Walker Engineering

Walker Engineering picWalker Engineering maintains excellence in electrical engineering and construction projects by scoring touchdowns on some of the most complex projects in Texas.

By Janice Hoppe-Spiers

Walker Engineering is Texas’ electrical contractor. Maintaining the company’s 36-year reputation across the state for engineering expertise and high-quality electrical work has been a priority for cousins and second-generation leaders CEO Scott Walker and President Brent Walker.

“My father, Charlie Walker, PE, was an electrical engineer and prided himself on his design capabilities, which is why he called the company Walker Engineering when he founded it in 1981,” Scott Walker says. “He started with four people here in Dallas and grew the business up until he sold it to Building One Services Co. in 1998, which eventually became Encompass Electrical Technologies.”

Sensing a downturn at Encompass, Charlie Walker decided to get back into the business in 2002 and founded Walker Electrical. Walker couldn’t use the name Walker Engineering Inc. again until 2004 when Encompass filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. “We bought back all the assets in Texas and that helped jumpstart us and get us going again,” Scott Walker says. “We also bought all $65 million of ongoing jobs and finished all the projects on time.”

Walker Engineering prides itself on being Texas’ commercial electrical contractor by performing work in every major market throughout the state, including Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and Austin. “There is not one electrical contractor that covers the whole state like we do,” Scott Walker says. “As large as we are, our engineering expertise and strength of our field set us apart from the competition.” To date, Walker has more than 1,500 employees.

Staying the Best

A majority of Walker Engineering’s work is in healthcare and mission-critical construction. The Houston market has seen a rise in healthcare projects over the past several years in addition to some landmark projects such as the Houston Marriott Marquis Hotel that recently hosted the NFL for Super Bowl LI. Walker Engineering box

Dallas has seen a significant uptick in data center construction and private development projects recently with companies such as J.P. Morgan Chase, Liberty Mutual and TD Ameritrade moving their regional operation headquarters into the area. Austin and San Antonio have had a heavy mix of corporate expansions, higher education projects and mission-critical projects in recent years.

“Walker Engineering has a reputation for building the largest and most complex projects in the state of Texas,” the company says. “Our company motto is ‘Trust Built on Performance,’ and we strive every day to deliver that to our customers.”

To ensure it maintains a culture of excellence, Walker recruits top construction professionals from around the country and looks for those who are experts in their field, and who take quality and safety seriously. “My staff is always finding new ways to source talent, train workers and reduce turnover at our company,” Walker says.

Walker Engineering is increasing its focus on training and continuing education programs to set itself apart as an employer in the industry. “One of the big things we have learned is that employees want to understand how to better their careers and move up through the company,” he adds. “A lot of our top-level vice presidents are people who came up through the company from the field.”

The company expects its devotion to employee success and training will be a differentiator for it in the future. “We are investing in our employees and we want them here,” Walker says. “Our goal is to have the best workforce we can.” 

Kyle Field

Walker Engineering began electrical construction on Texas A&M’s Kyle Field in late 2013, which took about two years to complete. “The biggest challenge to that project was the schedule,” Walker says. “The renovation to the stadium was substantial and the first phase completely changed the east side and added a south end zone. Work on the project could only take place within the eight months between football seasons.”

Construction halted for the 2014 football season and started back up the following year to renovate the west side. To meet the construction deadlines, Walker had more than 300 electricians on-site at peak. “It was a 16-month construction schedule overall and the electrical contract was more than $50 million,” Walker says. “College Station wasn’t the easiest place to find electricians, but Walker was able to keep up with the schedule by allocating manpower from our other markets.”

More than 120 companies took part in the renovation of Kyle Field, so extensive planning became vital to the success of the project. “We also had a lot of supervisors and foreman on-site helping to line out work for our crews,” Walker explains. “The project team did a great job logistically staging it and ensuring our men had the materials they needed.”

Although the schedule was aggressive, safety is always Walker Engineering’s first priority. “Safety was the most important thing on this project,” Walker says. “It’s very important to our company that our employees go home safe every day. “

Safety Director Scott Sears, PE, CSP has more than 40 safety professionals reporting to him statewide and had a dedicated on-site safety team, as well as the support of Regional Safety Manager John Rosas overseeing the Kyle Field project. “During the Kyle Field renovation, we worked more than 600,000 manhours and did not have any lost-time injuries or recordables,” Walker notes. “The safety record we have on that project is really a testament to Walker’s people on that project. Company wide, our OSHA recordable incident rate is less than 1.0.”

Walker Industrial

When Scott and Brent Walker stepped into their respective leadership roles, a succession plan was put in place to ensure Charlie Walker’s legacy of excellence would continue with expanded growth, innovation and acquisition of the most talented professionals in the business. Scott and Brent Walker developed Walker Industrial two years ago to expand the company’s reach into new markets.

“Walker Industrial is focused more on true industrial electrical work, such as oil and gas, wastewater, food and beverage, automation and manufacturing projects,” Scott Walker says. “While we’ve done some significant industrial work in the past, we hadn’t traditionally pursued as large of volume for these types of projects but now we are focused on actively developing these segments of our company because we see the true market potential for these services and expertise.”

Walker Industrial President Jonathan Blanscet, PE started as an electrical engineer before he moved into preconstruction and business development for Walker. “As an engineer, Jonathan is uniquely equipped to understand the technical aspect of a project while being responsible for defining the strategic vision and leading corporate efforts of the business,” Walker says.

John Bartee is Walker Industrial’s executive vice president of operations and has spent the past 30 years working in the industrial construction industry where he gained experience in field operations, personnel management and project management. “John’s involvement in operations includes planning and scheduling of the workforce, monitoring on-site safety and productivity and ensuring quality control with an emphasis on customer satisfaction,” Walker says.

Hiring leaders and establishing an experienced workforce in industrial electrical work has been key to Walker Industrial’s success. “We have had a lot of success by actively recruiting people with professional backgrounds in industrial electrical, oil and gas as well as automation and controls,” Walker notes. “If we hire a guy who only has experience in hospitals and put him on an oilfield in west Texas, he’s not going to be successful.” 

The oil and gas industry in Texas is not as prosperous as it was four to five years ago, but Walker Industrial also focuses on out-of-state projects and opportunities to work with customers that have multiple locations. “Walker Industrial doesn’t just focus on Texas and travels a lot more than the commercial side,” Walker notes. “The industrial team knows they might have to go to Pennsylvania, Oklahoma or anywhere else if there’s a project.”

In Texas, Walker Industrial is working in a number of manufacturing facilities and on a number of wastewater projects. “Wastewater has been something the state is putting a lot of money into and there’s a lot of opportunity there,” Walker says.

Moving forward, Walker Engineering and Walker Industrial will continue to expand in Texas. “One of the areas for Walker Industrial to grow is in automation and controls, specifically programmable logic controllers (PLCs),” Walker says. 

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