Still growing

Ask the staff at Frontier Electric what they think about the slow economy and they’re likely to respond, “What slow economy?”

In its 23rd year, the Vancouver-based electrical contractor is on track to see $4 million in revenue, up from $2 million in 2007. And the company’s staff roster has gone from 12 to 35 full-time employees this year.

“This is an amazing thing for me,” said President Larry Gibson. “The Lord has blessed us more than I deserve, because I’m not the smartest guy around.”

He founded the business in 1985 and learned the trade as a teenager while working for his father, Verlin Gibson, who then owned Gibson’s, a Meadow Glade, Wash.-based electrical contracting company.

His father continues to work with him, designing and building egress system control panels, along with his brother Jim Gibson, a project manager.

“I swore I’d never be an electrician and never a contractor,” said Larry Gibson.

But shortly after high school, he took a job with the former Mattson Electric in Vancouver. By the time he was 27, Larry Gibson founded Frontier and after five years bought out Mattson.

The company also acquired Vancouver-based Fire and Security Group in September.

So how has Frontier grown at such a rate while the national economy lags?

“That’s a good question,” said Larry Gibson. “Each of us can choose to participate or not (participate) in a recession. The hype builds on itself.”

Verlin Gibson recalled an acquaintance that ran a country store during the Great Depression.

“He decreased his stock,” he said. “He was so afraid of the Depression and didn’t want to stick his neck out. He created a Depression for himself and went out of business.”

Part of Frontier’s recent success came because it is not dependent on residential contracts. The company does general commercial electrical work and specializes in assisted living facilities, providing electrical design, line voltage wiring, alarm monitoring, television and phone wiring, security system design and installation, access, egress controls and maintenance of the systems they install.

“A lot of the bulge we’re feeling now came from existing customers doing more projects,” he said.

Those customers have stretched the company’s footprint across eight states, but most remain in Southwest Washington and Oregon.

“Maybe things are falling apart (nationally), but I can’t do anything about it,” said Larry Gibson. “I always need to protect my company, but I don’t feel the panic. I don’t think it’s wise to dwell on the fact that this world isn’t perfect.”

Frontier Electric

Larry Gibson, owner

7217 N.E. 99th St., Vancouver

360-892-4342

Charity Thompson can be reached at cthompson@vbjusa.com.

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