High Energy

Entrepreneurial electrician powers up money-generating business

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James A. McKamey didn’t travel the road to entrepreneurship until he was in his late 40s, but it was worth the wait.
His company, JAM Electrical Systems Inc. in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, specializes in installing and maintaining electrical systems, wiring, and other electrical engineering services to homes and businesses in and around central Pennsylvania. Revenues for the 12-man firm topped $1.7 million in 2001—up from about $900,000 in 2000.

McKamey, 53, has been in the electrical business for most his life, having spent 15 years at Bethlehem Steel Corp.’s Steelton Plant in Harrisburg and also as an independent contractor. In those years, he not only learned the industry and his trade but made several contacts that would help him when he launched JAM in 1996.

Using about $2000 from personal savings to purchase electrical wiring, cable, cords, and other tools and supplies, McKamey began cold-calling individuals and businesses for electrical services. It wasn’t easy at first for the entrepreneur, who had to contend with hearing the word “no” all too often. In addition, he was misled by potential customers who promised to use his services but frequently reneged. “Clients would listen to my presentation, tell me that they liked what I had to offer, and [promise to] be in touch about doing business,” he says. “But I would never hear from them again.”

Fortunately, an earlier contact eventually helped McKamey’s venture. Raymond Young, a former senior project manager and vice president at Alexander Construction Co. in Harrisburg, where McKamey was once employed, heard McKamey had launched a company. “He helped me form a solid business plan,” McKamey says. “He gave me leads on potential clients, and suggestions on how to secure sources of funding.”

This eventually paid off. JAM Electrical Systems Inc. is now the electrical contractor on more than a dozen projects throughout central Pennsylvania. Also, the Central Penn Business Journal, Ernst & Young, Waypoint Bank, The Phillips Group, JPL Productions, and WHP/WLYH-TV recently named JAM one of Central Pennsylvania’s Top 50 Fastest Growing Companies for 2002. The award recognizes successful small and large businesses that, among other things, have shown an outstanding increase in revenues in the past three years.

One of McKamey’s goals is to build his business and pass it on. He is married with three children and six grandchildren and says he hopes his company will remain a family-owned business.

“I tell my children and grandchildren that they can be anything they want to be,” he says. “If running the family business is what they want to do one day, that would be great.”

JAM Electrical Systems Inc., 1914 Brookwood St., Harrisburg, PA 17104; 717-236-2325; www.jamelectric.com