Koniag buys Soldotna Company:  Big G Electric and Engineering

“Big G Electric and Engineering” got its start more than 30 years ago in the Kenai Peninsula. Now it’s under the umbrella of Koniag, Inc., the Native corporation for Kodiak region.

Koniag says Bruce Gabriel will remain president of “Big G,” and join the corporation’s leadership team.

Bruce Gabriel, whose family founded Big G, says he will retain 20 percent of the company and stay on as president.

So how did Big G get its name? Gabriel says his mother came up it.  

“It’s Big G, as in the Big Guy upstairs,” Gabriel said.

Now the homegrown company is part of a corporation that reported more than $267 million in revenue in 2018. Currently it has about 4,200 shareholders.

“This agreement is a win, win, win,” Gabriel said. “It’s a win for Koniag in its energy and water sector. It’s a win for Big G. It’s a win for Koniag shareholders and ultimately the Alaska economy as a whole.

Ron Unger, Chairman and CEO of Koniag, says Big G brings expertise that will complement its water and energy division.

Big G Electric and Engineering was founded by the Gabriel family in Soldotna more than 30 years ago.

 

“Big G is an established electrical and engineering firm that dovetails very nicely into our industrial automation and mechanical electrical panel work that we do,” Unger said. “And Gabriel brings deep industry knowledge and leadership skills. He’ll add a lot to our leadership team.”

Although Big G is headquartered in Soldotna, the company has worked all over the state, including Kodiak. The company’s first big contract was at the Coast Guard’s Lake Louise housing project. It’s also had a project at the Kodiak rocket launch facility. But Big G’s main bread and butter is servicing oilfield companies, and that includes a lot of work in North Dakota.  

“Teaming with Koniag will certainly give us more opportunities in the Lower 48,” Gabriel says.

Jonathan King, an economist and owner of Halcyon Consulting, agrees. One of King’s specialties is tracking the impact of Alaska Native corporations on the state’s economy.

“It’s a marriage of two homegrown institutions,” King said of the purchase. “For the Native corporation, it’s a lot easier to buy something up-and-running, rather than to build it yourself.”

And for companies like Big G, King says it’s also an opportunity to go to the next level and tap into a steady stream of investment.

 “That is the challenge for Alaska entrepreneurs. The market here is only so big, that you tend to be distant from other markets,” King said. “The fact that Alaska Native corporations already have structures outside Alaska, it means those companies can now access that, without having to break fresh ground.”

Although more and more of Big G’s contracts are out of state, Gabriel says there is plenty of opportunity for Alaskans to work on these projects. He says employees can do what North Slope oil workers do – work two weeks on and two weeks off.   

Gabriel says Big G and Koniag have been trying to reverse the equation, by having Alaskans commute to the Lower 48 instead of the other way around. That way the money stays in the state and creates more opportunity for young people.  

“I don’t think we’re doing anybody any justice, if we don’t look at that young high school or junior high kid that’s looking for an opportunity to have a career later on, if we don’t invest in those situations,” Gabriel said.

While many Native corporations have invested in businesses outside the state, Koniag has strategically bought Alaskan companies.

In 2009, Koniag acquired Dowland-Bach, a company that had more than 30 years of experience specializing in oil field control equipment. Unger says the investment gave Koniag entrée into resource development.  

Two years ago, Koniag added Glacier Services, Alaska’s largest oil field automation firm, to its energy subsidiaries. And now, Unger says, Big G is another building block in Koniag’s efforts to offer its customers a wider array of services.

He said all three companies have a similar business philosophy.

“And that’s where we start is with the people and individuals having a like-minded viewpoint of how the state of Alaska is going, how you treat your people and how you treat your customers,” Unger said. “If you’re like minded, some great things can happen.”  

 

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