Home Contact Us   Directory
   
     
 

A History of Innovation

The Story of the Northwest Electrical Industry and the Oregon-Columbia Chapter of NECA

The electrical industry in Portland, Oregon dates to 1888 when Sidney Z. Mitchell, representing the interests of Thomas A. Edison, organized a number of incandescent lighting companies in the area. Mr. Mitchell’s biography provides an account of the development of the original electrical plant in Astoria, Oregon, which went into service in that same year. The Astoria Plant first included two 30 arc lamp machines which were sold to enterprising saloons, dance halls and stores at the initial rate of $16.00 per lamp, per month. The distribution circuits were strung from housetop to housetop. One year later, a Thompson and Houston ‘dynamo’ was purchased to generate current for incandescent lamps. Business establishments that used the service paid $.75 per month, per lamp, for lights burned until 10:00 p.m.; $1.00 per month, per lamp, for lights burned until midnight; and $1.50 per month, per lamp, for all-night services. The residential rate was one-half the commercial rate.

The First AC Power Plant in the US

The development of alternating current made it possible to transmit power over considerable distances. The Northwest was in the forefront of this technology with the installation of the first alternating power transmission system in the United States at Willamette Falls, approximately 15 miles south of Portland, in 1889. The development of AC current also stimulated the development of nearby hydroelectric plants in the Northwest. The transmission system operated single phase at 4KV and was soon followed by the first polyphase transmission in 1893.

In these early days of the industry, there were literally hundreds of small electrical companies operated by people who had very little experience or knowledge of this new and vital force. As yet, there was no formal association of these companies to bring the industry together or provide for education about the new industry.

After the turn of the century, with the widespread use of hydro power, demand for low cost, 24-hour energy resulted in the establishment of 24-hour service at the flat rate charge of $1.00 to $2.00 per lamp, per month. This allowed for the development of electrical appliances for the home. In 1910, George A. Hughes began to manufacture the first practical electrical range and in the same year, one of the first electrically driven washing machines, the Thor Washer, was introduced by Hurley Machine Co.

Oregon Electrical Contractors Connect

In 1911, several electrical contractors in Oregon decided it was time to form an industry organization. The first convention held by the Oregon Electrical Contractors Association took place in December, 1912, with subsequent conventions in 1914 and 1916. Although the National Electrical Contractors Association was operating at that time (it had been formed in 1901 in New York), for the local contractors, affiliation with the national association was not as important at the time due to the Northwest region's distance from the national offices on the east coast — so affiliation was on-again off-again.

By the 1920s, it was on-again with the following members: Dimitre Electric, Huenergard Electric, Jagger-Sroufe Co., E. L. Knight & Co., Morrison Electric Co., W. H. Emerick, Inc., Grand Electric, National Electric Co., Peninsula Electric Co., Star Electric & Radio Co., J. R. Tomlinson Electric, and Mutual Electric Co. The Chapter affiliated twice with the National office during the 1930s with these members: Ace Electric Co., Allison Electric Co., Bartlett Electric Co., Bressie Electric Co., Cooperative Electric Co., Dimitre Electric Co., Friberg Electric, Friesen Electric Service, Gildner Electric Co., W. R. Grasle Co., Greiner Electric Co., A. J. Huenergard Co., Huenergard Electric Co., Jagger-Sroufe Co., E. L. Knight Electric Co., McMillan Electric, Montgomery Electric Co., Morrison Electric Co., NePage-McKenny Co., L. M. Olsaver, Pierce-Mowrey, Inc., George L. Rochat, Sanders Electric, Sellwood-Moreland Electric Co., Swigert Electric Co., Tice Electric Co., J. R. Tomlinson Electric Co., and Walsh Electric & Fixture Co.

The longest affiliation with the national office of NECA began with President R. C. Kenney who served as President of the Oregon-Columbia Chapter from 1943-1944. Mr. Kenney was joined by S. I. Jagger, W. R. Grasle, F. E. Webb and Lawrence Rogers (then Chapter Manager) in filing the Articles of Incorporation with the State of Oregon Corporation Department. The Oregon-Columbia Chapter began with assets of just $5,100.

During World War II, the industry experienced a major expansion, particularly in the shipyards which employed over 20,000 IBEW Local Union members, many of them women. Following the war, there was a flurry of new contractors, and steady growth in the industry through the 1950s and ’60s, leading up to the most productive decade of electrical construction in Oregon and Southwest Washington: the 1970s.

The revelry of the 1970s was diminished the following decade by the largest construction depression ever to hit the Northwest. However, through an inspired commitment of both the Oregon-Columbia Chapter NECA and IBEW Locals 48 and 970, Oregon’s electrical industry made a dramatic recovery in the late 1980s and continues to progress today in the 1990s. Our progress and team cooperation has been the focus of recognition nationwide.

During World War II, the industry experienced a major expansion, particularly in the shipyards which employed over 20,000 IBEW Local Union members, many of them being women. Following the war, there was a flurry of new contractors, and steady growth in the industry through the 1950s and ’60s, leading up to the most productive decade of electrical construction in Oregon and Southwest Washington: the 1970s.

Recent History and Our Vision for the Future

The revelry of the 1970s was diminished the following decade by the largest construction depression ever to hit the Northwest. However, through an inspired commitment of both the Oregon-Columbia Chapter of NECA and IBEW Locals 48 and 970, Oregon’s electrical industry made a dramatic recovery in the late 1980s and continued to progress through the 1990s.

As the electrical construction industry in Northwest Oregon and Southwest Washington continued to thrive, the need for a skilled, trained work force expanded as well. To keep up with that demand, in 1998 NECA and IBEW Local 48 funded the construction of a new, state-of-the-art Training Center. The new Center more than doubled the size of the previous facility, and now enables us to train a greater number of apprentices and help journeymen keep their skills up to date.

Today, at the beginning of the 21st century, our industry is enjoying an abundance of work. As we move into the future, we will continue the partnering efforts between NECA and IBEW Local 48 to ensure a bright tomorrow for labor, management, our customers, and our community.

1910s
1910
1920s1920 1930s
1930
1940s1940
1950s
1950
1960s1960 1970s
1970
1980s1980
1990s
1990
2000s2000s Apprentice Schoolapprentice BridgetownBridge Town
Community ServiceCommunity Service DiversityDiversity Great Light WayGreat Light ShipbuildingShip Building
Streetcar
Streetcar



 

 

 
 

SITE LINKS

 

CHAPTER MEMBERS

 
 
View All
National Electrical Contractors Association
Oregon-Columbia Chapter
601 NE Everett ST
Portland, OR 97232
Phone: 503-233-5787
Fax: 503-235-4308


© 2013 All rights reserved, www.orecolneca.org