By Kalea Hall
Sunbelt Transformer’s leaders knew there would be risk in taking on the company’s biggest project, but taking on tough assignments is what the company does.
The project: Engineer, design and build four substations in 70 days, test them, prepare them for shipment and then ship them to Honduras where they will be reassembled and tested again to get power to the Honduran people.
“They [Honduras] didn’t have enough infrastructure to move more power through this system and get it to the people,” said Dan Sweeney, chief executive officer of Sunbelt. “They were experiencing brownouts. There’s a need out there for this type of work. There’s not too many companies willing to take this on being there were so many questions.”
Sunbelt is focused on speed, ease of doing business and customizing its product to meet customers’ needs. Getting a customized project done on time in a way that eased the customer’s mind is how the company works.
Sunbelt leaders knew they were up for the task, and they knew there would be a beneficial outcome of the project’s completion.
“We gained competency and credibility,” Sweeney said. “We can go forward and market these substation projects.”
The company was awarded the project in the first quarter of this year after years of working to get more international business.
“There was a lot of conceptual work that had to go into it,” Sweeney said of the Honduras project.
But the biggest challenge was logistics. Sunbelt struggled with getting clearance to move the equipment through Ohio.
“The Ohio Chamber of Commerce and the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber were extremely helpful,” Sweeney said.
Now, the installation of the substations is underway and should be completed before the end of August. Together the four substations will power half a large city.
“We have done some projects in the past where we have put a complete substation on a trailer,” said John Whalen, the company’s national operations manager. “This is the biggest scale. It sets us apart from the competition. There’s not many people who would take this on.”
The substations were built from the ground up at Sunbelt’s Sharon plant, where most of the company’s manufacturing takes place.
Sunbelt Transformer has multiple locations throughout the U.S. with its headquarters in Texas.
Sunbelt, started in 1981, focused on selling reconditioned transformers with three employees in a 6,500-square-foot shop in Temple, Texas.
Today, Sunbelt is one of the world’s largest providers of new and reconditioned transformers and electrical equipment for both commercial and industrial markets.
Throughout the company, there are 134 employees at eight locations. In Sharon, there are about 50 employees.
In 2013, Sunbelt opened a new $4.5-million, 90,000-square-foot building in the city.
“As we started to get into the other types of electrical equipment, we started to grow ourselves out of that building,” Whalen said. “We were able to lay it out to give us a more sufficient process.”
Behind the building is a field filled with transformers ready to be reconditioned to the customer’s needs.
“They come from all over,” Whalen said of the transformers.
Last year, the company brought back a room where they rewind coils for transformers.
“We can use our own inventory to rewind it for a different voltage,” said Tricia Schweiss, vice president of marketing for Sunbelt. “We will go in the field.”
Sunbelt hopes to do more work in South America. The company has also done work in Africa, Japan and the Middle East.
“We are pressing forward to hire some international sales people now,” Sweeney added.