Electrician working at Ultium Cells early on in the project.

Electrical contractors charged up: Optimistic outlook for 2024

[Following is the NECA-IBEW’s submission in the recently published Business Journal Growth Report 1 issue]

A steady combination of commercial projects and residential work kept the energy high for NECA-IBEW Electricians in 2023. Overall, the signatory Mahoning Valley electrical contractors and IBEW union locals are keeping an optimistic outlook for 2024.

IBEW Locals 64 and 573 report that activity has cooled heading into the first weeks of 2024. However, the horizon is bright.

“Work is beginning on a new rehabilitation hospital on Belmont Avenue in Liberty, so we expect things to really kick up in 2024 with that project,” said Cody Hilliard, business manager, IBEW Local 64 in Youngstown. “We’re also hoping something will come through for the Meijer store in Austintown.”

Hilliard also mentioned there will be small-to-medium-sized projects for contractors in 2024.

Noteworthy projects for Local 64 in 2023 include the Youngstown Orthopedic Associates in Boardman and the Salem Regional Medical Center expansion in Columbiana.

Proposed plant project hopes

Significant man-hours were invested into the Ultium Cells plant in Lordstown for more than three years up through the first half of 2023.

“Work is starting to wrap up at Ultium, but there’s optimism for the months ahead. More development is proposed for Warren in the second half of 2024 with the announcement of the Kimberly-Clark plant,” said Tom Lipka, executive director, Mahoning Valley National Electrical Contractors Association.

Electrician working at Ultium Cells plant early in the project.
Electrician working on wiring early in the Ultium Cells project.

Local 573 is eager for the Kimberly-Clark job and will also play a role in the multimillion-dollar development at the West Warren Industrial Park.

“We’re hopeful that the workload will be picking up by the end of summer. The occasional work is also continuing at Foxconn,” said Mark Phillips, president/organizer, IBEW Local 573 in Warren.

Eyes on EV evolvement

With that upcoming development, plus the growing demand in the electric vehicle industry, Phillips predicts a busy next few years.

“It appears some car dealerships are putting time into preparing for EV with upgrades and installing charging stations. So, we’re looking to see more of that soon,” he said.

Smaller EV charger inside Greenwood Chevrolet service garage in Austintown.
EV charger installed inside Greenwood Chevrolet service garage in Austintown.

To that end, the Trumbull and Mahoning electrical training centers have been preparing both apprentices and journeymen for what’s ahead with EV work.

Strengthening the numbers

A strong push remains for the new year in terms of building the roster of electricians. Recruiting for the apprenticeship program, visits to schools and career fairs remain a priority.

“We’ll continue a heavy presence at the high school level and attend the Skilled Trades Expo. Local 64 is also hosting the SkillsUSA Northeast Regional Competition in February. Like every industry, we’re vying for the best and brightest,” Hilliard said.

Conduit bending demonstration at Mahoning Valley Skilled Trades Expo.
Students learning about conduit bending at the Mahoning Valley Skilled Trades Expo.

An important message regarding the electrical trade is that it’s not just a stepping stone – but an industry that provides a life-long career.

“We’re trying to catch kids early. Many realize college isn’t the only option now. The apprenticeship offers great pay, benefits, and you’ll be debt-free,” Phillips added. “It’s a career for anyone at any age.”

NECA-IBEW Electricians makes up a highly trained union workforce in the area. We’re an association of IBEW Local 64 in Youngstown, IBEW Local 573 in Warren and signatory electrical contractors throughout the Mahoning Valley.