NECA’s president, Larry Beltramo, has a mission to further develop growth for the association and aid the electrical construction industry with the rapid transitions underway. As contractors navigate the changing tides of construction methods, deadlines and technology, his goal is to help ensure that NECA provides the resources and tools to help them. Beltramo has reason to set his goals high—he’s made a lifetime habit of it.
Beltramo, president and COO of Rosendin Electric Inc., was elected NECA president in September for a two-year term that commences Jan. 1, 2020. He served as vice president at-large of the association since January 2018 and as interim president since April 2019.
Beltramo was raised in San Jose, Calif., and has spent most of his life in the San Francisco Bay area. He was interested in either teaching or coaching in high school. However, he was hooked when he took on an electrical apprenticeship program with IBEW 617 San Mateo County at his father’s recommendation.
At Rosendin Electric—one of the largest U.S. electrical contracting firms, with offices in nine states and a volume of more than $2 billion annually—Beltramo has been a superintendent, project manager and executive VP of operations before being named president and COO in 2005.
NECA members many not know their newest president is a martial-arts champion, teaching the sport at his California home, and a devoted husband, father and grandfather. Both his career and athletic background have helped him develop life skills and a leadership style that focuses on perseverance, a dedication to learning and a passion for helping others be their best.
Now, taking the reins at NECA, he will help oversee the association’s 119 chapters. He has served on the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) negotiations, training and safety committees and on the NECA Large Contractor Group that meets regularly to talk about trends and challenges in the industry.
“I was asked a few years ago to serve as chair for that group,” he said, adding that this led to his involvement on the executive committee. He headed the search committee for NECA’s new CEO and then accepted the position as interim president.
“I’ve been a little bit honored, and a little bit surprised” to find himself where he is today, he said. But he’s grateful for the chance to contribute. “I thought it would be a good way to give back to the industry.”
It’s a pivotal time for the industry, and Beltramo has seen this evolution firsthand as he moved from apprentice to leadership positions.
“We’re making a lot of changes and technology is driving a lot of that,” he said.
One of Beltramo’s primary goals is to help NECA contractors stay ahead of those changes and benefit from them.
“I feel the people at the top are going to have to drive that initiative,” he said.
Technology in the industry
Beltramo sees the shortages of skilled workers and management as a challenge for contractors of all kinds possibly leading to a change in the culture of customers who expect real-time results with shorter deadlines than ever.
One of the primary challenges for contractors is the change in technology, not just in the form of tools available to those contractors but the systems they install as well.
“We’ve got tons of software entering the marketplace, which is a benefit as well as potentially a huge distraction and disruptor for us,” Beltramo said.
In some cases, a general contractor, a customer and the EC itself may each have different views of the software they want to use on any specific project, and contractors can’t afford to retrain their team on new software systems for every project.
Then there’s the technology related to the installations themselves—power over ethernet, internet of things (IoT) and lighting controls, to name a few.
“Those technologies offer tremendous opportunities for the electrical contractor. Those are markets we have to be at pace with,” Beltramo said.
With more deployment of these systems, roles for contractors are still changing. ECs used to work in a black-and-white market of cable installation in contrast to everything else that was taken on by other contractors. That’s not always the case today.
“It’s getting to be gray: installations are different,” he said, adding that it means opportunities that wouldn’t have even been a consideration a few decades ago now can be.
For contractors to succeed in that environment, they need to be trained, he said, “NECA has great programs, and, going forward, they need to be really on the cutting edge.”
He hopes to further efforts already underway to restructure training programs. According to Beltramo, NECA already—under new leadership that includes former president David Long—has brought in new directors of innovation and education, and that’s the focus he hopes to continue to support.
Beltramo said he expects the association to focus on aligning CBAs with today’s construction market. Many of the CBAs were written a long time ago, he said, adding that, “we have to look hard at our classifications.”
He also sees growth as a key value for NECA. As part of the NECA 1025 Initiative—launched to increase the association’s market share by 10 percentage points by 2025, NECA has brought in more contractors, while focusing on giving confidence to contractors to expand their business and helping to diversify their offerings. The ECs achieving most, he noted, are willing to move into promising new fields.
“You can’t take the complacency highway,” in an industry that is expanding and changing the way it is, he said.
NECA members’ market share today averages between 35% and 43%. The association aims to support members to grow further into building information modeling, prefabrication, service and maintenance, design/build, energy project finance, energy-efficiency, renewable energy, energy storage, low-voltage, systems integration and IoT work.
Beltramo is also mindful of NECA’s diverse membership, which includes new contractors finding their way into a complex environment to contractors facing retirement who need succession planning help.
NECA focuses on understanding technology globally by partnering with organizations in Europe and elsewhere as well as development in Canada and Mexico.
“Education is so important as well as our safety programs,” he added. He also pointed to the work the association’s Government Affairs team accomplishes in Washington by keeping NECA members’ interests front and center for legislators.
“That support on Capitol Hill is really critical,” Beltramo said.
The process that powers success
Success for NECA companies is the central goal for Beltramo. Achieving that goal, or any goal, is a process—a lesson Beltramo learned from personal experience.
“Whether you’re an athlete or someone developing a product, it doesn’t happen overnight,” he said.
A successful process requires discipline, focus and support, which is where NECA can help, he said, adding that “we’re going to have the contractors out there who are the No. 1 choice for customers.”
Beltramo grew up playing sports and was especially good at baseball, but he started boxing at 14 and it became his passion. He learned karate and kickboxing, and competed on a global stage to win seven European championships. He still trains young kickboxers when he’s home and helps them with their own learning process.
“If you’re going to be good, you’d better be disciplined. Those are the principals I took out of my own life. It’s all about the process. There’s no secret to it,” Beltramo said.
“Consistency is a great quality to have. If a customer says I know what I’m going to get because the contractor has a great process and they stick to it” that company is more likely to succeed, he said.
Discipline and focus will help as technology and building demands change.
According to Beltramo, one of the current challenges contractors have is that there are so many technologies, and six months later something else will come out.
“You’re really going to have be disciplined as to how you select the tools you use. You can’t chase every little shiny thing out there,” Beltramo said.
In the coming months, he will continuing to meet members and nonmembers in the industry. Beltramo was pleased with the interactions he had at NECA’s 2019 convention and trade show in Las Vegas.
“The biggest take away from NECA in Las Vegas was the positive feedback,” he said, adding that contractors are positive and motivated. “Most people really didn’t know me, and when I have the opportunity to meet with people they understand pretty quickly that I’m about making our industry better,” he said.
Beltramo wants NECA contractors to be the best they can be. And that means the confidence to know it’s true.
“You have to be confident; you have to know the training you’re doing is correct, the type of work you take on is right for you, and that you have good plan for the company,” he said. “Those are the attributes I want every contractor to have. I would feel really good if I got even close to that goal.”
Beltramo lives in California with his wife, Julie, daughter Jessica, son-in-law Dathan Bittner, grandson Hudson, and son Alex, an estimator for Rosendin.