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ELECTRI International Approves 7 Research Projects; Continuing Focus on Industry Education

Feb 10, 2020

NECA's foundation, ELECTRI International, held their annual Council meeting Jan. 22-24 at The Vinoy in St. Petersburg, Fla. More than 250 council members and guests were in attendance and participated in committee meetings and council programming which included presentations from NECA CEO David Long and NECA President Larry Beltramo.

ELECTRI International Executive Director, Joey Shorter, reports "The ELECTRI Council welcomed several first-time Council attendees and prospects this week and thanks Council members for their continued dedication and support of ELECTRI International and everyone in attendance for committing their time and leadership to assist in the production of industry education and research."

Presentations covered topics such as the future of the electrical industry, personal and business finance, technologies impacting the industry, Student Passport presentations, the Outstanding Apprentice Challenge, NECA College and nine research proposals.

During the meeting, ELECTRI Council members reviewed and approved seven of the nine proposals for 2020 research funding, titles are listed below.


ELECTRI Council Chair Sonja Rheaume, Christenson Electric, welcomed participants and began the meeting by thanking all Council members for an outstanding 2019. Rheaume noted that those serving on committees and research task forces are the backbone of ELECTRI’s efforts. Recognizing the work of Michael Parkes and the Program Review Committee, she pointed out there would be nine proposals for the Council’s consideration to fund in 2020 and that not all could be funded due to limits in research spending and an increased number of projects for selection. 

ELECTRI International will focus on providing the highest quality content making the EC industry stronger, more prosperous, more visible, and more secure. Rheaume added that NECA's foundation is successful when contractors use the results of our research, have a well-educated pool of professionals from which to hire new talent, and when there are many more contractors, NECA Chapters, and industry partners joining the Council. 

Rheaume challenged attendees to get involved in any of the ongoing committees and task forces, student initiatives, and especially opportunities such as the Innovation Summit and Cross Border initiatives. The ELECTRI International 2020 Paris Innovation Summit to be held May 12-17, puts ELECTRI at the forefront of international awareness by encouraging contractors from other countries to join in Foundation events and activities. 

NECA President and President of the ELECTRI Board of Trustees, Larry Beltramo, Rosendin Electric, then offered his perspective on the importance of ELECTRI’s research and education as a way to address the critical need for a qualified and committed workforce. Beltramo continued by emphasizing the impact of the Foundations research in shaping the training for owners, managers, supervisors and the electrical workforce. As the industry explores and develops new technologies, ELECTRI's ongoing work is critical for the day-to-day operations of our members and their companies.


NECA CEO David Long presented statistical information on ELECTRI International's past five years of conducted research. With the amount of money being spent per project vs. the number of member contractors accessing the research, Long challenged the Council to find new ways of communicating and marketing the research stating that "It's crucial to the continued success and growth of our contractors and industry partners." Long also opened the floor for Q&A in a town hall fashion. His style and accessibility through Q&A were welcomed by all in attendance.


Joel Martinez and David Carrera from California State University – Long Beach, presented their Student Passport Project, “RFID Parking Management SCADA System”.  Elijah Harvey from Pennsylvania State University NECA Student Chapter presented a project close to home “Philadelphia Solar Initiative Strawberry Mansion Community Garden Photovoltaic System”. The Council voted to fund the Penn State project.


Matt Topley, Fortis Wealth, presented to business owners on the topic “How Driven Entrepreneurs Can Benefit from High-Performing Family Offices”. With the challenges of business failures and the number of new small business start-ups declining each year, Topley encouraged business owners with the rewards of sound business operations and savvy business investment acumen.

NECA Director of Industry Innovation, Josh Bonecaptivated the audience with his presentation “Offsite Construction – The Myths, Methods, and Measurable Impacts”. The first day of the meeting concluded with the traditional welcome reception where attendees and Council members networked with spectacular sights of the Bay.  


On Thursday, eight researchers presented their proposals, with a ninth proposal added by the PRC for Council’s consideration for funding.  Council members were given the opportunity to ask questions on Friday before casting final votes. It has been determined that MCA’s projects are “in-kind” contributions. Including two “in-kind” research proposals brought by ELECTRI Council Member MCA researchers.

Seven out of the total nine research proposals presented during the meeting received funding for 2020:
  • Electrical Construction Management Training
    Ben Bigelow, Anthony Perrenoud and Matthew Reyes, University of Oklahoma
  • The Future of Line Contracting
    Michael McLin, Maxim Consulting
  • Estimating with and Pricing of Prefabrication for Electrical Contractors
    Meik Daneshgari, MCA, Inc.
  • Issues Preventing Small Union Business Growth
    Michael McLin, Maxim Consulting
  • VR Electricians: Using Immersive Storytelling for Attracting Students to the Electrical Trades
    Masoud Gheisari, University of Florida
  • Industrialization of Construction: Signal or Noise? Threat or Promise?
    Heather Moore, MCA, Inc.
  • Robots in Construction – Current Use in Electrical Line Work and Inside Construction, and Outlook for the Future
    Lonny Simonian, California Polytechnic State University


Co-founder and CEO of DADA, Jake Olsen, presented compelling examples of applied technologies for the use in the office and in the field. “Bridging the Digital Divide Between the Office and the Field” provided insightful information for improving productivity, communication, efficiency, and the bottom line.


No stranger to the ELECTRI Council, Dr. Charles Backes, delivered an exciting update about the NECA College Degree Program. As the Director, Backes is in conversation with as many as a dozen colleges and universities across the nation to bring options for NECA Contractors and their employees. The goal is to provide multiple opportunities for certifications, and associates, bachelors and masters degrees. A soft roll-out of courses is scheduled for early summer with more options available in fall, 2020. 


Shane O’Connell and Christopher Windle, apprentices from the Flint/Saginaw JATC presented their start-up business plan, “Two Guys and a Drone” as part of the Outstanding Apprentice Challenge. The competition, funded by ELECTRI International, is in its second year and will highlight the support and interaction of NECA Contractors with NTI and our industry's outstanding apprenticeship program. ELECTRI hopes to foster the idea of encouraging bright, new and innovative electricians to become business owners. 


Chris Griesedieck, Chairman and Managing Director, Zemenick & Walker, gave an exciting report to council based on high performing returns on ELECTRI’s investments portfolios in 2019.


After each presenter and or task force chairperson(s) had ten minutes for summary and Q&A, Rheaume addressed the Council and presented the PRC requirements for feedback. She announced the opening of ELECTRI's annual survey process, reminding attendees to respond to the open call for ideas on research topics and feedback of previous or completed research projects. Information from the survey is used to generate topic ideas and improve future research.

Rheaume also shared plans to maximize exposure to members and chapters through an informative and creative panel presentation during the 2020 AEI. Panel members will feature ongoing research projects and work with attendees to determine the best way to make ELECTRI industry research available and applicable to Chapters and members.

Rheaume shared that ELECTRI International works closely with NECA's National public affairs and education teams to share and repurpose the Foundation's research for practical applications and use by all industry constituents. ELECTRI is committed to excellence through research based on input and participation from each member of the Council. While the method and process for voting may be adjusted in the future, the full participation of the Council will always remain at the center of ELECTRI's research.