[Kansas City, Mo. July 17, 2023] – In a bold move during the challenging times of a global pandemic, 53-year old, 4th generation privately-held Electrical Corporation of America (ECA) embarked on a significant transformation by transitioning into an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP). This strategic decision positions ECA for continued growth and prosperity during a time of leadership changes, fosters a strong sense of ownership among its workforce, and capitalizes on emerging technology in the market.
Having contemplated the idea of an ESOP for several years, the previous CEO, Don Laffoon, and executive team paved the way for this transition as part of their succession plan. As the torch was passed to Jason King, ECA’s current chief executive officer, Laffoon assumed the role of chairman of the board for the ESOP, maintaining company stability and continuity of leadership despite the challenges all companies faced during the pandemic.
With over 500 electrical union contractors in the field and approximately 40 working in ECA’s Kansas City-based headquarters, the ESOP presents a unique opportunity for all eligible staff members to become shareholders and actively participate in the company’s success. As one of the largest craft contractors in the Midwest, ECA prides itself on its strong commitment to its employees and the community.
Over a year into the ESOP journey, the transition has been a resounding success. The company is still in the buyout phase from the previous owners, and the ESOP’s first valuation has yielded positive results. King says, “The ESOP structure has not only brought significant financial benefits and retirement security to the employees, but also has had a profound impact on the company’s internal culture, transforming it into a ‘destination company’ in an era when such organizations where employees can start and retire from their careers are rare.”
Shortly after the establishment of the ESOP, ECA embarked on yet another significant milestone. It acquired another business, Heartland Electric. King explains, “Doing the ESOP was a change, plus we had a new leadership team getting settled. But, Heartland approached us with the idea. Due to similar cultures and deep talent pools, the acquisition made perfect sense and aligned with ECA’s vision for growth.”
ECA’s commitment to internal training and development has played a pivotal role in its success over the years. All company executives have risen through the ranks, starting in the field, and an impressive 95% of project managers have been cultivated internally. This cradle-to-grave approach to project management has garnered tremendous trust from clients, who benefit from working with a project manager who possesses extensive knowledge and experience in their field, similar projects, and even clients.
“We focus heavily on mentorship. We believe in bringing up the people behind you. In fact, our team members aren’t promoted until they have mentored the person who will move into their position,” says King.
Acknowledging the declining number of workers in the construction trades, ECA’s leadership team has proactively adapted to this trend. With a strong emphasis on mentorship, the company prioritizes investing in the growth of its employees. ECA also has a robust internship program. Summer internships provide invaluable opportunities for field experience, allowing college-level and occasionally high school-age students to learn hands on about the industry. By nurturing talent and providing hands-on experience beyond their specific roles, ECA actively contributes to the betterment of the trades industry as a whole.
King says, “Looking ahead, we’ll remain vigilant in preparing for emerging trends and future opportunities. With plans to expand its presence in every market, ECA is strategically positioning itself to capitalize on the nation’s growing need for large data centers and electric vehicle infrastructure. By staying ahead of technological advancements and industry developments, we intend to maintain our status as a leader in power technology.”