The Business of Family

Family-owned L-A Electric of Fort Wayne celebrates 25 years of hard work and accomplishments.
9/1/2013
Jennifer Blomquist
Steve Vorderman

L-A Electric is breathing new life into an old hospital.

“There is a lot of work being done concerning Cameron Memorial Community Hospital in Angola,” says Bill Arnold, president of L-A Electric in Fort Wayne. “We are doing all of the electrical work; it’s really great to be involved in a project of this magnitude.”

Arnold says he is pleased and proud that his company was chosen to get the job done. He and a former business partner started L-A Electric and built it from the ground up 25 years ago. 

“We’ve done everything from medical offices to cattle barns,” Arnold says.

L-A Electric focuses on commercial and industrial electrical contracting projects and has become a well-established name in the field. 

“When my partner and I started the business in 1988, we had been working for a construction company,” Arnold says. “I always wanted to run my own business, so the two of us turned in our resignations on a Friday afternoon and started our new jobs the next day.”

They rented a small office for the first couple of years and worked on card tables instead of desks. The early years were tight.

“My wife, Mary Lou, and I had four young boys at the time and there were several months that I went without pay; we didn’t have any insurance either,” says Arnold. “But it really wasn’t as stressful as it sounds because we knew what we were going to do and Mary Lou was very supportive.”

All four of Arnold’s sons work for L-A Electric and Mary Lou has also been involved with the business.

“We truly are a family business, not just a family-owned business,” says Scott Arnold, executive vice president of L-A Electric and Bill and Mary Lou’s son. “We have nine sets of brothers working with us and three generations of two different families have also worked with us.”

Scott says the family philosophy plays a large role in the company’s hiring process.

“We don’t necessarily have a position open and then find the person to fill it. Instead, we find the person first and the position creates itself. It’s about finding the right people.”

The Arnold family has seen a tremendous amount of change in the last 25 years in terms of technology and competition. And while they’ve tweaked the company to stay ahead of the game, some things remain the same.

“Our biggest niche has always been quality and price,” says Scott. “We’re a very lean operation. We don’t have a flashy building or major overhead investments. But we do have very knowledgeable and skilled employees who have been with us for a long time.”

L-A Electric’s reputation has earned the company dozens of sizable jobs in northeast Indiana and northwest Ohio including Parkview Field in downtown Fort Wayne, Women’s Health Advantage, ONE (Orthopedics Northeast), Fort Wayne Orthopedics and Goshen Hospital. 

Adding to its list of credentials, the company created a division of L-A Electric three years ago called Premier Communications. It’s a commercial and industrial structured cabling installer offering a variety of services including cabling infrastructure design, voice and data cabling, fiber optic cabling and fire alarm installation.

“We’re very growth-oriented,” says Scott. “And not only in the electrical division, but also with Premier. We want to expand our footprint and develop outside of northeast Indiana and northwest Ohio.”

Speaking of growth, both Scott and Bill say they’ve outgrown the space on Till Road in Fort Wayne that they’ve inhabited for the last 23 years and are looking to move.

“We will definitely stay in Fort Wayne,” says Bill. “Even though we’re relocating, our philosophy and structure will stay the same.”

And the company’s foundation that was built on family will also remain.

“Because this involves our whole family, it’s not just a job to any of us,” says Scott. “On one side, that can make it more stressful. But on the flip side, you know you’re dealing with people who really care about the company and how customers are treated. There’s a higher level of trust when you’re dealing with family.”

Bill said he never really encouraged any of his sons to work for L-A Electric, it was just something that happened.

“They all came to me at various times and asked if they could work for the company,” says Bill. “And Scott was exactly right when he said this isn’t just a job to any of us—it’s our lifestyle.”

After 25 years, Bill is contemplating taking a step back and letting his sons assume some of his responsibilities.

“I’ve had 25 great years; now it’s time to pass the baton. But I know I’ll never really retire. As long as they give me a place to sit in the office, I’ll be here.”

L-A Electric

Phone: (260) 497-0520

Website: l-aelectric.com, premiercommfw.com

Years in Business: 25

Number of Employees: 95

Products & Services: Commercial and industrial electrical contracting

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