Employment at Candor Electric, Chicago, depends on the season and ranges between 50 and 100 people.
“On the low-voltage side, it depends on the number of projects we have, which can vary significantly from year to year,” said Vincent DiFiore, president. “Some years, they represent about 25% of our work. Other years, it can be over 50%.”
The company opened its doors in 1962 and has grown as a result of being able to predict trends and reconfigure itself to meet challenges. For example, in 1972, the company expanded into the industrial market to serve owners of large industrial firms in the region. In 1974, it weathered the oil crisis by working in large-scale industrial facilities. When the energy crisis of 1979 hit and slowed residential and industrial construction, the firm branched into the commercial market. In 1982, when sky-high interest rates brought new construction to a standstill, the company expanded into tenant build-out, data center and school projects. In 1995, Candor Electric completed a nationwide project with Unisys replacing proprietary data cabling with open-network ethernet cabling. In 2008, when the housing bubble burst, the company expanded by doing more work in schools and auto parts stores.
“I learned the importance of looking ahead when I was really young and working with my father, who owned the company,” DiFiore said. “He was always talking about how things are changing and how you always have to stay up with those changes. I even remember back in the 1970s, he predicted that, someday, utility companies would be able to read electrical meters remotely.”
Candor Electric was one of the first electrical firms to offer computerized estimating.
“We had fax machines before anyone else, and my father had computers that were networked before anyone else had even heard of that,” he said.
The company got involved in low-voltage work in the 1990s when it was working on a number of data centers with Unisys.
“A lot of it was on the power side—UPSs, generators, troughing in computer rooms, etc.,” DiFiore said. “Then I began to do some research and learned about network infrastructure, and this led us into low-voltage work.”
Candor Electric’s two areas of low-voltage specialty are voice/data and fire/life safety.
The company specializes in installing Category 5 and 6 cable to ensure the most reliable voice/data connections. It is involved with installing data, voice, video, power and fiber optic cable from individual workstations to entire buildings.
With fire/life safety, the company’s installations enhance safety and security and are also energy-efficient and cost-effective. The focus is to ensure each system is 100% operational and reliable.
Since getting into low-voltage work, the company has maintained its traditional vigilance, keeping track of trends, predicting changes in the market, continuing to innovate how it does work and remaining flexible with ever-changing demand.
“For example, in early 2020, we picked up several million dollars worth of fire alarm projects, so about 70% of our low-voltage work now is fire alarm work,” DiFiore said. “However, two or three months prior, about 80% of our low-voltage work was voice and data cabling.”
When the company initially got involved in low-voltage work, most of its training was done in-house.
“However, the apprenticeship program here is Chicago is really strong, and we benefit from that these days,” he said.
All of the electricians in the company are qualified to pull low-voltage cable, not just those who specialize in it, so everyone can help when needed.
Candor Electric has such an excellent reputation that it rarely needs to sign up for new invitations to bid on work.
“We have more invitations to bid than we know what to do with because we work with most of our general contractors and customers on a regular basis, so we have strong relationships with them,” DiFiore said.
Its key to success here is that it limits itself to the very best GCs, and the company has been working with many of them for 30 to 40 years.
“As a result, we know how each other works,” he said. “Success comes down to the preconstruction and BIM coordination meetings. We want to get out in front of things, so problems don’t occur later on. We have come to realize that a good project is determined by how well everything is put together before the project even starts.”
DiFiore considers one of the company’s most significant competitive advantages is its commitment to service.
“What sets us apart is service—how we respond to needs and wants of customers—but also how we respond when we get a call from a customer saying that something isn’t working,” he said.
Today, the company’s primary challenge is finding enough trained workers. During the summer, the company does a lot of work with the Chicago Public Schools, when the company often has to get several million dollars worth of work done in a six- to eight-week time frame.
“We always seem to find a way to get things done,” he said.