Viking Electric, Inc. ‘electrifies’ business

By : 
Jordan Gerard

An office space here, a garage space there, but now a central location to bring it all together for Viking Electric, Inc.

The business owned by Spring Grove resident Scott Prahl now operates out of one building at 654 Norway Ave, on Highway 44, east of Spring Grove.

It’s 12,600 sq. ft. of two large garage bays, office space, warehouse shelves and storage that eliminates a lot of complications. 

“We had a lack of space. We were packed in at some places and spread out,” Prahl said. “The accounting office was above the [Spring Grove Cinema] theater; the shop was out in Black Hammer on the farm. It was just impossible. We [employees] never saw each other.”

Questions for accounting, deliveries to various places and lack of space for equipment and trucks prompted the expansion. 

Now the office is fully staffed with two full time office staff, open Monday through Thursdays, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., 23 electricians and one owner.

The company services just about any kind of electrical work there is, including residential, agricultural, commercial, industrial and solar. A majority of its crewmembers travel to job sites, some crews are strictly for Kwik Trip jobs (new stores or remodeling), while two stay home to service local calls.

Recently the company has put an emphasis on solar, completing several projects abroad the Mid-West for communities, nature centers and cooperatives, like Dairyland Cooperative, MiEnergy and many more.

“We have a lot of solar work coming up. A lot of it is booked, and it’s still coming,” Prahl said. “I have 23 employees and it still might be a week or two before you see someone.”

That doesn’t mean they’ll shy away from a job though, as Prahl plans to have 30 electricians by this summer. 

Having an electrical license hires electricians more easily, but people working toward a license are also employed. 

The ability to hire union and local also helps the workforce at Viking Electric, Prahl said. 

He hopes to hire a warehouse technician, who would check orders, clean the shop, wash trucks and keep everything in order at the new building. That could likely be a job for a well-organized local resident.

Prahl started his company 17 years ago and didn’t think it would grow to be this size. But the possibility was there.

“I knew we’d do well,” he said. “I’m pretty driven.”

He started out in electrical at Agri Star, the processing plant in Postville. There, he and his crew completed specialized work for the plant on expansions, remodels and production lines. 

After that, it was relatively smooth sailing and growing. In 2013, the cost of solar panels dropped drastically, allowing homeowners and business owners to install energy efficiency without a high cost.

“We’ve only been doing solar for about three years,” Prahl said in 2016. “But I would say it’s now about 40 percent of our business.”

His new building will also run on a solar panel starting in the spring. The building is also equipped with energy efficient LED lights and quality insulation.

Prahl also plans to use the large garage spaces for a community garage sale during Syttende Mai, if enough people are interested. 

There will also be details about an open house during that time too. However, if people are eager to see the space before then, they can contact Prahl at 507-498-5888. 

EDA help

Much of the process for the new building was made possible with the help of the Spring Grove Economic Development Authority (EDA). 

Prahl talked to Courtney Bergey about purchasing a lot and after a few discussions and negotiations, struck a deal.

“It was easy,” he said. “I told them what I wanted to do and they said ‘ok’.”

He said he would recommend any new business or business looking to expand to contact the EDA about the lots.

“It would be nice to have neighbors,” Prahl added.

Currently, there’s already sewer and water in place. High-speed internet service is available from Spring Grove Communications. There’s ample room for buildings and parking on about one acre each.

“The EDA was very pleased to help Viking Electric grow their business in Spring Grove, and we appreciate them choosing to plant roots in the newly-developed industrial park,” Bergey said. 

The EDA struck a deal with Prahl in June 2018 to sell one lot to him for $8,000, including hookup fees for water and sewer. 

His objective, as per the agreement, was to build a at least a 9,000 sq. ft. facility that houses all of the business operations, add five full time employees and have it substantially completed by the end of 2018.

The authority is ready to work with businesses and the planning and zoning commission to accommodate their needs for space, no matter the differences in spacing needs.

Bergey added each lot could potentially accommodate 20,000 sq. ft. of space, depending on a few factors.

The area is zoned for industrial businesses, including manufacturing, warehousing and distribution.

“The EDA and the City [of Spring Grove] are committed to helping businesses grow with these lots,” she added. “We want to make sure the lots are very affordable and the process is as easy as possible, and we are happy to work with businesses on financing solutions if needed.”

The city also approved a waiver of the sewer and water hookup costs, which means business owners would save more than $23,000 in fees that they might pay in other communities.

Potential interests should contact Bergey at 507-251-9272 or courtney.bergey@cedausa.com.