Executive Suite: Michael Towers, Deer Park
In the post-Sandy era, the extended loss of power is a reality that many have faced -- and fear facing again.
"I don't think that anyone had an expectation of how bad it would be," said Michael Towers, president and owner of Long Island Emergency Power, in Deer Park.
Sales at the generator company, founded in 1990, are expected to more than triple this year as a result of the storm, he said.
Long Island is particularly vulnerable to losing power because power lines are overhead and it is surrounded by water, said Towers, who is past president of the Suffolk County Electrical Contractors' Association. In addition, he said, "the grid is old and has to support so much more than when it was built."
Towers,47,said he was "intrigued about electricity" even as a boy. While in high school, he apprenticed with an electrical contractor. During that apprenticeship, a friend asked him if he could install a generator for him. "I started doing the research and realized that there is a market," he said.
What should consumers look for in selecting an emergency generator company?Look for a company that is certified for the process and knows the product. You want to make sure they have all the licenses and are insured. Ask for references. The customer needs to understand a little more about what's involved and you need to be sure that they can do what they say they will do.
There was a flood of orders for generators right after Sandy. Three months later, have the orders stuck?
Most. When people make the decision to buy a generator they are there to do it and they don't cancel. I think that a lot of them said: "I should have done this before. I won't be in this position again."
A number of people died during the superstorm because of carbon monoxide poisoning. What are some important safety rules?
Obviously, no generator should be inside a building unless it's specifically designed for that. We know people don't adhere to that rule all the time, and it is a major source of concern. When we are called to service an already installed generator, we will ask them to move it into compliance before we service it.
How did Sandy affect your staffing?
For the first month, we handled inquiries with our regular staff, although we hired a temporary person to help handle calls and Generac [the generator manufacturer] sent out some support techs as well. After that, we hired two new people -- a tech and a lead analyst. We want to grow our business slowly.
How do you find new hires?
Most of our employees have come to us through recommendations from other employees or through people we know. Our concept is to train the people we hire. For example, our lead technician had experience as an electrician, but none with generators, and we did a combination of sending him away for training and training him in-house. We would rather apprentice in-house.
Name: Michael Towers, president and owner, Long Island Emergency Power in Deer Park
What they do: Sell, install and maintain emergency generators
Their roles: Technicians, analysts, installers, permit expediter, customer service, office staff
Revenue: $2.65 million