People often take for granted the abundance of resources available to them and their fellow citizens. Foremost among those is electricity. It only takes one extended power outage to create a renewed sense of gratitude for this utility. L&S Electric, based out of Schofield, is dedicated to ensuring that access to this priceless resource is always in full supply.
The company has a presence around the world, yet its roots were founded in a humble setting. “My grandfather Harlan Lewitzke purchased Leverance Electric from his neighbor when it was a small motor shop with just a handful of guys in Wausau,” said L&S Electric president and CEO Jeremy Lewitzke. “Throughout the ’70s and early ’80s he grew that business in Northcentral Wisconsin and focused a lot on the paper industry and all of the mills up and down the Wisconsin River.
“In 1983, he merged with Snapp Electric,” he said. “They were both competitors in the Wausau area. They decided they could do better together than they could separately. We became L&S Electric. I think our growth really started from there.”
From essentially day one, the company’s standard operating procedure is to never say “no” to the customer. This philosophy led the company to opportunities that have paid off significantly.
We have a big market in Canada, Central and South America, Australia, Asia Pacific and a little bit into the Middle East as well.
president and CEO,
L&S Electric, Schofield
“In the late ’80s, we had a paper-mill customer who had a hydro facility,” Lewitzke said. “Most paper mills have a dam and a small hydroelectric generating system attached to it. They had some issues with their control system and their governor system for running those turbines, and we said, ‘Hey, we’ll take a look at it. Fifteen years later our control systems are in the Hoover Dam. We do all our manufacturing, design and engineering right here in central Wisconsin for worldwide controls of hydroelectric solutions.”
“Today, that is about 20 to 25 percent of our business,” he said. “We have a big market in Canada, Central and South America, Australia, Asia Pacific and a little bit into the Middle East as well. It’s a really unique business for us that continues to grow and have great opportunities in the renewable space.”
L&S Electric also operates in the power service space. “We deal with servicing and commissioning electrical distribution equipment,” he said. “If you think about substations, big circuit breakers, switch gear, all the stuff that comes between the high voltage line that comes out of the power plant and your house, what makes that power usable and safe for everybody to use, that’s the equipment we service and commission for utilities and big industrial customers.”
While L&S Electric services plenty of companies in the power utilities and manufacturing industries, there is one industry that makes up a surprisingly large part of the company’s portfolio.
“Our other biggest industry is actually the railroad,” he said. “You don’t really think about it, but when you see a locomotive going down the tracks, each one of those axels on a locomotive has a big electric motor attached to it, and there’s a big generator attached to the locomotive. They use a lot of motors to move all of our goods around the country.”
While the company started small, it has grown significantly. L&S Electric now has 10 different locations throughout the United States including motor repair and distribution facilities in Appleton, Chippewa Falls, Sturtevant and Rothschild. The locations have a combined square footage of 300,000 feet and house 375 employees.
This nationwide and worldwide presence has played a big part in the 12 to 15 percent yearly growth that L&S Electric has experienced during the last decade. While it’s impressive that a company based out of central Wisconsin can have such a wide reach, Lewitzke believes the fabric of the company is what allows it to compete at worldwide level.
“We are focused on delivering results to our customers and making sure that we honor every commitment that we make,” he said. “Anybody can sell a service, anybody can help solve your problem, but we’re the ones that are going to be there until the job’s complete. Some competitors can make the same things that we make. It’s how we support our customers that really differentiates us in the market.”
Any company that has been around since the 1950s such as L&S Electric has seen changes at both a macro and micro level. Yet, Lewitzke and his brother Justin, who are third-generation owners, may have seen one of the biggest shifts in the landscape as a result of the pandemic. “Technology has accelerated at a very fast pace, especially in the last two years,” he said. “It’s amazing what the pandemic has done for that even in the last 12 months. Customers are wanting more remote options. We’re doing things with virtual reality to do service work for customers virtually or assist them virtually rather than in person and send our techs out.”
Not only has technology changed the way the company operates, but so has the increased attention to other forms of energy.
“Historically, 10 to 15 years ago, fossil fuels were a big part of our business,” Lewitzke said. “We did a lot of work at coal-fired power plants, a lot of work at mining operations that support them. Today, we have a much greater exposure to renewables because we have to. When you take a look at windmills, they have a lot of opportunities for both electric motors and generators. When you take a look at solar fields, there’s a lot of power moving throughout the solar field that has to get to the grid in a safe manner that we help commission and do that type of work for. It’s been a pretty quick shift in the markets that we serve to make sure that we can continue to do what we’ve been doing for a long time.”
Clearly, the rate of change is rapid in the field of electricity. For some this would be a reason to shy away from the industry, but for Lewitzke, it’s what fuels his passion for the business.
“It’s the service business that gets me going like nothing else,” he said. “We have customers that have problems and we get to see something new every single day. I love supporting our team to be able to do that. We get to solve some really cool problems and help our customers out of tough situations and it’s different every day. That’s what everybody at L&S loves, is the ability to solve problems and see something different every day.”