Case Studies

Jared Kroner – Blue Arc Electric

Union membership sparks bright future for Blue Arc Electric

By many measures, Blue Arc Electric of Campbell, California, was a thriving business as it neared its 20th anniversary. 

It was founded in 2003 by Jared Kroner, who began his career as a journeyman electrician and had become project manager and sales associate at SDB Electric Inc. before launching his company. 

Jared Kroner | President and Project Manager | Blue Arc Electric 

Jared Kroner | President and Project Manager | Blue Arc Electric

About six years after Kroner started Blue Arc Electric, Chet Barraclough, his boss at SDB, joined him as co-owner as well as vice president of operations. 

By 2021, Blue Arc Electric had annual revenues exceeding $10 million and more than 25 employees, but Kroner and Barraclough knew the company could do more, especially by doing niche work its competitors couldn’t take on in the high-tech Silicon Valley in Northern California. 

Enter the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, or IBEW, specifically Local 332, which is based in Santa Clara County. In 2022, after several years of discussions that were interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Blue Arc Electric became a union shop. 

So far, the results have been better than Kroner imagined. Revenue is expected to increase to nearly $18 million as the workforce fluctuates between 40 and 55 as needed.  

Revenues have increased because Blue Arc Electric is able to take on larger and more complex jobs—such as installing electrical infrastructure for Becton, Dickinson and Co., or BD, Bioscience’s two-building facility in Silicon Valley. 

“Blue Arc and Local 332 leadership teamed up to pioneer a ground-breaking model by converting to a union shop,” Kroner says. “It was a very big transition with high risks, but it’s also a greater opportunity for everyone.” 

A new way to organize 

Kroner chatted with Blueprint in March on the first anniversary of becoming a union shop, but IBEW Local 332 was more than a century old when its leaders first approached Kroner and Barraclough about joining. 

Local 332 employs more than 3,600 commercial electricians who work on projects at high-tech company campuses, stadiums, hospitals, schools and government buildings, according to its website. 

Jared Kroner | President and Project Manager | Blue Arc Electric 

That Local 332 Vice President Pete Seaberg approached Kroner about the company becoming a union shop was unusual. They had known each other for years—they played baseball together when they were boys. But labor union representatives typically approach a company’s hourly workers to organize and the union membership is put to a vote. 

Kroner had reservations, too. Union membership would require Blue Arc Electric to increase its hourly rates—he and Barraclough worried they could lose 50 percent or more of their business in a year and were concerned a downturn in the economy could hurt the company even more. 

However, as Kroner says on the Local 332 website, he and Barraclough weren’t able to contract for some significant jobs in the past because the company couldn’t expand with a quality workforce. So, Blue Arc Electric and Local 332 reached a one-year transitional agreement to become a union shop in 2022. The agreement will be followed by a three-year contract, as is standard for union shops. 

“Going union is a profound commitment, not just to the contract, but to the culture and to holding ourselves to the highest standards of work and community,” Kroner says. 

Bigger and better jobs 

The new BD Biosciences campus in Milpitas provides the medical technology company with 174,000 square feet of office, lab and R&D space in two buildings. Blue Arc Electric was selected by Iron Construction as the subcontractor for the $6 million project to replace and upgrade the electrical systems in the executive and training office building. 

Kroner expects the company to work through the early fall on the upgrades—installing a new generator as well as new interior wiring, fixtures, including for a cafeteria. The project began in July 2022 as Blue Arc completed the electrical work for a data center for Ampere Computing LLC, which makes processing chips. 

The Ampere project differs from upgrading the electrical systems at BD Biosciences in that data centers are energy intensive buildings that need to be kept cooler because the servers and other data processing equipment heat up as they operate. To help protect the data center, Kroner says electricians built a dual transformer distribution panel. 

“There’s a big difference in scale of work because there’s a substantial amount of cooling and power needs with very little room for error. Testing and compliance are a huge priority,” Kroner says. “Being part of Local 332 gives us great confidence as we take on larger specialty projects in a scalable fashion.” 

Skilled and safe 

Union membership also enables Blue Arc Electric to bid on inspection, maintenance, testing and certification work that’s required in California commercial and business buildings at intervals of no longer than every five years using National Fire Protection Association, or NFPA, codes 70B and 70E.  

The first section deals with electrical equipment maintenance and the second addresses safe work practices while requiring more training and certifications because electricians are working “hot”—with power still on. 

Born and raised in the Bay Area, Kroner says he had planned to become a heavy equipment operator in construction but didn’t enjoy sitting behind the wheel operating the machinery—he needed something more involved. 

Jared Kroner | President and Project Manager | Blue Arc Electric 

“I like the complexity and specialized math needed to work as an electrician,” he says. “I like using your mind. The work can be extremely dangerous and it’s always changing.” 

So, Kroner put himself through an electrician’s apprentice program. Before joining Barraclough at SDB, he was a facilities engineer at the internet infrastructure management company Marimba. 

He not only was not only reunited with Barraclough at Blue Arc Electric—Kroner’s wife, Lesley, is the office manager and bookkeeper. 

“Blue Arc’s affiliation with Local 332 provides us a large pool of quality workers who fit the specific needs of the very niche company,” Kroner says. “The partnership benefits our clients as we’re able to provide a higher quality of workmanship produced by a crew of capable technicians.” 

View this feature in the Blueprint Vol. IV 2023 Edition here.



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