October 14, 2021 –
Christine Meyer was just 11 when she started working in the family business. Her parents began Battaglia Electric Inc. in their Wilmington, Delaware, home, and Meyer often answered the business phone.
Today, she and her sister, Jennifer Battaglia, have majority ownership of Battaglia Electric. But their baby is New Castle-based Battaglia Associates Inc. (BAI), which their mother started.
Meyer and Battaglia have had excellent role models. Their parents — Gene Battaglia, an IBEW 313 electrician, and his wife, Jean — started Battaglia Electric in 1981 to focus on heavy commercial and industrial clients.
Meyer went to St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, where she studied business. She and her husband briefly lived in Florida, but she missed Delaware and returned to the family business in 1996. Jennifer Battaglia, who received a degree in education from Neumann University, taught second grade at Our Lady of Fatima School before joining Battaglia Electric in 2004.
In 2007, the women partnered to breathe new life into BAI. Meyer earned her real estate license with an eye on flipping properties. “Then,” she says, “the market flopped.”
It was 2008, the year that the Case-Shiller home price index reported the largest drop in history.
BAI has come a long way since the sisters rekindled the dormant company in 2007. Much of its growth has come in the last few years. For instance, BAI’s revenue soared from $2 million in 2015 to more than $46 million in 2019.
The partners learned to pivot long before the expression became a pandemic buzzword. Initially focused on real estate, the company now is a general contracting firm specializing in heavy commercial and industrial contracting.
Their decision to leverage their background has paid off. BAI ranked fifth on the 50 Fastest-Growing Women-Owned/-Led Companies of 2020 list and appeared again on the 2021 list. The Women Presidents’ Organization compiles the list of women-owned businesses annually in collaboration with American Express.
The rankings are based on a sales growth formula that combines percentage and absolute growth. Businesses must be privately held, woman-owned or women-led and have annual revenues of at least $500,000 as of 2015 and every subsequent year.
Small jobs kept the company afloat and given the women’s contacts through Battaglia Electric, it’s not surprising that they involved industrial construction.
“We realized that we had something amazing,” says Meyer, the company’s president. “I didn’t know anything about flipping real estate, but I did know about industrial construction – this was the industry we grew up in.”
In late 2015, BAI had two security projects at substations. By the end of 2016, the company had 10 projects and did $2 million in business.
Today, BAI’s services include security infrastructure design and installation, UL-certified panel prefabrication, substation construction, Betafence installation, security power distribution, project management, maintenance, integrated project delivery and low-voltage/structured cabling/fiber optics. Given the demand for excavation, the company purchased a frequent contractor in 2019 to bring that service in-house.
BAI’s clients include PECO, PSE&G, M&T Bank, West Chester University, University of Delaware, Johnson Controls Inc. and Whiting-Turner. BAI is an Exelon “contractor of choice” and has benefited from Exelon’s strong commitment to diversity.
Meyer and Battaglia have smartly pursued certification programs. While waiting for the housing market to rebound, they become certified by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC). Not only is the company led by women, but women are among the 40 employees – which is uncommon in its male-dominated industry.
In New Castle, BAI rents space from Battaglia Electric. For now, they are separate entities.
“We still do our own thing, but when we need electrical help, we know where to get it,” says Meyer.
Her husband, Jim, runs Battaglia Electric. Not all BAI’s electrical projects are subcontracted to Battaglia Electric, though, which creates some interesting conversations around the dinner table, Meyer says.
From BAI’s Delaware and Maryland offices, the company can serve clients in Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Washington, D.C., New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
“Delaware is centrally located, with seven major utility companies in the Mid-Atlantic,” Meyer notes. “This puts our company in a great position to service them.”
The sisters are happy to be headquartered in their home state.
“Delaware has a small-town feel, yet several major cities are within reach,” Meyer says. “In a little over two hours, you can see a Broadway show and grab a cheesesteak in Philly on the way home or stop at the Jersey Shore.”
If heading south, you can stop at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor before hitting D.C. But unless she’s traveling for work, you’re not likely to find Meyer heading in either direction.
“Most of the time,” she says, “I prefer to just stay in Delaware and go to a local spot to eat, where I am bound to see a friend or two.”