Thursday, April 5, 2012

Chico Electric shines at the April 3rd City Council Meeting

At the first Chico City Council Meeting of every month, the Chamber delivers a Business Spotlight presentation featuring the history, outlook, and economic impact of a local business. Past presentations have featured TransferFlow,, Work Training Center, The Salvation Army, and Mom's Restaurant & Madison Bear Garden.

Council member feedback and questions are much appreciated as we demonstrate the value of our local businesses, organizations, and industries. These presentations also open the door for in depth discussions on regulatory challenges, infrastructure issues, and other policies and trends impacting our local economy.

At the April 3rd Council Meeting, we proudly featured Chico Electric as our Business Spotlight, inviting Norm Nielsen, President, to answer questions and address issues. Chico Electric has an important family history here in Chico that we illuminated, honoring the legacy and community footprint of the business over the years.

Here is our presentation:

"Chico Electric was founded in 1960 by Cecil Nielsen and his partner Larry Grage. The partnership lasted 3 years and then Cecil became the sole owner of the business. Chico Electric was originally located at 9th and Esplanade where Cecil built the company’s facility before moving the business to its current location on Eaton Road in 1989.

Cecil was originally from a farming family in Nebraska before moving to Los Molinos and then to Chico to attend Chico State. He met his wife while in school and worked for Wells Electric before starting his own business.

Norm Nielsen, who now owns Chico Electric, grew up in the business, spending his summers working with his father, Cecil. Norm attended Butte College before earning his degree from San Diego State. It was while Norm was away at college that he realized how much he loved Chico. He says now that it was natural for him to return home after graduation to, eventually, join his father in business. First Norm worked as an apprentice before moving up through the ranks. He founded his own business which he then merged with Chico Electric when his father retired more than 25 years ago at the age of 60. Norm calls his father, who is still very supportive of the company and of his son, a "great role model."

Norm considers himself entrepreneurial and wants to continue to expand the business. He says Chico Electric has been growing at a steady pace for the past 20 years. At one point, Chico Electric had a booming public works construction department which Norm decided to shelve when, among other things, the state regulations made it too challenging for the operation to remain competitive. Norm remains active in addressing the issues he sees with the Department of Industrial Relations.

Chico Electric now has two major segments and a primary market focused on the North State. The first segment of the business is Quick service, which requires staff and a fleet of trucks to manage small construction and service projects for both homes and businesses; the second segment is their Ag business, which focuses on solar installations, industrial motor control and other systems for growers and processors, such as rice dryers and irrigation systems.

Though he struggles with state regulations, Norm commends the City of Chico for improvements he's seen to the permitting process. He appreciates the City's efforts overall and feels that Chico is the right place for his business and his family, just as his father did over 50 years ago. "People are great here," he says, and compliments the quality of life that he feels is unique to Chico.

Norm and his wife raised two children in Chico, both of whom are successful young adults. Over the years, Norm's charitable focus has been on youth programs, actively sponsoring scouting programs, the Boys & Girls Club, and the activities of Noon Rotary Club. In the past, Norm was also a big supporter to CEPCO and remains invested in economic development efforts including workforce development. Norm partners with Butte College for workforce training, manages his own in-house training program, and is a member of the Western Electrical Contractors Association (WECA) for additional training opportunities.

Though Chico Electric downsized due to the diminished commercial construction market, Norm plans gradual re-growth over the next several years. The company continues to invest in marketing efforts and in their web site which is currently undergoing improvements."

To contact Norm or to learn more about Chico Electric, please visit their web site:

Please stay tuned for news on upcoming Business Spotlights, and make plans to join us in supporting and highlighting a member of our business community at the first Council meeting of every month.

~ Katie Simmons
President & CEO