Jerry Schulz may call his career in electrical contracting “predetermined,” but it’s undeniable that he has made it his own. Today, Schulz has more than 45 years of industry experience. He started his apprenticeship right out of high school in 1967. At Superior Electric Co., Schulz worked his way up the ranks from a journeyman to an estimator/project manager to stockholder and officer. He was COO when Superior was acquired by Michels. Schulz is now Vice President of Electrical Engineering and Project Development. His specialties are Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) and conceptual development. Schulz cites coaching and mentoring as the most satisfying aspects of his work and was recently honored with the University of Wisconsin’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
Dale Michels founded Michels Pipeline Construction in 1959 with four employees. Today, Michels is a top 50 construction company and a top 10 utility contractor in the country. Still family owned and operated, it has 5,000 employees and 9,000 pieces of equipment. Michels Power, one of about 20 divisions and sister companies founded by Michels, was established in 1997 when Michels acquired Superior Electric, for which Schulz had been a principal. Michels Power specializes in electrical line and substation construction and industrial\commercial\institutional electrical design-build construction.
Michels specializes in construction services, including pipeline construction, horizontal directional drilling, tunneling, road building, paving, cured-in-place pipe, communications, wind farm construction and electrical transmission and distribution. “Michels has worked all over the country and internationally. We regularly work in Canada and have done projects in Hong Kong and Israel,” Schulz said. Michels is headquartered in Brownsville, WI, is licensed in all 50 states and Canada and has 32 offices across North America.
INVOLVEMENT WITH NECA
Schulz was invited to become involved with NECA by Lloyd Jack, who founded Superior Electric in 1949. Since then, Schulz has served on the State Portability Sub-Committee, Apprenticeship and Training Committee, Pension Trust Fund, Health and Welfare Trust Fund, Labor Management Cooperative Committee and the NECA Energy Solutions Task Force. He has served as Division Director and has held every officer position in his chapter, including Board of Directors, President and Governor. Schulz received the NECA District 4 Industry Award in 2010.
“NECA has given me much more than I could ever give back,” Schulz said. “NECA is the best advocate for the electrical contractor to maintain and reach out for information to stay on the cutting edge of our industry.”
The ability to support a niche market by networking with fellow contractors and providers of services and supplies is another reason Schulz stays actively involved.
WHAT CHANGES HAS HE OBSERVED IN THE INDUSTRY?
The easy answer is technology, but the real answer is our changing economy relative to adapting ourselves and our employees to a global perspective in lieu of just the local marketplace.
“As an industry, we need recognize that we’re dealing with a global economy and not constrain ourselves by local politics. Our customers are not concerned with that; we need do their work where they are, from Sacramento to Syracuse,” Schulz said.
TIPS FOR SUCCESS
Schulz has a simple guideline for electrical contractors new to the industry: never forget your core business. Take those strengths to adapt your company to allow flexibility, creativity and change to keep pace with the influences of the marketplace.
OUT OF THE OFFICE
Jerry and his wife Mary recently celebrated forty years of marriage. The couple has three grown children and five grandchildren. Much of their free time is centered around their lakeside home, where family members frequently gather for boating and outdoor adventures. “I always tell the young people I’m coaching professionally that your career is important, but your family and spiritual achievements are above all other accomplishments,” Schulz said.
Coaching comes naturally to Schulz. He spent years coaching baseball and is past-president of his local Lions Club and Boy Scouts. He and Mary are very involved with their church community of First Congregational United Church of Christ in New London, Wis., where Jerry recently completed training as a Stephen Minister and enjoys singing in the choir.
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