Power Grid Engineering LLC
Sometimes, when something isn’t getting done right, you have to do it yourself. That’s how Michael Wright, Andre Uribe and Glenn Durie felt as colleagues at Florida-based Progress Energy, which is now known as Duke Energy.
“All three of us worked in the same row of cubicles at the time,” recalls Michael, president of Power Grid Engineering LLC (Power Grid). “At Progress Energy we designed protection and controls for their transmission systems, but when some of the work was subcontracted out to third-party vendors we found that many contractors were delivering poor-quality work.”
Michael and his coworkers were the ones paying the price. “We were catching the errors and having to work late and even come in on weekends to meet our deadlines,” explains Michael. “We thought, if we had our own engineering firm, we could do it right and do it better, and one day we started researching and talking more seriously about what that idea would take to implement.”
Hit the Ground Running
Michael and his partners knew getting the idea off the ground would require some support from Progress Energy. “We decided the key would be for Progress Energy to give us some of the projects it was originally planning to subcontract out,” he explains. “We sat down with our boss and director and they supported us; we had projects from the get-go.”
Michael, Andre and Glenn officially established Power Grid in 2007, specializing in engineering, design and consultation for the power systems industry, turning frustrations into success. “It was a win-win for us and for Progress Energy,” says Michael. “We got to start our own business immediately and Progress Energy got a firm they knew and could trust with big projects; in fact, Progress Energy remains our largest client today.”
Although Power Grid practically hit the ground running in 2007, Michael, Andre and Glenn started small and worked from their homes with the help of just three employees in the beginning. “The first few years were a little slow, but we bought a building and began ramping up our services,” recalls Michael. “We were lucky enough to be in a good position from the start. Most power engineering firms start out with small utilities like municipals or cooperatives, but we started our firm working with the big boys, which gave us credibility with other large utility companies. We began to expand into field testing and commissioning, and since then we’ve grown beyond protection and control engineering.”
Staying in Control
Power Grid’s headquarters remain in Winter Springs, Fla., but the company now serves clients across the country. “We have two offices in Florida and also in Alabama, Kansas and North Carolina,” reveals Michael. “Our second largest client is in Georgia, where we have field staff doing testing and commissioning on a full-time basis. We also provide engineering for investor-owned utilities throughout Florida, North and South Carolina, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Virginia, Massachusetts and many others throughout the U.S.; we travel far and wide for our clients.”
Power Grid offers a wide array of electrical engineering services, including protection and control, field services, power systems training, distribution solutions, communications systems, transmission systems planning, as well as power systems planning, and more recently, substation design.
“Everything we do is for large electric utilities, protecting them from short circuits, power outages and system failures,” explains Michael. “If there’s a lightning strike, if a power line falls on the ground or there’s a short circuit on the power system, that’s what we mean by protection and control and we do that by working with breakers, transformers and substations.”
Power Grid applies control systems so advanced that a utility company 250 miles away can easily and effectively monitor and control substations. “They can sit back at their control station and know the breakers are closed, the lines are energized or how much power is going through a transformer or a line,” Michael details. “We give them the control to turn systems on and off.”
It is evident that Power Grid has a passion for engineering solutions done right. Michael and his team believe that quality control has been the key to the company’s success. “Our business model requires us to get repeat business from our clients,” he explains. “And the only way our clients will keep giving us work is if we provide quality work, delivered on time and focus on that repeat business.”
After only seven years in the industry, Power Grid has grown by leaps and bounds. “We started out with just protection and control engineering and now we offer a whole string of services and we’re looking to grow that within the utility industry,” shares Michael. “We’ve grown over 700 percent in the last three years and we now have more than 100 employees, but growth is always a challenge.”
Michael says Power Grid’s biggest challenge is holding onto a small startup company feel while growing on a national scale. “We have the overhead to handle expansion now, but we’re always working on maintaining a family-oriented environment, because we don’t want to forget the culture that enabled our growth,” he details.
For a company less than a decade old, Power Grid has already been named the third-fastest growing engineering company by Inc. 5000, in addition to landing a spot as one of ENR’s Best Engineering Firms. To top it off, Michael and his partners were named regional finalists in the 2012 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award. From a three-man team in a cubical world to a national power industry player, Power Grid Engineering LLC has emerged as force to be reckoned with.