By Christine Graf
Queensbury-based electrical contractor Gross Electric reported record breaking sales of $65 million in 2020.
The company was founded in 1994 by Joseph Gross. He started the business out of his garage and had 40 employees by the end of his first year. Today, Gross Electric has 300 employees and satellite offices in Virginia and Florida. The company performs work along the entire East Coast and as far north as the Canadian border.
“I cut my teeth in the paper industry,” said Gross, noting that Finch Pruyn was his first major customer. “The paper industry was very good to us, but unfortunately, that industry has faded.”
Gross Electric was able to find new opportunities in the cement industry and has performed work at Glens Falls Cement and Lafarge Ravena Cement Plant. The company also works in the food processing industry, and customers have included Beech-Nut Fla Company in Amsterdam. Their biggest break came about five years ago when they were hired to do the electrical work for the Global Foundries administrative offices in Malta.
“After that, we earned their trust and picked up quite a lot of work at Global Foundries,” said Gross. “With them giving us the opportunity, that opened up other opportunities in the industry.”
As a result, Gross Electric was able to secure work at some of the largest chip manufacturing projects on the East Coast. Crews are currently working at the $3 billion Micron Technology plant that is under construction in Manassas, Va. Gross’s son Kyle is overseeing work there. His son Kevin manages prefabrication, purchasing, and logistics at the company’s 60,000-square-foot facility in Queensbury.
“I’m proud to say the company is moving into a second generation,” said Gross.
Gross Electric also has crews working at the new Regeneron Pharmaceutical plant in East Greenbush and the Cree Inc. semiconductor plant that is under construction near Utica.
“We’re working on quite a few large projects which were bid on pre-COVID. COVID has been challenging to say the least. It’s been challenging to maintain social distancing and keep everyone safe. And because of contact tracing, we had to send 35 guys home from one job,” said Gross. “We had a record sales year, but I would say our margins were less due to COVID. It’s been a successful year. It’s just that it had potential to be more successful if we weren’t in a pandemic.”
Gross furloughed 75 employees at the height of COVID. For many, it was their choice to be furloughed. The electrical workers at the company are part of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Worker (IBEW) union.
“We use the IBEW labor pool and have been fortunate to be able to man all projects appropriately,” said Gross. “It’s not easy, and it’s a constant rotation because of people not feeling comfortable with the COVID crisis.”
Gross Electric’s record sales in 2020 were driven by the economic growth that the country experienced in 2018 and 2019. During those years, many companies made decisions to invest in new facilities. It was in 2020 that construction of many of these facilities began.
“We were running on the high of 2018 and 2019 being such great years,” said Gross. “Had anybody had a crystal ball and known about the pandemic, they probably would have either delayed projects or tried to get them done sooner.”
Gross predicts sales in 2021 to be “average” and estimates they will total approximately $50 million. He is concerned about the impact the pandemic will have on sales in 2022. It has put a halt to many company’s plans for future expansion.
“I see a dip in the economy in the latter part of ’21,” he said. “We are going to survive through ’21, but my concern is latter part of ‘21 going into ‘22 because of the unknown. The larger firms aren’t going to be making large capital investments until we all know where the economy is going. There isn’t a lot of planning right now—engineering firms are not planning. It’s like a whip effect. When they aren’t planning, there’s nothing for us to bid on.”
As a result, Gross is focused on making his operation as efficient as possible.
“We’re constantly trying to reinvent ourselves and find ways to make ourselves more competitive and more efficient. We are committed to giving the best end product we can to all of our clients.”
In recent years, Gross has purchased real estate throughout the region. Among his holdings are more than 30 acres of vacant land adjoining the Carey Industrial Park on Carey Road in Queensbury. He is considering plans for a potential industrial park near Northway Exit 18.
By Christine Graf