electrical has 10 full-time mechanics. Seven are field mechanics who make repairs at the job site resulting in low equipment downtime.
Up until 1991 when underground distribution was added, the bulk of Lee Electrical’s jobs consisted of overhead distribution work. Presently, overhead and underground distribution make up the majority, approximately 65 percent, of the company’s jobs. According to Lee, the remaining work is “split up between transmission, substations and directional boring.”
Over the years, Lee Electrical has built upon its expertise in construction techniques to include larger structures and heavier conductors. In addition, the company specializes in transmission construction and maintenance of voltages up to and including 500 kV, using wood, concrete or steel poles for single-pole structures and H-frame.
Other services include construction of distribution substations, which can consist of foundations, steel erection, bus installation, equipment placement and control wiring.
One critical service provided by Lee Electrical is storm restoration. Crews will work “around the clock” to repair damage caused by snow and ice storms, hurricanes and tornadoes.
The company’s biggest break came as a result of damage done by Hurricane Hugo in 1989. The damage was so extensive that the South Carolina co-op with whom they were working asked Lee to supply more crews. “That’s how the company grew,” Jerry said.
Lee Electrical has assisted in storm restoration all along the Eastern United States from Maryland to Florida. The numerous hurricanes of 2004 resulted in emergency restoration work in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and North and South Carolina.
Jerry believes the future growth of the company relies on expanding into other states.
“We plan to obtain licenses and continue to grow the company in the states of Florida, Alabama, and Georgia,” he said.
Jerry sees growth as inevitable because of his company’s strengths. He said that people are “impressed with the company, the personnel, the equipment and the safety record, which is one of the best in the industry.”
In addition to its excellent safety record, Lee Electrical has completed all projects on time and “with complete satisfaction.”
According to Jerry, the success of a company depends on everyone. “It takes good management as well as good people in the field.”