Fifty years ago Elvis Presley’s “Are You Lonesome Tonight” topped the charts. Across the Atlantic, a foursome called The Beatles was featured at The Cavern Club in Liverpool. High in the sky, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space.
At the time in Vancouver, Arnold Nemetz was busy converting his father’s electrical contracting company, Domino Electric, into an electrical engineering consulting business. Fifty years later, in an era of rap music, social media and the international space station, the Nemetz business continues to thrive and evolve. The past five decades have seen Vancouver blossom into an international city and Nemetz electrical consulting engineers have had a hand in the construction of many buildings that now accent the city skyline.
“In the early days of the business it was very much One Person Does All – the engineering, lighting, communications, security, whatever the job needed,” notes Steve Nemetz, an electrical engineer who has followed in the footsteps of grandfather William and his father Arnold, and currently serves as CEO of Nemetz (S/A) & Associates Ltd.
“Now, things are specialized. We have a specialized lighting department that liaises with architects and interior designers and provides comprehensive and detailed lighting design. We have engineering in terms of power design. We have security, communications and information technology expertise within the office. But the underlying principles of the company have never changed. We still provide excellent service to the client, efficient and effective designs, and we also protect the owners through the course of design and construction by monitoring contractors on site.”
The years leading up to the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver proved hectic for the city’s construction firms and Nemetz was no exception. The year 2011 saw many a business “take a breath.” At Nemetz, some longtime employees chose to retire following the Games, prompting recent changes and promotions within the office. This past year Associate Gary Geissinger was made Senior Associate while Mark Herron, Darren Neuman and Ovidiu Cojocaru were promoted to company Associates. The office also celebrated Cojocaru earning his Canadian Professional Engineer – Electrical licence and welcomed Emma Cronin as the firm’s marketing coordinator.
Nemetz is particularly excited about a recent decision to expand the company’s Lucnet Design Group division to include a lighting design centre within the office. Lucent Design has been a successful enterprise since Nemetz opted to expand the office services to include lighting design. The new in-house centre will offer owners, architects and designers a sample board, computer renderings and other design features to aid in creating the most functional and esthetic lighting possible for their projects.
“We were initially known as a one-stop shop, basically engineering power design,” says Nemetz of the decision to launch Lucent Design Group several years ago. “There was the perception that, as engineers, we knew nothing about lighting design. We wanted to change that, to bring in the esthetics and design. So, we started the division. Based on the projects we’ve done, and the different lighting designs we’ve produced, we’re now at a world-class level in terms of lighting design. Lucent Design Group is long past being just a sidebar to the office, it is now an integral part of our service.”
Nemetz notes other company changes have taken place over the years. At one time the name Nemetz was synonymous with high-rise residential projects. But the company now has so much more to offer, including a retail and office/commercial department led by new company Associate Darren Neuman.
“For sure, we’ve done a lot of high rise residential and mixed use high rise,” concedes Nemetz. “We’ve many excellent projects of that type but we can do just as good a job in commercial, retail or office projects as we’ve done in our residential. That’s a message we want to bring out now and in the future.”
Just as the world has changed in 50 years, so has the company and the construction business. Nemetz remembers well his introduction to the business back in the 1980s.
“I started in the summers, doing hand drafting, shading the backs of velums, entry level stuff,” he recalls. “I would do hand drafting and put holes in the sheet because I erased so much!”
One thing that has not changed is the family commitment and core of the business. Arnold Nemetz now serves as the company’s Founding Principle, with son Steve Nemetz the CEO and daughter Franci Stratton serving as Chief Administrative Officer. Granddaughter Jennifer Stratton brings her interior design expertise to the Lucent Design Group and grandsons Alex and Willie Stratton have also gained summer work experience in the office.
“Will we be around for another 50 years? I don’t see why not,” declares Steve Nemetz. “We have a lot of youth in this company and we’re always growing, always looking to sharpen our skills, stay on top of technology. And at the core of everything is our desire to provide outstanding service to the client – that is something that has not, and will not change.”