WILLMAR — Willmar Electric this year celebrates 100 years in service, a testament to the quality of people they hire, according to David Chapin, president of Willmar Electric.
“When we hire somebody, we want to make sure they line up with our purpose statement and our core values,” Chapin wrote via email. “Each person who works at Willmar Electric is expected to treat others the way they want to be treated, meet our customer needs, be thrifty, and understand the merit shop philosophy.”
The merit shop philosophy gives both the company and the individual a chance to have an equal opportunity, according to Chapin.
“To make sure we aren’t treating people like a number. To make sure every contractor has a fair chance at all types of work,” Chapin wrote.
Prior to the pandemic, the company had plans for a public open house, as well as a family and employee banquet. While in-person gatherings were not possible, social media posts on April 20, the day of the anniversary, show employees and family members wearing 100th anniversary celebration T-shirts and other gear as they offer words of congratulations.
Willmar Electric Service was originally founded April 20, 1920, in Willmar by Chapin's great-grandfather Sam Chapin.
Two of Sam's sons, Elmo and Frank, joined the company in 1946, followed by Elmo's son John in 1968.
According to information from the company, John Chapin was a prime force in the growth of Willmar Electric. The electrical contractor branched out to Lincoln, Nebraska, in 1974 and to Lawton, Oklahoma, in 1978. All three locations remain today.
John's sons, David and Justin, purchased the firm in 2007 and are the fourth generation of the family to manage the firm.
As the fifth generation has started to work at Willmar Electric — David's son, Mike, has started to work as a pre-fab laborer with the company — the business has continued to take steps to make sure they continue to uphold the same values, according to David Chapin.
Chapin said he worked in the business as a kid as all the different generations have.
“We work through our lives as youngsters, counting inventory and doing little things like people would normally do inside of a family business."
“A lot of family businesses, people feel pressured to be in it and we never felt that pressure,” Chapin said during a follow-up interview. “We just liked the people that we had a chance to work with, and it was fun to work alongside your brother working alongside your dad.”
Throughout the generations, Willmar Electric has strived to serve its customers and deliver quality work — even through World War II.
“The world has changed a lot in the last 100 years, and Willmar Electric has changed with it,” Chapin wrote. “But Willmar Electric isn’t about passing a family business down from one generation to the next. It is about giving people a place to pursue their dreams and serve others.”
Willmar Electric offers electrical design and engineering for buildings such as schools, hospitals, courthouses, hotels and correctional facilities. In addition to electricians, the firm employs electrical and communication engineers, designers and other technicians with experience in industrial, commercial and institutional design.
Notable local projects with which the company has been involved in recent years include the Carris Health Surgery Center in Willmar, the Bethesda Wellness Center in Willmar, the new Hutchinson High School, and Scandi Haven Village senior living and memory care in Benson.
This year their crews have worked on or are working on projects at Benson High School, Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City Schools and the Wright County Justice Center, as well as Kennedy Elementary School in Willmar and the United Community Action Partnership's new Head Start Center in Willmar.
Willmar Electric employs 145 people and has worked in more than 30 states and 15 countries, but its roots are central to its identity.
“We started in Willmar, and Willmar is in our name. When we work in other states, they refer to us as Willmar. It is our hometown and always will be. I’m sure 100 years from now when we are celebrating our 200th anniversary, we will still be correcting people on how to pronounce our name,” Chapin wrote.