There's no doubt that training gives union electricians a leg up, but potential clients don't always get the expertise they require when they let their fingers do the walking. Lists of available electrical contractors in metropolitan Chicago often leave clients with the impression that all firms are equipped with identical skill sets, and to a degree they are. But which have the right certifications for projects, the price structure to meet a particular budget, the mobility to travel long distances and the size and skill sets to get the job done right?
"If we hand the client a list of the 635 companies we represent, is that helping them? Not much," says Frank Peters, trustee and secretary with LMCC/Chicago, the partnership between International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 134 (IBEW 134) and Electrical Contractors' Association (ECA) of Chicago. "If we can't match customers with the price, skills and locations they require, they can – and will – look elsewhere. The last thing we want is for a customer to call a firm, believing the firm to be qualified, only to hear, "Sorry, we don't do that type of work."
Which is why LMCC is launching an on-line database that not only includes members, but sorts them in accordance with variables ranging from location and size, to experience and dollar volume. To participate, LMCC members need only complete a short survey. To date, about 170 companies have responded, though LMCC hopes to involve as many of its members as possible.
"We understand we're not likely to achieve 100-percent participation," says Peters. "Some firms are suspicious about disclosing the nature of their work, which is why we explain that we're requesting information that will only help them. Other firms express interest, but say, 'I'll get to it later.' The bottom line is, if we don't have a company's information, we can't pass it on to a customer that has a specific job in mind. Firms that participate may receive opportunities they otherwise wouldn't."
As a result, LMCC will continue to solicit members to participate and, upon request, update information about firms that have completed the survey.
LMCC began work on the database in 2012 and began collecting information on it in 2013. As of April the new database is up and running on necaibew.com.