The owner of Birch Electric epitomizes the old adage, “Local kid makes good.” Kevin Canavan is a Key Peninsula native, and his wife and business partner, Miranda, grew up in Port Townsend. Canavan’s father, a retired electrician, provided a sound backdrop for his son to enter the field 22 years ago. Today Canavan holds a Washington state master electrician’s license.
What began as young Canavan’s first job working for other electrical companies and contractors evolved first into a fledgling husband and wife team consisting of an old Chevy pick-up (which they still have), a telephone, and a willingness to be available when needed by local citizens and businesses. Since that modest beginning in 1998, the Canavans have expanded the business to nine trucks employing 12 fulltime electricians year-round, all living on the Key Peninsula or in Gig Harbor. Canavan says that, collectively, he and his crews have over 200 years of residential, new construction and commercial electrical experience. “All of our electricians are top-notch,” he says.
The company prides itself in a short response time, creative design work, and an honest work ethic.“Birch Electric was built on the Key Peninsula,” he says. “It was built on honesty, and will always be a business that caters to the needs of this community.” His wife, who now handles permitting, incoming phone calls, and in the early days also met with crews, adds that when their two daughters were toddlers, “they thought they had 12 more daddies.” Intentionally run “family-style,” Birch Electric provides benefits to employees, and offers a paid apprenticeship through the union.
The Canavans support local community outreach in tangible ways that make a difference. Every year for the last three years they have joined with their suppliers (CED and Rainier Lighting & Electric) to donate materials and labor for two Habitat for Humanity houses on the peninsula. They contribute electrical services for the auction at Vaughn Elementary, where their girls attend, and provided the new lighting service for Volunteer Park several years ago. It is one thing for a small business owner to donate his own time and labor, but cognizant of this, when Canavan hasn’t time to execute a donated project himself and uses a crew instead, he bills himself and pays his crew as on any other job.
Three years ago, Birch Electric expanded capacity with two field supervisors, Greg Hanson and Brian Nearland, who coordinate crews, troubleshoot, and assist new homeowners with pre-wiring, framing-stage lighting walk-throughs. Canavan meets with prospective customers to assess needs and provide estimates. It makes no difference to him whether the appointment he goes out on is to a homeowner requesting a new circuit breaker installation, or a commercial building developer shopping for an electrical contractor. Everyone is treated the same.
“I would not have been able to get where I am,” he says, “without the people of the Key Peninsula supporting local businesses.”
Canavan says the economy is good right now for craftsmen. He and his crews could “work seven days a week for as many hours as we can stay awake.” Booking for a springtime job is already one to two weeks out, and their summer job load is “slammed.” Eighty percent of Birch Electric’s business is existing and new residential construction, and local service calls. The other 20 percent are commercial projects, including the electrical systems for Blondie’s. All calls are radio-dispatched, and they attempt to adhere to a one-hour callback. Canavan pays attention to the details. When Birch Electric needed sign work done, he used a local company. “We all need to support local businesses,” he says. “That’s what keeps our community.”