Eric Francavilla/The Daily Evergreen
The largest private company in Pullman is about to get bigger.
Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, an employee-owned company that designs and manufactures electrical equipment, employees 1,900 people in 11 buildings — including a 200,000-square-foot manufacturing facility — at its Pullman headquarters.
And this month, workers broke ground for a 12th building — a $9-million research and development laboratory near Northeast Terre View Drive and Schweitzer Drive.
The building, which will be completed by April 2013, will provide the company with a place to install state-of-the-art research technology and combine several projects under one roof, said Tammy Lewis, the spokeswoman for the lab.
“We’re always looking to improve products and invent new ones that are cost-effective and more reliable,” she said.
The products and research from the lab, which has 51 domestic and 43 international offices, are used by customers in 142 countries and locally by companies like Avista Utilities — even WSU.
“Our work, the products and services we provide, it helps people,” Lewis said.
They make up reliable power infrastructures in developing countries, supply continuous power during outages and storms for hospitals, and even saves lives.
Last year in the Northwest, a surge of electricity threatened to kill a man making electrical repairs, but an arc-flash detector, which can discover surges and shut down power within milliseconds, saved his life, Lewis said.
The lab also benefits the local economy, she said.
“Money we generate from sales comes from outside the area, so it really helps Pullman stay stable,” she said.
The lab has 3,400 employees and 300 open job positions company-wide, and more than 200 of those open jobs are located in Pullman. And for those who are not engineers, there still are opportunities.
The lab has non-engineering positions such as accountants, sales representatives, human resource officers and administrators. To learn more about open positions, visit www.selinc.com/careers.
“We are the largest private employer in Pullman and second to WSU in terms of sheer numbers,” she said.
But the now-international company was once an out-of-the-garage operation. Edmund O. Schweitzer III, originally from Chicago, designed the first all-digital protective relay in his garage in 1982, the same year he founded the lab in Pullman.
It took Schweitzer two years later to sell his first relay, but since then business has taken off. The company has expanded by 100,000 square feet of new offices, labs and manufacturing buildings every year, Lewis said.
The new research and development building in Pullman will be 97,000 square feet, similar to the Solutions Delivery Center, which was built last year in Pullman.
“We’ve been pretty lucky here,"she said."As the economy struggles, we’re continuing to build.”