A husband. A father. A rancher. The mayor of an Iowa town. Vice president of his company. Jim Ellis wears lot of hats for a man who hasn’t even hit the age of 40—and all of these achievements led to him becoming one of three finalists for Associated Builders and Contractors’ Young Professional of the Year award.
Ellis moved around a lot as a child, following his dad’s career as an air traffic controller. His father retired and they ended up in Iowa, where his uncle had an industrial electrical company. Ellis finished high school in the midwestern state and didn’t want to go to college. Ever since he could drive, he had worked. He was an auto mechanic for a while, but he knew he didn’t want to do it forever.
Ellis has now been with Price Electric for 17 years. He began as an apprentice, became a journeyman in his third year, and eventually became a foreman. He’s now head of the utility department and a vice president of the company, responsible for growth and expansion initiatives. Ellis was one of less than 30 employees when he started. The company now has more than 170 employees, and he expects to double that size in the next 10 years.
How does he plan to accomplish that goal? With a solid pipeline of apprentices, trained through the ABC Iowa Chapter, of course. “When I first got involved with ABC, I didn’t know the full value,” Ellis says. “I went through the ABC apprenticeship program, and I eventually began to see the legislative value in Iowa. Now I’m always trying to recruit new members.”
Ellis became a member of the Iowa chapter’s government affairs committee more than seven years ago, and he’s now in his third year on the board of directors. He’d like to serve another three years on the board and eventually become the chairman. The group accomplished some groundbreaking strategic planning last fall, and Ellis says there is a lot of good engagement and ideas circling right now. Their momentum is strong.
One of the most important aspects of being an ABC member, Ellis says, is the emphasis on safety. “At Price Electric, safety excellence is always the goal—and most of the time, that goal is met. We’ve been a part of ABC’s STEP program forever, and we have both a full-time safety officer and an engaged safety committee.”
Ellis developed a new utility division within Price Electric that has grown to be a huge success, creating opportunities for other young employees to develop their careers.
In the future, Ellis looks forward to being able to continually support industry growth through grassroots legislative efforts. He encourages employees to stay engaged with their local representatives to build relationships that help merit shop construction to thrive.
“To be successful, you have to be willing to step outside your comfort zone,” he says. “I feel our company does this very well. I am always sharing our best practices with others in hopes it helps them and the industry.”
Reprinted [or republished] from Construction Executive, June 11, 2020, a publication of Associated Builders and Contractors. Copyright 2020. All rights reserved.