Chapter Corner

Where We Have Been and Where We Are Going

Posted in: President's Message, January/February 2016

Hovanec web.jpgTo truly know an electrical contractor, you must know their story. 

All of us here have been on a journey within the electrical industry. Although everyone’s journey is different, the path we travel is largely the same. We work, we learn, and we move ahead. Some of us started in a family business, others got into the business because it is what their father, grandfather, or another relative did for a living. For me, it was purely by chance that I ended up in the electrical industry.  

When I began my senior year of high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do for a career. I decided to transfer into a Cooperative Industrial Education Program, where I could spend a week in the classroom and a week working 40 hours at a job. On the first day of class, I was provided a brief description of available jobs with local employers. At first, I did not hear anything that interested me, but then the teacher said they had a job with a local electrical contractor. I had a cousin who was an electrician; I specifically remembered him coming to the house and changing out a bad three-way switch in my parents’ home. I thought my cousin was doing pretty well, so I volunteered. 

The experience with the contractor was great. However, when I graduated high school at 17 years old my employer had to let me go because I could not be insured until I turned 18. After splitting the next year between building speaker cabinets and assembling heart catheters, I finally landed a job with another electrical contractor. 

Unfortunately, the contractor declined to sponsor me in a registered apprenticeship program, because when he saw the periodical wage increases on the paperwork he said, “You mean I have to pay you for this.” So I opted to make my own way through vocational school to become a journeyman electrician.

In one of life’s many twists and turns, I ran into a former vocational school classmate. He had become a licensed electrician and gone into business for himself. I worked a couple jobs with him at night and was eventually asked to become a full partner, which I accepted.

Soon after, I ran into the journeyman I had begun my career working under. In the course of our conversation, he told me that he had started his own electrical contracting business. Upon discovering I had done the same, he invited me to become a member of a New Jersey 

In our business, there are always things we see that we question. We wonder why a particular code, regulation, or law was put in place, or why it had not. I thought, “How can I successfully promote change? How can I make a difference in this industry? How can I make the electrical industry better and even safer for the general public?”

I quickly realized that if I was going to make a difference in the electrical industry it would be through a membership in an electrical trade association. While I continued to grow my business, my involvement in the association also grew. I moved from a small local county chapter to the association’s statewide Government Affairs Committee. I eventually became the Government Affairs Chairman and, not long afterward, was elected to the state association’s executive board and eventually became its president.

Several years later, the NJ-IEC was formed by Gene Mini. Gene has worn many hats in IEC, including national president and chairman of the IEC Foundation. At his urging, I joined the NJ-IEC, stepping right in as chair of the NJ-IEC Government Affairs Committee.

During my tenure as chair of the NJ-IEC Government Affairs Committee – and with a great group of guys behind me – we were successful in having six NJ legislative bills signed into law. All of the bills dealt with electrical contracting and public safety. In addition, we successfully amended countless other legislative bills.

I have worked on both the local and national level in the government affairs arena. I served as an IEC Northeast Regional Director and IEC National Legislative Chairman before moving onto the National Executive Committee. And today, I am both proud and humbled  to be your 2016 National President.

IEC has come a long way since I first became a member, but we recognize that there is always more to do.

One item of focus is moving forward with the next phase in our branding campaign aimed at making the investment in an IEC membership “a must” for every merit shop contractor. The increased marketing will aim to solve the #1 problem facing today’s contractors...manpower.

We will also be focusing on emerging technologies and keep our membership informed on what might be coming ahead, which can threaten or provide growth opportunities for their business.

We will continue our focus on what can be done to bring the IEC Apprenticeship Program to the next level. Including, determining what can be added to the program that would allow our apprentices to graduate with an associate’s degree.

We will continue to focus on membership. IEC is in the midst of our second annual membership campaign. Judging by the success of our first campaign, I believe the current one will be even more impressive. One byproduct of membership growth is a stronger Government Affairs Program, which will aid in meeting the financial goals of our PAC/PEF Committees.

I am often asked why I do what I do and my answer is always the same, “I go to bed every night knowing I have made a difference in the Industry in which I make my living.” 

I know my story is not unique. Many of you have followed a similar career path and have made a positive difference in our industry. Working together with IEC, we will continue to grow and prosper while we make our own mark in an Industry that we not only make our living but also love. 

Joseph Hovanec Jr. is IEC’s 2016 National President. As the principal elected officer of the association, Hovanec serves as the National Chair to the Board of Directors, House of Delegates, and Executive Committee. Hovanec is the president of Advanced Electric Design & Service in Rahway, New Jersey. With a career that spans over 35 years in the electrical industry, Hovanec is extremely knowledgeable on where we have been and the direction we need to go.