a Family-owned and operated Electrical Contractor provides both service and careers to Staten Islanders
By JENNIFER VIKSE • Photos By Robert Nuzzie
Ryan Walsh knew exactly what kind of work he wanted to do from a very young age.
When he was just 10, he was tagging along with his mother and father to the family business, Walsh Electrical Contracting, Inc., a local firm serving the residential market. The company has since branched out, both into commercial work and to other boroughs, where it provides electrical service in the residential, commercial, and industrial markets.
“I always wanted to work there,” Walsh said from his office on Staten Island’s industrial coast along the northwest shoreline. “Whether it was weekends in the warehouse or the occasional opportunity to go out on the truck to the field, I just wanted to be there. I started in the warehouse—washing the vans…sweeping the floor. I graduated to stocking material, then to being an apprentice—drilling holes, pulling wires, working in the trenches…you name it.
“I wasn’t a sports guy,” he continued. “I preferred to work. It was intriguing to me because it consumed so much of my dad’s time. When I got into it, I was always around older guys, which was cool. There’s not many 10-year-olds at work. The youngest guy was 18. It was cool being one of the guys.”
By the time Walsh was 18, he had graduated of Monsignor Farrell High School and had been spending school breaks working at the company. He then headed off to Fordham, where he planned to pursue a business degree.
After a year, though, Walsh came back to Staten Island, where he would earn a degree in business management at Wagner College. A college degree was important to him and his parents, and they all believed that a management degree specifically would be valuable in the future. (“That would round out of the side of things I didn’t learn in the field,” he said.) In 2011, Kevin Walsh, the company’s founder and Ryan’s father, passed away. The family carried on with the company, though at a new location, in Mariners Harbor. Ryan took the helm as president, and his mother, Linda, became chief executive officer.
Keeping business and family distinct entities, however, became a priority for the mother-and-son team.
“We try to keep it separate,” Walsh said. “My dad was a 24/7 guy. I said to myself, ‘I need to do something a little different from that. I need to go home and shut it down.’ I still interact with my mom a lot—she’s my mom and my kids’ grandmother, but we don’t talk about work [outside the office] unless it’s urgent.”
As president, Walsh’s day usually starts between 5 and 6 a.m. Over the course of the workday, he’ll handle everything from business development to client relations to overseeing the estimating department, personnel, budgeting, and capital raising. Walsh Electrical is a full union shop, so he works on union relations matters, too.
Today, the business continues to grow, thanks in part to the current development boom in the borough. Whether it’s the expansion of the Staten Island Mall or construction of the New York Wheel, Empire Outlets, and Lighthouse Point, Walsh Electric is involved.
“Most people on the Island don’t realize the impact [of these projects],” noted Walsh. “I think the effects are under promoted. These projects are using borough-based electricians, plumbers, cleaning services for trailers, and so on. The local impact is huge. It’s not every day I get a multimillion-dollar project that’s 10 minutes down the road.”
In fact, since the new Staten Island projects came online, Walsh’s workforce has grown from 60 to 180.
“You are taking a mom-and-pop company and making them a force to be reckoned with,” Walsh said. “That’s a big deal,” adding that he perceives this as just the beginning. “This is its infancy, what’s going on now. Between the North Shore projects and the Staten Island Mall expansion, I’ll have approximately 200 electricians working, and that’s not including regular business outside of Staten Island.”
Post-construction, Walsh said, the company will be responsible for build-outs of each store at the mall. “These are massive projects. You will have hundreds of stores occupying tens of thousands of square feet.”
The company president also explained that these anchor projects “will solidify Staten Island as the last and final frontier of the boroughs. You’ll have the North Shore anchored by Lighthouse Point, the Wheel, Empire Outlets. The mall expansion will have an impact. Fresh Kills Park will also have an impact.”
As for the company’s future, Walsh is interested in pursuing innovative and green technologies, including wind, solar, battery storage, LED lighting, smart metering, and the “Internet of Things,” a term defined by Wired as information systems that “revolve around increased machine-to-machine communication, built on cloud computing and networks of data-gathering sensors.”
“I feel that it’s going to be popular in the future. I want to plant my stake in the ground now,” he noted. “Ninety percent of everything that is green-driven has an electrical component to it.”
Walsh Electrical’s 40-year presence in the community isn’t something Walsh takes lightly, particularly since he’s spent his entire life in that community himself. Growing up in Sunnyside and now living in Richmond Town, he is a member of the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce and a board member of the Staten Island Economic Development Board. He is also an advisory member of the Minority and Women Business Enterprises Council and the Government Affairs Council for the Building Trades Employers’ Association for New York City. Walsh is a graduate of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program, a board member of the Executive Club of Staten Island Council, and a board member of the Executives’ Association of New York City.
In addition, Walsh is the chairman of the Richmond Terrace Commercial Development Corp., a 401c3 organization which he hopes will one day be named an Industrial Business Improvement District, or IBID (it would be the first such designation on Staten Island), whose mission is to improve an industrial neighborhood that many consider a blight.
In 2014, Walsh received the Louis R. Miller Business Leadership Award from the Chamber of Commerce, presented in honor of Lou Miller, a businessman who was known throughout Staten Island for his many contributions to small-business development.
Walsh also supports a range of philanthropic efforts in the borough, including the Carl V. Bini Memorial Fund, Meals on Wheels, Wagner College, Habitat for Humanity, the Archdiocese of New York, Cooleys Anemia Foundation, Michael’s Cause, and Home for Heroes. Every year, he donates decorations for the South Shore Business Improvement District.
He sees this moment in time as an opportunity for all looking to making Staten Island even better, and predicts that improved mass transit—including better water transportation—will change life for the better in coming years.
“I’m very bullish on water transportation,” he said. “I think being an island, you are bound to see a network of water transportation develop.”
He also mentioned the logistics park currently being built under the Goethals Bridge. “It’s millions of square feet of warehouse space—buildings the size of football fields. You attract the Amazons of the world in these structures. More jobs, more trucks, more commerce. I think you’ll see the West Shore start to come around.
“Staten Island will have its day,” he continued. “Without change, you’re dead. I prefer change, I embrace change. I try to be on the front lines of it. Staten Island has been stale. We have a lot of untapped resources. The best is yet to come.”
Walsh mentioned the logistics park currently being built under the Goethals Bridge. “It’s millions of square feet of warehouse space—buildings the size of football fields. You attract the Amazons of the world in these structures.”
For those who balk at the progress and are concerned about increased traffic congestion, Walsh offered simply that, “You sit [in traffic] everywhere. There’s going to be congestion—we have that already. It is what it is. I think humans adapt, and we’ll find a way around it,” noting ameliorating possibilities like carpools, taxis, and bus rapid transit. “They’ll figure out a way to move people.”
For Walsh, the promise of a continuing-to-blossom Staten Island is not only good news for the community but good news for his growing business, and an opportunity to see employees’ families thrive.
“The only limits are the ones you set on yourself,” he said with a smile.
Walsh and his wife, Diana, have four children. While the kids are still too young to tag along to work, he said it’s important that they feel free to follow their own journeys in life and not pressured to follow their dad or grandfather or grandmother.
“We’re trying to encourage the kids to do what they want, no matter how whimsical,” Walsh said. “When they are ready to work, this will be an option. I never want to quell their spirit, imagination, or creativity.”
Walsh Electrical Contracting, Inc.
15 Newark Avenue / 718.351.3399 / walshec.com