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S&C Electric Company Breaks Ground on New Building in Rogers Park

By Benjamin Woodard | August 9, 2013 8:18am
 The S&C Electric Company was founded in 1911 in Chicago.
S&C Electric Company
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ROGERS PARK — Rogers Park's biggest neighbor is getting a little bigger.

S&C Electric Company, at 6601 N. Ridge Blvd., broke ground on a new four-story building recently that, when completed, will house engineering teams who maintain power systems for universities, hospitals and sports stadiums.

But the majority of the work at one of city's largest manufacturers — second only to Ford's plant in Hegewisch, the company says — is done by its nearly 2,000 workers.

The company, formed in 1911, moved in 1947 from its Ravenswood warehouse to Rogers Park, where it began to transform an old tire yard into its maze of buildings, slowly gobbling up surrounding property.

Building 14A, which will be the tallest on its campus, should be completed in 2014, said Mike Edmonds, who oversees S&C's business in the United States.

Most people who drive by on Ridge Avenue or Pratt Boulevard don't fully understand what's happening on the mysterious campus, Edmonds said.

But, he said, "there's a little of S&C everywhere." The thing is, most of it's buried in the ground or a few dozen feet above the ground on an electrical pole.

In 1909, Edmund Schweitzer and Nicholas Conrad, two Commonwealth Edison engineers who make up the "S" and "C" in the company's name, developed a liquid glass fuse that would prevent dangerous electrical arcs at power substations.

It was a big seller. The company expanded, and now develops "Smart Grid" technology, Edmonds said, like computerized relays that keep a home's lights from flickering during intermittent power outages.

The United States Postal Service, U.S. military and NASA are some of its customers.

The company made headlines in February after New Orleans' Superdome lost power during the Super Bowl, causing an embarrassing 30-minute delay. An S&C electrical relay installed outside of the stadium had tripped.

Edmonds said the newly-installed device wasn't set correctly for the amount of power surging into the stadium.

Nonetheless, the company took a hit in news reports.

"It's like you blaming Canon because you take [lousy] pictures," Edmonds said, in defense.

The company, which pulls in $700 to $800 million a year, also builds equipment for solar panels and wind turbines that are used around the world.

Edmonds said employees often compete to take photos of company equipment in far-flung places while on vacation.

One employee recently came home with a photo from the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.