Other Opinions

Building communities begins with fewer barriers for small construction companies

Throughout the Golden State and across the nation, May was celebrated as “Small Business Month,” a time to draw attention to the mom-and-pop shops that help color the culture of the communities they serve. It is especially important for me to highlight the impact local, family run construction businesses have in building and supporting our communities.

I am proud to be associated with such a family business. Harris Electric specializes in residential, commercial and industrial projects. We are based in Fresno and have served the Central Valley for the past 55 years. Harris Electric was founded in 1964 by Tom Harris. When he retired in 1987, Tim Bremer (my father) took the reins and became owner. He started as an employee there in 1974 and has built up the company ever since.

With more than 40 years of experience, he has weathered many ups and downs with resilience, and he remains secure in the knowledge that with a good team, expertise, hard work, and level heads the company can make it through any storm.


It has been a unique experience growing up in and around the construction field. I see the impact Harris Electric has on our community in a direct way. I get a sense of pride any time I drive by a building we had a hand in creating. We impact our community not only with the business owners, general contractors, and other trades we encounter, but in each person that frequents the renovated restaurant, the new apartment complex, the remodeled office building, or the small home restoration.

Harris Electric employs nearly 30 men and women, many of whom have been with us for 10, 20, even 30 years. If I have learned anything from my dad, it’s that our employees are our greatest strength. Our craftsmen and craftswomen don’t just “work for” Harris Electric — they are Harris Electric.

It is an honor to provide a platform through which our employees can support their own families, who in turn frequent schools, churches, businesses, etc. We invest in our people by supporting apprentices and workers who are recognized as leaders in their trade. Several of our journeyperson electricians came up through the Associated Builders and Contractors Northern California (ABC) apprenticeship program. Among them, we are proud to have Nate Acosta on our team. In 2015, Nate joined Harris Electric and began his five-year apprenticeship program. His dedication and passion drove him to achieve a bronze medal in ABC’s National Craft Competition this past March.

While we have many employees of his caliber, his accomplishment serves as a reminder of what we already know — that we have the best-of-the-best coming to work each day.

It’s people like my father and Nate Acosta who help build our communities, both literally and figuratively. That is why it is so critically important that policymakers help pave the way — and not erect barriers — for small, family-run construction companies to continue to pursue local projects without being overly burdened by policies that unintentionally hinder the same local workers they wish to encourage.

Our elected leaders — be at the local, state or federal level — need to remember that our communities won’t benefit if the policies they shape create an uneven playing field or place undue burdens on those seeking promising careers and opportunities. Our leaders need to make every effort to stoke the fire of the entrepreneurs and hard-working Californians — and give others hope for a promising future in our industry. They can do this by:

Supporting nationally accredited training and development programs that have proven to harvest incredible workers who have gone on to build our schools, hospitals, veterans homes, prisons and other essential public facilities.

Creating responsible regulations that encourage small, quality construction firms and other businesses to continue to do business and create jobs in this state. Be aware that even good-intentioned policies can bury smaller firms in layers of bureaucracy that result in negative, unintended consequences.

Stop implementing Project Labor Agreements on community projects, such as the current proposal at the State Center Community College District. PLAs include a variety of provisions that actively discourage most local construction firms from bidding. As a result, many construction firms owned by women, veterans, and minorities (being generally smaller and non-union) often don’t get awarded the contract. PLAs serve as a great example of keeping local employees (the very populations they claim to champion) off of a project in their own community.

Every day, let’s make sure we honor, thank, and support our local small construction and other businesses in our neighborhoods — and most definitely remind our elected leaders that these job creators are, in fact, wiring and powering our communities yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Kate Bremer-Baumann is secretary of the corporation with Harris Electric, Inc., based in Fresno, CA. Harris Electric, Inc. is a proud member of Associated Builders and Contractors Northern California. The ABC NorCal chapter started in 1976 and now represents 500 large and small companies across Northern California.