White Plains elec­tri­cal con­trac­tor cel­e­brates 40 years

C.H. Attick Elec­tric Inc. passed down from par­ents to sib­lings

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By DAR­WIN WEIGEL dweigel@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @somd_bized­i­tor

Elec­tri­cal con­trac­tor C.H. Attick Elec­tric Inc. of White Plains has kept it all in the fam­ily for 40 years.

Started in a Green­belt base­ment in April of 1977 by Lu­cille Attick and her late hus­band Harry, who died in 2010, the com­mer­cial and in­dus­trial elec­tri­cal con­trac­tor has been in their chil­dren’s hands for the last 20 years. Traci Nor­ris of Bryans Road and her brother Tom Attick bought the busi­ness in 1998 and Lu­cille stayed on as she could un­til last win­ter, though she said she’ll still fill in when needed.

Look­ing back at the be­gin­ning, which started with a loan from friends Howard Ru­pard and his son Calvin — the C and H in the name — as well as a home re­mort­gage, Lu­cille said it started out small but quickly grew into a strong busi­ness with 80 em­ploy­ees.

“It was a scary time. Just mort­gag­ing your home and go­ing and start­ing a new busi­ness,” Lu­cille said. “We worked out of the base­ment in our home for six years, and then we built this [White Plains] build­ing.”

That was in 1983 and Lu­cille, who ran the of­fice from top to bot­tom, was still do­ing pay­roll by hand.

“Back in the be­gin­ning, when we were re­ally do­ing well, we had like 80 em­ploy­ees. It was back in the day when there were no com­put­ers,” she said of the pay­roll and book­keep­ing work. “It was a lot of work.”

Changes in the in­dus­try led to a smaller work­force, which now num­bers 18, and a move to what used to be all com­mer­cial work — re­tail, schools, of­fice build­ings — into heav­ier com­mer­cial and in­dus­trial work.

“It was of­fice build­ings and shopping cen­ters and schools,” Tom said. “In the last 10 years we’ve switched to more in­dus­trial work: waste­water treat­ment plants, pump sta­tions, gas work. It used to be all com­mer­cial and now it’s, vol­ume-wise, prob­a­bly 50/50.”

While the busi­ness has changed, the core group of em­ploy­ees have re­mained.

“In the last 20 years, it’s stayed pretty steady with this 18 [num­ber]. It’s pretty much the same 18 folks, too,” Tom said. “A lot of the folks who were here 20 years ago are still here, or at least 15 years.”

“Patty, down­stairs, she’s been here 32 years in June,” Traci added.

When they first bought the busi­ness from their par­ents, they had to weather a down­turn in com­mer­cial con­tract­ing but man­aged to stay busy enough to keep most of their core group of em­ploy­ees. The sib­lings at­trib­uted that to lo­ca­tion.

“We’re not re­ces­sion-proof but we’re cer­tainly in a lot bet­ter shape than the rest of the coun­try,” Tom said about the amount of gov­ern­ment-backed projects in the re­gion. “This area has usu­ally stayed pretty busy.”

A real boon for the busi­ness, aside from school con­struc­tion and de­fense projects, has been waste­water treat­ment plant up­grades com­mon in the last 10 years or so in the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay wa­ter­shed.

“Mar­ley-Tay­lor [Waste­water Treat­ment Plant] in Lex­ing­ton Park was our big­gest job ever by two or three times,” Tom said. “It was larger than any­thing else we [had done].” They’ve also done the elec­tri­cal con­struc­tion work for upgrade projects in Anne Arun­del, Calvert and Charles coun­ties. And they’re cur­rently work­ing on a large pump sta­tion project un­der the Vir­ginia side of the Woodrow Wil­son Bridge across the Po­tomac River.

“The Hunt­ing­ton Levee project is a re­ally in­ter­est­ing project. … They’re build­ing this levee that flows the water into a par­tic­u­lar area, which is the pump sta­tion. The pump sta­tion pumps it back out into the [Po­tomac] River,” Tom said. “When it’s com­plete, if they de­signed it prop­erly, that whole area (park and homes) will no longer flood. It’s a big Fairfax County (Va.) project.”

The com­pany has done the elec­tri­cal in­stal­la­tion work for nu­mer­ous build­ings and schools in Charles County, as well, and has the con­tract for the up­com­ing Dr. Mudd Ele­men­tary School ren­o­va­tion.

“A hun­dred years ago, we did the Charles County Gov­ern­ment Build­ing,” Traci said with a laugh.

“You can drive around and point at that one and that one and that one,” Tom added.

Be­fore and af­ter mov­ing the fam­ily down to Charles, Lu­cille and Harry did much of their work in Prince Ge­orge’s County and even a ho­tel in Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

“We did the Mary­land Trade Cen­ter in Green­belt,” Lu­cille said. “That was a 16-story high-rise. We also did a ho­tel down­town — Tu­dor Hall (The Hen­ley Park Ho­tel).”

All along the way, C.H. Attick Elec­tric has par­tic­i­pated in an ap­pren­tice elec­tri­cian pro­gram, pay­ing for the ed­u­ca­tion of its em­ploy­ees, Lu­cille said. The pro­gram al­lows peo­ple to work dur­ing the day and at­tend classes — cur­rently at North Point High School — in the evening twice a week for four years. They then be­come state cer­ti­fied.

“When they com­plete that, then they be­come a ‘me­chanic.’ We do a fair amount of wage-scale work, so the projects that are state or fed­er­ally funded dic­tate the wages,” Tom said. “Those wages are sig­nif­i­cantly higher than nor­mal con­struc­tion wages. If the em­ployee is in school and reg­is­tered with the state of Mary­land, then they’re el­i­gi­ble for those wages as well.”

“We cur­rently have four ap­pren­tices, and one’s get­ting ready to grad­u­ate,” Traci said.

“It’s a nice fea­ture that we of­fer, and it ben­e­fits us, too,” Lu­cille added.

While Traci is eye­ing re­tire­ment af­ter 40 years — she and Tom both have worked in the com­pany since high school and while go­ing to col­lege — Tom said he’s look­ing for­ward to the fu­ture.

“We’re look­ing for­ward to con­tin­u­ing the di­rec­tion that dad put us on,” Tom said.

“We’ve been very for­tu­nate. We’ve been blessed,” Lu­cille said. “I’m very proud of Tommy and Traci for tak­ing over and mak­ing us suc­cess­ful. I’m very proud of both of them.”

STAFF PHOTO BY DAR­WIN WEIGEL

From left, Tom Attick, his mother Lu­cille Attick and sis­ter Traci Nor­ris pose for a pic­ture out­side their White Plains busi­ness, C.H. Attick Elec­tric Inc. The com­pany is cel­e­brat­ing 40 years in busi­ness.

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