The evolving business structure at Northern Powerline Constructors Inc. has been bringing some fresh opportunities to its table. In 2016, the company was purchased by Houston, Texas-based Quanta Services, leading to a change in leadership as vice president Jason Hodges became president at Northern Powerline Constructors (NPC). Hodges says the buyout was a strategic move that allows NPC to further develop into one of the top high-voltage construction and maintenance contractors serving Alaska’s utilities, municipalities, and oil and gas producers, in addition to other industrial customers.
“Quanta Services is here to help us grow,” Hodges said about the buyout. “The secret sauce is maintaining our core values, which are safety and taking care of our customers. We don’t intend to change the secret sauce.”
NPC has a long history of acquisitions that led up to their own. After purchasing assets of another company that Hodges worked for, he and April Hodges started NPC in 2006. Until recently, April Hodges was president leading the company through a steady growth period, including the purchase of Dimond Electric in 2012 and City Electric in 2015. Jason Hodges says the buyout by Quanta Services was a good opportunity to receive support from a company that understands the electrical industry.
Robert Reese, Line Superintendent at Municipal Light and Power, said Hodges has done a great job maneuvering through the challenges that come with growing a company.
“He has persevered over the years to be one of the best, if not the best, outside line contractor in the state of Alaska,” Reese said.
Maintaining consistent growth is something NPC has done well. In its first year, the company grossed $7 million, increasing to $11 million by 2012, reaching $34 million in 2016. The key, Hodges says, is making sure the customer is happy, a core value shared by Quanta Services.
The quality of their work shows in their most notable projects — particularly, the Fire Island Wind Project, which Hodges credits as the job that put NPC’s name on the map and resulted in an important relationship with Cook Inlet Region, Inc. (CIRI). Fire Island Wind is a commercial-scale wind project that uses wind turbine generators to generate 17.6 megawatts of power and 50,000 megawatt-hours of power to Chugach Electric Association annually. The overall goal of this project was to diversify Southcentral Alaska’s power generation resources by eliminating the need for 500 million cubic feet of natural gas each year.
NPC dug 10-plus miles of trench in the spring after a record snowfall in Southcentral Alaska (142 inches), meaning crews dealt with an extremely long period of muddy melt off. The complexity of the project equated to three jobs in one for NPC, all of which needed to be completed within a certain window. In addition to building a 2.5-mile overhead transmission line, crews also needed to work underground around high traffic areas in Anchorage and the Ted Stevens International Airport. Likewise, they had to develop unique ways to use a crane near the Tony Knowles trail to install conduits without disturbing the mud flats.
“It was an incredibly difficult job, but it worked out perfectly,” Hodges said.
Suzanne Settle, Senior Director of Energy Development for CIRI, says Hodges was instrumental in making NPC’s part of the overall project finish on time and on budget.
“He is organized and has a great team,” she said. “He made us feel confident that they would get the job done from the beginning.”
NPC received further recognition from Alaska General Contractors for the Fire Island Transmission Project when it was awarded the 2013 Excellence in Construction Award for a Specialty Contractor.
NPC has been an AGC member since 2006. Hodges says networking is the biggest benefit, since NPC is more of an energy contractor than a subcontractor. He says they take advantage of networking functions and sponsor spring trainings, in addition to taking advantage of AGC online plans service.
As for the future, Hodges says NPC will expand into Interior Alaska with a project in Fairbanks and Eielson Air Force Base. Likewise, NPC purchased Chatham Electric in Juneau this August as a way to move into the Southeast Alaska market. Overall, Hodges says the focus is on road jobs and infrastructure projects. As for their new working relationship with Quanta Services, Hodges emphasized that NPC will still be a locally run company and Hodges holds a guaranteed employment agreement until 2019.
“It is still an Alaskan company. That’s the appealing part,” he said. “We are able to focus on work here, continue treating people right and getting them safely through the day.”
Rachael Kvapil is a freelance writer and photographer living in Fairbanks.