ELKO — I&E Electric Inc. celebrates its 25 anniversary this year as an Elko-based electrical contractor.
“It’s kept growing and has continued to have success,” said Kevin Doerr, a company founder and co-owner. “So far so good.”
Doerr first started visiting Nevada as an employee of an out-of-state company working in the Ely oilfields. He was responsible for opening up new markets while his co-worker, Ken Ehrmann, conducted field work. In the process, the two recognized an opportunity.
“We felt like there was a need for somebody who was going to make Elko or Northern Nevada their home,” Doerr said.
That somebody was them.
“We started it from pretty humble beginnings,” Doerr said.
Doerr and Ehrmann started I&E Electric in an 800-square-foot brick building on Commercial Street in 1992. After about six months, Ken’s brother Steve Ehrmann joined as a partner. In the early years, all profits went back into the business, and the partners cashed out their savings to hire their first employee, Darian Getty.
Now, Getty is an owner, having purchased Ken Ehrmann’s portion when he retired about five years ago, and the company employs about 18 people.
“We try to be as competitive wage-wise and benefit-wise as we can,” Doerr said, explaining that pros of working for I&E Electric include regular hours, a short commute and small-business culture.
The team tries to employ Nevadans and likes to hire graduates of Great Basin College’s Electrical Systems Technology program, Doerr said. They ask employees to earn advanced training, requiring electricians to obtain their Mine Safety and Health Administration electrical cards and become journeymen.
“That’s not only a feather in their cap,” Doerr said. “It’s prideful to them.”
Those labels help when I&E Electric bids on projects at sites including mines. Doerr said major projects have included Newmont Mining Corp.’s Long Canyon and Leeville mines, and Barrick Gold Corp’s Turquoise Ridge and Cortez mines. The company also does projects for local businesses and commercial buildings.
“We still do a lot of things the mine doesn’t want to do,” Doerr said, explaining that his staff will do tedious wiring or large-scale projects. “As the mining business goes, we go.”
I&E Electric outgrew its downtown facility after about seven years. On Doerr Drive, the owners commissioned the construction of a 7,500-square-foot office with shop, along with a 5,000-square-foot warehouse to contain inventory such as wire, panel, tools and equipment.
Despite growth, Doerr said the company strives to maintain a personal “one-on-one” feel and support the community by donating to area high schools and the Boys & Girls Club.
“We’ve been a big backer of the boys and girls of the community,” Steve Ehrmann said.
I&E Electric donated $30,000 to the Boys & Girls Club in 2011 to build the facility on Country Club Drive, according to Elko Daily Free Press archives, and provides ongoing financial support to the organization.
That strategy, along with being local, Doerr said, helped the company weather the region’s economic busts when other nonlocal companies would not stay.
Doerr and Steve Ehrmann plan to retire within the next six years and leave the company in the ownership of employees.
That structure and culture “not only helps the folks who helped us, [but also it] gave us the opportunity to perpetuate the businesses, and hopefully, they’ll be as successful as we’ve been.”
The business news you need
With a weekly newsletter looking back at local history.