SIDNEY — Ken Schlater, founder and former CEO of Area Energy & Electric, discussed the company he founded when he addressed the Kiwanis Club of Sidney, July 20.
Schlater is a lifelong resident of Sidney and started his career as a teacher and coach at Lehman High School. After several years of teaching, he joined his father, Herb Schlater, at Sidney Electric. In 1983, along with 10 other employees of Sidney Electric, Schlater helped found Area Energy & Electric. He said that the newspaper reported that a family war erupted, but that was not true. Area was started with the full support of the senior Schlater.
Schlater said that a couple of jobs helped solidify the company. They provided the electrical work for an 85-bed nursing home and a 60-unit apartment building. Due to the growth of the company, they moved from their original building on Wapak Road to a new building on Ferguson Court in 1987. By that time, employment at the company had reached 30 employees.
Three clients in particular contributed to the growth of Area. They started working at Plastipak in Jackson Center and stayed there for 17 years. They worked at Stolle’s for many years. They also started at the Honda Engine plant when it was built and they never left.
After several years at the Ferguson Court location, Schlater said he was approached by Ikeda Interior Systems about purchasing the location. “I told them the building was not for sale,” said Schlater. “They convinced me it was.” Area Energy sold the building and moved across the road to Commerce Drive., where it remains today.
In 1995, they diversified by opening a cellular telephone division. In 1998, they started Ohio Valley Integration Services, a low voltage, systems integration contracting firm. In 2008, they acquired Regal Plumbing and Heating. They also opened branch locations in Marysville, Columbus, Marion and Greensburg, Indiana.
In 1997, with the help of an outside consultant, the company developed a succession plan. Eventually the company was sold to four employees. Schlater resigned as CEO and currently works three days a week as a project manager.
“The key to a good company is good people,” he said Schlater. The company currently has 388 employees.