If, as has been suggested, there are really 170 to 210 Web enterprises chasing the construction industry’s business, electrical contractors who want to buy electronically should be in paradise right now. Enjoy it: Many of those sites won’t be around for very long.

Today’s focus is on contractor-purchasing sites emanating from within the electrical industry itself. After all, if one is “betting” on these sites as if they were racehorses, it’s logical to look at those that appear to have an inside track.

Herewith are snapshots of 11 somewhat familiar names chasing your Web-enabled e-commerce orders. Many more, obviously, could have been listed here; some of these will be covered in the future.

WESCO Distribution—don’t think “Westinghouse”: that company doesn’t exist anymore. This is a very large (No. 3 in a recent ranking) national distribution chain, independent of Eaton/Cutler-Hammer, which bought the Westinghouse manufacturing operations. WESCO has hedged its E-commerce bets, participating in a number of cross-industry exchanges. One can purchase from WESCO Distribution by visiting these sites: Equalfooting.com, PurchasingCenter.com, TPN Marketplace (www.tpn.com), TotalMRO.com (see below under Grainger), and, were you a school, Epylon.com.

TradePower.com—a group of capitalists, Boston Ventures, have purchased both Trade Service and Estimation—familiar companies to many EC readers. You might not know that Trade Service Systems, another operation, has focused on providing computer software and services for electrical distributors. So TradePower.com is what seems like a potent combination: folks inside the company, in theory, should “know” both the distributor and the contractor. Their pitch is that they’ll make e-commerce work by interfacing the distributor’s computer with the contractor’s computer, and vice-versa.

SurplusChannel.com—formed by Doug Kinney, a former top executive with a division of Intermatic, this site seeks to become the international place to trade unwanted industrial goods. Perhaps thanks to Kinney’s experience, electrical supplies seem to be the baseline from which the site has started. Two notes: (a) the company is working with an electrical distributor network, EDN, to set up something or other for its members; and (b) SurplusChannel.com just opened an office in Hong Kong.

supplyFORCE.com—Affiliated Distributors (A-D) is, like EDN, a marketing network of distributors. It includes within it electrical and other industrial distributors, but A-D is the largest such group extant. Recently, A-D spun off supplyFORCE. The goal seems—at least at first—to serve large national accounts, especially in the industrial sector.

While that seems to be the strategy, note that supplyFORCE recently had a huge booth at the June A/E/C Expo—a show focused solely on the construction industry.

SourceAlliance.com—Rockwell International owns Allen-Bradley (and more). Working with virtually the entire select group of A-B distributors, they’ve set up SourceAlliance. While Rockwell owns some 84 percent of the Web company now, it seems destined to own a lot less. A key development recently was that SourceAlliance.com hooked up with IMARK Group, yet another distributor marketing group. Second in size to A-D, IMARK focuses on electrical distribution. Adding IMARK distributors appears to be SourceAlliance’s attempt to get closer to electrical contractors; A-B distributors are infamous for “not wanting to hold the contractor’s hand.”

The conclusion of this two-part article, scheduled to run in October, will feature the remaining six companies on the “most likely to succeed” list.

SALIMANDO is a Vienna, Va.-based freelance writer. He can be reached at jsali@cris.com.