The Kopperuds—Norman's Electric Service, Rushford
The Early Days
It all started in 1917 when Norman Kopperud was born to Ole and Hermina on a farm near Bratsberg, MN. As Norm grew up, he demonstrated his interests in inventing and building. As a teenager he repaired shoes for his family and neighbors, built a field tractor with parts from junked vehicles, and built 80 hymnal racks for the pews at Highland prairie church, to name a few. It’s no wonder he became interested in a new technology called electricity, which he could only experiment with using batteries, because they had no electricity on the farm. He decided to pursue this technology, and with the help of a loan from an aunt, he attended the nearest electrical school, which was in Los Angeles.
As soon as WWII started, he enlisted and became an Electricians Mate First Class, receiving invaluable training in the Navy. With his new knowledge and confidence, he began plans for a new business in Rushford. While all this was happening, he married a young lady, Helen Eggebakken, who lived on a neighboring farm. Together they started a home, a family (Nancy, Glen, Diane, Tom, Jerry) and a business, where 75 years later they are still proud to call home.
A New Business is Born
Upon returning from WWII, Norm looked for a way to start a new business. He wanted to have a shop downtown, combining retail with contracting. He couldn’t find a spot open, so he purchased the land where Norman’s Electric is now located.
At first, projects consisted of adding electrical wiring to existing homes that had no electricity and farm wiring, but soon the business added commercial, industrial, and institutional wiring as well as schools, factories, hospitals, sewage treatment and other city work. Norm started the first TV signal service in Rushford and the infamous Magelssen Bluff Christmas Tree, and he was an early pioneer in electric heat and underground distribution.
The business exceeds Norm’s wildest dreams!
As a new generation came on the scene, new ideas and technologies began to drive the business in some new directions. With the addition of Powerline Construction, they added the knowledge, tools and equipment necessary to work with much higher voltages. With the move into the Automation technology, they became a pioneer in an incredible adventure that has opened up opportunities and markets throughout this country and internationally. Today, they are respected as a leader in the industry and continue to work hard to stay ahead of the curve in providing the best and most up-to-date technologies to their customers.
We asked Tom Kopperud, Electrical Association’s Past President (1994-1995) and current owner of Norman’s Electric, for some insight into the electrical contracting business and their company's success—
What would you tell a younger electrical contractor about how your business succeeded?
• Invest in good people. It’s the best investment long term.
• Training and more training. It’s a hi-tech world!
• Do what you do best, understand your company’s strengths and weaknesses. You can’t be an expert at everything.
• Be connected to your employees; don’t ever take them for granted.
What do you see as a challenge for the newer contractors just going into business?
• Failure to understand basic business practices. Just because you are a good electrician that doesn’t make you a good business person.
• Lack of skilled workers—finding anyone that wants to work in the trades.
What has been your greatest business success?
First, it has been retaining our people. We have a highly skilled and very motivated work force. Second, we have diversified our business with the Industrial Automation business growing at a fast pace and allowing us to do projects in 7 states and 4 different countries.
What part of the job do you find most rewarding?
I enjoy the challenge of design build projects on the electrical side and the design, layout and programming of industrial control projects.
What upcoming projects are you working on?
We continue to serve 15 industrial accounts in a 50-mile radius. We are in the process of building panels for projects in Kentucky, Minnesota and Mexico.
What is your favorite Electrical Association benefit?
Wide variety of training and our work at the Capitol.
How has the Electrical Association played a role in your business success?
Apprentice training and exam review.
Norman's Electric Service