Published on August 18th, 2015 | by UC&D Magazine0
Garner Making his Mark in the A/E/C Industry
Salt Lake-based electrical engineering firm celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2015
After spending more than 15 years working for various local firms, Ken Garner jumped at the opportunity to establish his own electrical engineering company in 2005 when he bought out James D. Graham, a Portland-based firm that had opened a small office in Salt Lake City two years prior to that.
Garner admits that owning his own firm had long been one of his many career goals, it just transpired faster than he thought when Graham offered to sell him his company.
“I had hit the ceiling at (Salt Lakebased) BNA (Consulting) – there were five partners at that time and I didn’t know if I could progress there,” said Garner, who worked at BNA almost a full decade from 1993-2003. “Working for yourself is a different challenge. I was really good working for somebody else, but I wanted to find a better way of doing things, which is one of the reasons I went into this business. James Graham was a single owner and
approaching retirement, and when I joined him it was a way to expand my reach, get more contacts, and there was some initial discussion of taking over someday. It happened sooner than we expected.”
Garner said he grew up with an interest in electronics and how things worked/operated. As a teenager he experimented with a Radio Shack electronic radio building kit and enjoyed taking things apart and putting them back together. He was influenced by Steve Jackson, a respected physics teacher at
Viewmont High School in Bountiful, and ultimately graduated from the University of Utah in 1992 in electrical engineering.
He initially worked for SSR from 1991 to 1993, a firm that did digital mapping of Utah Power & Light (now Pacificorp), driving throughout the state looking at overhead power lines and doing a lot of hand sketches of transformers, etc.
One of Garner’s first larger projects once he started Ken Garner Engineering (KGE) was Ben Lomond High School for Ogden School District, a complex renovation. Over the years, the firm has specialized in higher education, K-12, commercial office/retail, and federal work for the Army Corps of Engineers.
Garner said a recent unique project is the electrical design of a 1.7 MW, 450-ft tall wind turbine at Tooele Army Depot.
“It’s a really cool job,” he said. “We teamed with Hunt Electric and Brahma Group and it’s a very tall, exciting project for us.
Besides Garner, other key executives with KGE include Paris LeLaCheur (who was Garner’s first hire at James D. Graham), Lewis Wong, and Manuel Masbernat, all of which are Project Managers. Garner’s wife, Wendy, is a Vice President who manages administration and finance operations.
“He’s good at what he does,” said Wendy about Ken. “Engineers are wired a certain way. It gives me comfort knowing they are responsible for the buildings we use everyday. I have a vested interest in our success, and a passion for helping our people and being a problem solver.”
Garner said it’s been interesting rebounding from the economic downturn that hit the industry in 2008, and that he’s worked hard at becoming a better
business owner through various groups and forums. In 2011, he established a Board of Directors, which includes the likes of Don Barker, President of Salt Lake-based BHB Engineers (a structural firm) and Ken Naylor, a Principal/Owner with Naylor Architects of Salt Lake. Both men say Garner is a top-flight engineer who is constantly looking at improving his craft.
“Ken is passionate about what he does and he’s always looking for better ways to do things,” said Barker, who started his firm 13 years ago. “He wants to do things right and he’s always looking for better ways to do things, even in management. That’s what makes a good company – you’re never satisfied where you are, even though you’re doing great. I’ve gotten to know Ken the past four years and have developed a good friendship beyond working together on projects.”
“What Ken’s group brings is a really good, fresh understanding and open-mindedness to the electrical engineering component,” said Naylor. “They’re open to working with us and helping capture our vision of the project as well as providing the technical know-how. They give us options, which is terrific. Sometimes consultants are fixed on the way they’ve done (design) before.”
Garner expresses great optimism that his firm will continue to steadily grow and maintain the momentum they’ve gained the past decade.
“Our goal is to improve service and quality, which translates into greater profitability,” Garner said. “We fought the downturn with different strategies – we expanded into more states, we found new clients. The private sector is up right now – we’re doing about 50/50 public and private work right now. We’ve been lucky to be as diverse as we’ve been and look forward to becoming a better overall firm.”