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Close-Up: Phil Petersen

New Dynalectric president cites client satisfaction as key to firm's TI success

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Tanned and affable, Phil Petersen claims he isn't as easygoing as he appears.

"I've always been competitive," he said in a recent interview. "I've always worked hard. I actually had people tell me I'd be here one day."

"Here" is his new position as president of Dynalectric San Diego.

Founded in 1970, Dynalectric provides fully integrated design-build electrical services and has offices in nine states. Dynalectric is a wholly owned subsidiary of EMCOR Group (NYSE: EME), a Fortune 500 company and global leader in mechanical and electrical construction, energy infrastructure and facilities services.

Phil Petersen

David Raspolich, who has been president of the San Diego office since opening it in 1985, said: "Six or seven years ago, we started grooming Phil for the position. He was a standout in the field."

Petersen, who celebrated his 50th birthday in June, was a field electrician in the apprentice program in 1988. He'd never worked in an office until Raspolich tapped him for project manager of the Koll Center four years later. Six years after that, Petersen was promoted to executive vice president and has been running the day-to-day operations since.

"I targeted him early on as someone who would move up," Raspolich said. "Phil is one of the most intuitive people I've met. He understands our success depends on our relationships with our customers. He has established some great client relationships over the years. He is well-liked and respected.

"He's been doing the job for the last two years," said Raspolich, who will take his mentoring and oversight skills to manage succession plans in Dynalectric's Western region. "The transition will be seamless. People won't even notice a difference."

Dynalectric San Diego's staff of 400 is composed of over 300 union electricians and specialists in design, installation, commissioning and maintenance of tel-data communications, HVAC and fire/safety installations. Full-service capabilities include complete pre-construction services, new construction and tenant improvements for offices, hotels, manufacturing plants, health care facilities, pharmaceutical labs and plants, and residential high-rises.

A long list of downtown projects includes Hotel El Cortez, San Diego Trust and Savings building (that was converted to the Downtown Marriott), Omni Hotel, City Front Terrace and DiamondView Tower.

Petersen credits the company's longevity to the depth of projects completed over the years for repeat clients such as ROEL Construction Co., Swinerton Builders and DPR Construction.

"We don't specialize in TI, or large hotels or pharmaceutical plants," he said. "We do it all. We have a process where we plan upfront that allows us to change as the market cycle changes."

Six years ago, to meet both demands of the downtown construction boom and a trend toward "smart" buildings, the company formed Dynalectric Service and Systems Group, which provides sophisticated, fully integrated electrical systems incorporating fire alarm, standby power generation, security systems, wireless networks and tel-data communications.

Tenant improvement contracts have been a constant source of revenue for the company, which has done all the tenant improvements for downtown's One America Plaza and 655 Broadway. According to Petersen, Dynalectric's projected 2007 revenue of $90 million include $25 million in TI projects.

The company recently finished a TI project for ROEL Construction Co. at Qualcomm's (Nasdaq: QCOM) campus, which included completely renovating three buildings and encompassed a new design-build fire alarm system, electrical lighting control system and updated lighting. The $10 million contract also included a new cogeneration plant, data center, research labs and office space.

DPR Construction awarded the company a $10 million TI contract for Intuit's (Nasdaq: INTU) new headquarters off the 56 corridor in Carmel Valley. According to project manager John Price, the 480,000-square-foot, four-building project houses a commercial cafeteria, full workout facility, state-of-the-art service suite, gaming room and a combined 12 floors of office space. Dynalectric provided the electrical, mechanical and fire-alarm systems, plus the infrastructure for tel-data, security, A/V conduits and cable.

The $10 million electrical TI contract is the exception rather than the rule.

"A good-sized contract is in the $250,000 range, but most of them are much smaller," Petersen said. "They're not large jobs." Electrical work in the TI market is competitive because it's simple, fast and the cash flow risk is minimal compared with the financial resources required for design-build projects.

"We've remained competitive because of our pre-fab capabilities and our clients have been loyal," Petersen said. "We do a lot of repeat business in that area. We just got a $5 million TI for Grossmont Hospital -- three floors in the critical care unit."

Petersen is quick to give credit where it's due.

"Our TI group has maintained a consistent level of projects over the years," he said. "We're probably one of the few union electrical contractors that do that."

Dynalectric Service and Systems Group project manager Terry Gilbert cites the domino effect for the steady TI workflow.

"A new building goes up and people want to be the first in," he said. "It creates a domino effect throughout the city, people moving from one area to another, trying to upgrade their surroundings."

Petersen sees an emerging trend in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, a standard rating system developed the U.S. Green Building Council to measure sustainability, environmental and human health in five major areas: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environment quality.

"I see inklings of it now and then," Gilbert said. "It hasn't hit completely yet. It's the next wave."

With a project backlog stretching beyond 2008, the future looks promising for the company and San Diego.

"I don't see San Diego slowing down," Petersen said. "There are a lot of projects coming up: resort, secondary education, government housing."

Petersen's challenge is to keep the company exciting so it doesn't become stale in the marketplace.

"We'll keep doing as we've done in the past," he said. "The same way I got here: by letting the people in the field have the power and the knowledge and the responsibility to get the job done."


James is a San Diego-based freelance writer.

Dynalectric Co.

Address: 9505 Chesapeake Drive, San Diego, CA 92123

Phone: (858) 712-4700

Web: www.dyna-sd.com

Business description: Dynaelectric is a leader in complex, fully integrated design/build services for electrical, telecommunications, audio/video and fire/safety installations, as well as instrumentation and process controls, building automation and power generation.

Year established: 1985

Number of employees: 350

Parent Company: EMCOR Group Inc.

President: Phil Peterson

CFO: George Gowland

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