The new president of the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA), Dennis F. Quebe, takes the organization’s helm with an eye toward ushering members beyond market recovery and into a new phase of growth. To make this movement possible, Quebe is focusing on encouraging change at the local level, in ways his own companies—Chapel Electric Co. and Romanoff Electric Co.—have expanded with the shifting market. He has fostered using versatility and pursuing new methods and technologies in the company’s electrical installations.
Quebe, a native of Galveston, Texas, is chairman and CEO of Chapel Electric in Dayton, Ohio, and Romanoff Electric in Toledo. He has held positions in both the private and public sectors on a national level, ranging from project manager, vice president, president and regional president. Quebe acquired Chapel and Romanoff Electric from a Houston-based public company in 2002 and became chairman and CEO of the merged companies under Quebe Holdings Inc. He formed a third business unit—CRT Technologies—in 2005. He holds master electrician and/or electrical contractor licenses in 25 states.
This month, Quebe starts a three-year term in which he hopes to help direct NECA members toward new growth. He intends to make management and union relations a priority, while also focusing on the changing industry and how contractors can respond to it. He acknowledges that communication among those in the industry, such as NECA and the International Brotherhood of Electrical workers (IBEW), has continued to be a challenging and critical task.
Quoting inventor and industrialist Henry Ford, Quebe said, “Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress, and working together is success.” Quebe views NECA and the IBEW as two groups that share the same goal.
His vision, Quebe said, is to link member needs with organizational structure and financial resources, to maintain the highest levels of membership value, and to create long-term sustainable initiatives to improve membership satisfaction and retention.
The aging and approaching retirement of the baby-boomer generation, particularly over the next 20 years, could also leave a void, he said, “if we don’t engage the millennial generation in a timely fashion.” Quebe added that, “In order to grow our membership, we need to promote more active participation, and this starts at the local level.”
Quebe has helped make his own companies successful by surrounding himself with the best talent, then delegating and empowering.
“In order to ensure success, you must communicate your expectations; provide your team with the latest technology, training, processes and procedures; and hold them accountable.”
The company must also be willing to change with the industry. Two examples have been Chapel Electric’s experience in prefab construction of electrical work for large healthcare installations and Romanoff Electric’s installation of solar technology, most recently at the Toledo Zoo.
Several years ago, Chapel Electric installed the entire electrial system at Dayton Ohio’s Miami Valley Hospital’s (MVH) Southeast addition (in 2008 and 2009) and is now providing the same service for construction at MVH South. This second project was divided into two phases. For both projects, the patient room bathrooms, footwalls and headwalls; integrated mechanical-electrical-plumbing racks above patient-wing corridors; modular workstations for staff members; and the unitized curtain wall sections were all constructed in a rented warehouse off site before they were installed.
For the hospital projects, general contractors Skanska USA and Shook Construction employed Chapel Electric to build the patient wing electrical systems, along with other subcontractors for mechanical, plumbing and framing, off-site. The completed pieces were then transported to the construction site to install. By prefabricating the work, Chapel Electric was able to complete the project quickly, with fewer workers, in a safe and controlled environment. The work was done in a large warehouse area near each hospital.
Chapel Electric has been providing prefab work for its clients for the past decade, but this was the first project in which the contractor worked with other trades in one location. Chapel Electric flew its project management team to England to visit a similar Skanska project underway in London before the MVH project began.
In the first project, at MVH’s Southeast addition, Chapel Electric built (off-site) the electrical systems for five floors, each floor with three wings, and 12 rooms in each wing. It totaled 180 rooms. Because the work was done as a prefab, the installation is distinctly uniform—the result of carefully preplanned work, said Joan Fultz, Chapel Electric’s prefab manager. The placement of the junction boxes, which can be found in the same location on every floor, is an example.
“It makes for a better installation as far as craftsmanship too,” she said. “All the work is installed at floor level—with no ladders involved, so no climbing up and down with material—in a climate controlled environment; and the work progresses in stages, so there’s no fighting other trades for space to work.”
Currently, Chapel Electric is finishing a second similar project at MVH South with two patient floors and—in the second phase—a labor and delivery wing. The project presents an additional challenge in the 3-degree curve of that wing. However, preplanning work using a building information modeling (BIM) computer program helped all trades accommodate that curvature.
When the job site installation of the off-site prefab takes place, trucks are used to transport the constructed prefab pieces to the hospital, and cranes hoist them to each floor where they will then be installed.
Fultz said that although the work can be done with fewer workers, it does not mean putting people out of work. With the prefab method, she said, “We can handle more projects and that means more work for everyone, so it makes a nice circle.”
Another example of innovation and versatility that has been part of Quebe’s approach is Romanoff Electric’s installation of solar panels at the Toledo Zoo. There, Romanoff Electric installed a solar “snake,” a solar array that weaves its way around a parking lot. This installation is not only functional but artistic, blending into the zoo’s surrounding environment. It includes 1,400 individual panels connected to 13 inverters that vary from 5,000 to 8,000 watts.
For this project, Romanoff electricians needed to use their own creativity, installing a variety of inverters to ensure the sound did not bother the animals. Romanoff also pioneered a technique to turn off panels when they were being shaded. To deal with the diffused Ohio sunlight, the workers put in thin-film panels to capture light from all angles, so the system can activate earlier and stay on later. Even covered with snow, the panels are still generating power.
Romanoff was recently featured on ElectricTV for providing innovative solutions to build a beautiful, functional array that doesn’t generate inverter noise that is disruptive to the animals.
This kind of creativity and willingness to meet the needs of a changing market is the kind of work Quebe wants to encourage on a national level.
Speculating on his legacy after his term as president has ended, Quebe said: “Hopefully it will be said that I provided innovative, forward-looking strategy and positive leadership to ensure that NECA members had the flexibility and competitiveness to compete in any market and market-segment.” This, he said, he would like to see accomplished “without sacrificing one of our greatest strengths: a highly trained, highly skilled and productive work force.”
He also hopes to make his decisions with an eye toward the future strength and operational success of the association.
“My legacy will not be about what I’ve accomplished. It will be determined by NECA’s continued success in years to come.”
Quebe served four years in the U.S. Marine Corps. before he graduated from a NECA/IBEW Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee program in 1981. He attended Franklin University in Columbus, Ohio, majoring in organizational management and has an associate’s degree in electrical technology. Quebe was selected as a “Fellow” in NECA’s Electrical Academy in 2006.
Chapel Electric Co. was founded in 1946, and Romanoff Electric Co. was founded in 1927. They were, respectively, -second- and fourth-generation companies before being acquired by Houston-based Encompass in 1999. Quebe, who was past president of Chapel and current regional president for Encompass, acquired both entities from Encompass in 2002.
Chapel Electric has a national reputation as a premier healthcare electrical contractor. In recent years, Chapel Electric has established a strategic alliance in the paper press market, completing newspaper presses in more than 10 states. Romanoff serves commercial and industrial markets, with a primary focus on the automotive industry. Romanoff has been a NECA contractor for more than 75 years.
Quebe and his wife Linda have two sons, one daughter and three grandchildren. Dennis Jr. and his wife Lydie, along with their two daughters, Kenzie and Kaylee, live in Austin, Texas. Tavish lives in June Lake, Calif. Holly, husband Mike and son Jaxson live in Kettering, Ohio. Holly manages the human resources department for Quebe Holdings Inc., and Mike is an electrician for Chapel Electric.
SWEDBERG is a freelance writer based in western Washington. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.