Pelican Wire Company Inc.

Performing Precision Engineering Through Employee Ownership

In mid-April 2013, Governor Rick Scott of Florida held a news conference to happily announce that the state unemployment rate dropped below 7.5 percent and more than 32,000 private sector jobs were created since the beginning of the year. Scott chose the highly regarded Florida-native Pelican Wire Company Inc. (Pelican Wire) as the venue for the celebrations.

Since 1969 employee-owned and –operated Pelican Wire has been serving southwest Florida with precision manufacturing, making a positive impact on the local economy. Today the company resides as one of Florida’s leading custom manufacturers of appliance, bare resistance, floor heating, insulated and thermocouple wire. Pelican Wire specializes in 50- to 2-gauge diameter wire alloys for a diverse range of applications, from industrial to medical, to defense and aerospace. Over the course of 44 years, Pelican Wire has grown from a small, two-person shop to one of the most influential companies in the southern U.S.

Pelican Wire was originally founded by Larry and Theresa Bill in Illinois, where Larry worked for a cable company. In 1976 the couple decided they wanted to move south. Larry, who had always had a small wire running business on the side, thought the concept would take off in Florida; the couple uprooted and set off to make their southern ambitions come true.

“The company started off as a small mom-and-pop shop in Naples, Fla., with my mother [Theresa] taking orders and handling the bookkeeping while my father [Larry] designed products and ran the machines,” recalls Ted Bill, second-generation president and CEO of Pelican Wire. “We’ve come a long way since my parent’s original vision, with more than 60 employees and a 33,000-square-foot manufacturing facility. However, what really sets us apart is our employee ownership.”

A Natural Transition

Ted admits the move to employee ownership was a natural course for Pelican Wire. “My parents always felt that employees should be empowered to think and act like owners and take responsibility for the company’s success,” Ted says. “After my father passed away in 2008, my mother and I began to actively pursue an employee stock ownership plan [ESOP].”

A Ted recalls, putting the ESOP in place was time-consuming and an expensive effort. “My mother and I wanted to do it, though,” Ted explains. “We felt it was the best way to honor my father’s ideals while setting the company up for long-term success.”

Ted took over in his current position after his father’s death in 2008. “I grew up watching my parents grow this business,” Ted says. “As long as I can remember I’ve tried to help them in any way I could. When I was in elementary school I would sweep the showroom floor, and as I grew older I would talk to vendors and customers.”

Pelican Wire is now a 100-percent employee-owned corporation. To earn company stock, employees must work for Pelican Wire for one year, putting fourth at least 1,000 hours of service. “Out of our 60 employees, about 38 to 40 are participants of our ESOP program,” reveals Ted. “That number is growing, of course, as newer employees put in their time. “

Each year, Pelican Wire contributes to the trust, which owns the company’s shares. “As the note principal is paid down, shares are released to the participants in the program,” explains Ted. “Employees are given annual statements that show the number of shares they have accumulated, as well as the current value of those shares. The ESOP program also gives us a competitive edge on the federal level because we don’t pay income tax.”

Highly Engineered Products

Pelican Wire is a leading producer of custom wire and cable products, focusing on the design of resistance wire and thermocouple wire used for electrical heating and temperature measurement. “We have five fully trained, certified engineers on staff,” shares Ted. “Our top-selling product is our heat-resistant wire. This product is used for electrical heating in everything from aircrafts to asphalt and medical applications. We also produce thermocouple wire, which can withstand a various extremes at both high and low points.”

In 2012 Pelican Wire was recognized as the Southwest Florida Manufacturer of the Year for the team’s commitment to quality, precision-engineered products. The Southwest Regional Manufacturers Association (SRMA) recognized the company for its dedicated employee-owners working around the clock to produce and ship products for customers in the defense, aerospace, medical, plastic cutting, dentistry and ceramic fields. Through excellent company culture and the drive and expertise of each individual employee, the SRMA believes Pelican Wire is uniquely positioned to provide the best-in-class quality services to a global customer base.

“I see opportunities for growth in our future,” shares Ted. “I expect this year to be a double digits compared to last. Although the economy has slowed down over the past three years, we can’t go back in time. We just have to look at the current situation and figure out where we can excel.” Pelican Wire Company Inc. continues to do just that, excelling through invested employees and products that perform.

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