Carolina Conduit Systems Inc. (CCS) works hard throughout the Carolinas, Virginia, and Georgia to provide superior electrical and telecommunication conduit systems. From its home office in Clayton, N.C., CCS has been a key player in university projects across the Southeast for 16 years. â€œOur niche is downtown, underground utilities â€“ specifically, power and telecommunications,â€ explains Ronnie Stephens, founder, and president of CCS.
Stephens founded CCS in 1996, after gaining conduit experience during various large-scale new construction and infrastructure projects. â€œI started in 1990 installing Bell South duct banks in Atlanta and followed with work on the Olympic Stadium â€“ what is now the Braves stadium,â€ shares Stephens. â€œBefore that, I did a lot of cross-country fiber work.â€
Stephens is now the leader of CCS and its 65 employees. Under his leadership, the company has grown significantly and, now, generates $15 million to $18 million in revenue annually. Satellite offices in Charlotte and Chapel Hill, N.C., maintain company presence in key project areas. Partners throughout the region include Duke Energy and American Electric Power (CCS is a preferred contractor for both), as well as Dominion Power.
Spring Break Is No Vacation
CCS projects include work for various electrical contractors, Research Triangle Park, Cisco, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, North Carolina State University, and various municipalities in the region. CCS self-performs more than 90 percent of its work for these and other clients. Along with underground electrical duct banks, CCS rebuilds vaults and manholes, restores asphalt, sidewalks, curbs, gutters, flat concrete, and more, and all with its in-house workforce. For various specialty trades and supplies, however, the company relies on maintaining great relationships with its support companies. â€œWhatever you want, whenever you want it â€“ we are available to work 24/7,â€ says Stephens. â€œOur support companies have to be willing to do the same thing.â€ Immediately, accessible resources and logistical coordination are particularly imperative in university work, which often requires special scheduling. While students are on breaks, CCS is ready and prepared, working day and night to complete projects that would be too intrusive at other times. These projects often involve trenching across roadways, parking lots, or student gathering sites.
For instance, during the 2012 spring break at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Stephens says, â€œCCS dug up a high-traffic student patio area, installed the conduit and completely restored the patio area before the students came back.â€
CCS is currently working on a right-of-way build for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. â€œWeâ€™re doing initial infrastructure for what will eventually become the future â€˜Carolina Northâ€™ campus,â€ explains Stephens. â€œThere wasnâ€™t anything out there but trees. We took down all the trees and are taking power to the proposed campus from an existing substation. In addition, we installed a gas pipeline and the generator that is fueled by methane gas captured from the local landfill.â€
Other recent North Carolina projects include a duct bank at North Carolina State University. â€œThe project called for an alternate duct bank feed between the newer, satellite Centennial Campus and the 100-year-old Main Campus,â€ shares Stephens. â€œIt was a major job in the eyes of the university.â€
Another interesting current project is the Duke Power/Charlotte Streetcar Project, part of a general mission to create a vibrant and livable downtown center. â€œWeâ€™re relocating underground duct banks from under the path of what you and I would call trolley tracks, similar to light rail, but much like the old city streetcars, running east to west,â€ says Stephens. â€œThe Lynx light rail runs north to south, bringing passengers to uptown Charlotte, where they will be able to board the streetcar for east-west travel. The light rail, eventually, will be completed north to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.â€ The project broke ground December 2012.
With all the work CCS has going in a down economy, one might expect finding workers would be the least of CCSâ€™s problems, but finding people willing to work is, actually, one of CCSâ€™s biggest challenges. â€œThe bulk of our manpower is labor, and itâ€™s hard to find people who want to do that type of work,â€ reveals Stephens. â€œI have jobs that many local folks donâ€™t want to do. But my best and highest-paid foremen are the ones who got started in the ditch.â€ To address the labor issue CCS trains and promotes from within. Stephens has plans to expand CCS as he sees the potential his sector holds (more information on the companyâ€™s activity will be updated on its web site, www.carolinaconduit.com).
Time Is Money
Stephens will continue to work for power and communication providers ahead of the Charlotte Streetcar Project, as well as pursue contracts in Virginia, North and South Carolina, and Georgia. He plans to grow the company as the economy rebounds. â€œIâ€™m sure weâ€™ll expand in the future, but right now weâ€™re making the most of what we have until the economy recovers,â€ he says cautiously. â€œWe were on the way to being a $30 million-a-year company until the economy pulled the rug out from under us. Fortunately, we did not rely on residential construction.â€
In general, Stephens is optimistic and sees the economy wanting to recover. â€œMunicipal and institutional infrastructure will always need attention as our country grows,â€ he suggests.
Stephens has faith in the ability to increase CCSâ€™s activity and revenue because of the companyâ€™s quality and time management capabilities. This allows it to provide quality power and data cable housings to its clientsâ€™ specifications.
â€œOur biggest advantage is time,â€ touts Stephens. â€œWe have the ability to complete jobs on time, and time is so valuable. Each day you go over schedule is a big deal, and it is a big deal that we consistently avoid.â€
With Stephensâ€™s can-do attitude, his teamâ€™s hard work ethic, and the long string of in-depth projects; Thereâ€™s no doubt that Carolina Conduit Systems Inc. maintains the assets to continue on the path of prosperity.