Originally Posted Online: Feb. 02, 2013, 8:00 pm
Last Updated: Feb. 03, 2013, 11:32 am

Moline company engineers solutions for major firms

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By Jonathan Turner, jturner@qconline.com

More photos from this shoot
Photo: Todd Mizener
Mark Turczynski, owner of Midwest Engineering Consultants Ltd., Moline, started his engineering business more than 20 years ago. Among the services offered by his company is reconditioning of industrial circuit-breakers like this one in the company's Moline workshop, 2500 36th Ave.

If your business feels powerless, Mark Turczynski is your man. He's got the power.

The 55-year-old electrical engineering graduate from Iowa State Univers itystarted Midwest Engineering Consultants from the basement of his Moline home in late 1991. Today, his staff of 10 installs, tests, maintains and repairs electrical power systems nationwide, but primarily within a six-hour radius of the Quad-Cities.

Clients have included power companies such as MidAmerican and Alliant, factories such as ADM, Alcoa, Kraft, John Deere and Gerdau, and universities such as Western Illinois, University of Iowa and Iowa State University.

Mr. Turczynski also has been called by insurance companies as an expert when determining specifics of accidents involving electrical power.

A major current project is overseeing the new power systems in the $300 million expansion, to meet rising demand for aluminum from the automotive market, at Alcoa's Riverdale plant,.

"The days of a centralized engineering technical force for these plants are gone," Mr. Turczynski said, adding that what makes it really good for smaller companies is that "these plants don't have this expertise in house. Why hire somebody to be there when they're only going to be there 20 or 30 percent of the time?"

"We're seeing a tremendous amount of potential with the economy being as it is, seeing an awful lot of companies wanting to know how much power they're consuming," Mike Martin, MEC's sales and marketing manager, said. Clients want a safe, reliable power system, for the most cost-effective price; and MEC doesn't install wiring or lighting, he said.

Formerly a senior electrical engineer at Alcoa, Mr. Turczynski started consulting for the ADM plant in Clinton (still a regular customer). He quit Alcoa in 1992, and got a contract revamping the entire electrical system of a Clinton plastics maker.

"Mark set this company up with a very honest and straightforward communications with every one of our customers," Mr. Martin said. "He's telling them, 'This is what you can do, this is what you should do.'"

MEC has been at its current location at 2500 36th Ave., Moline, since 1996, when the shop was in a garage. There now are 10 employees, and an expansion in 2000 added a 3,500-square-foot shop, with 20-feet ceilings and state-of-the-art equipment.

Mr. Turczynski said the expansion allowed them to take on projects they couldn't before. "It's given us more capabilities to do things that nobody else can do in the local area."

The new shop allows them to test and repair much larger circuit-breakers and electrical components and transformers.

MEC's client base has grown in the past 12 years, but since the recession hit in 2008, some clients have put off new and maintenance projects, Mr. Turczynski said, adding that fortunately, the company has made money every year but one.

A couple employees were laid off in2011, but one since has been hired back, and sales are up from a year ago, Mr. Turczynski said.

His company often helps customers fix a short-term problem and recommend a long-term solution, which they may or may not act on right away.

"You have to work around budget constraints; that's a natural part of business," Mr. Turczynski said. "The idea is to balance what you have for money, not actually what we would like to do all the time.Our whole thing is about safety and reliability.When you don't have power, you realize really fast all the things you need it for.

"It's a system, a living, breathing system," he said. "Its parts and pieces we work on. We have to look at it from the perspective of the whole system."

"It's like the blood in your body, you need to have this flowing," Mr. Martin said. "You need your heart viable, to have moving parts moving to stay healthy."

MEC also helps companies comply with federal safety regulations.

"It has a component that says you must maintain and test the equipment on a regular basis," Mr. Martin said. "It's to protect anyone working on electrical equipment. A lot of customers are up-to-date on that now. They're alsoresponsible for every contractor working on their equipment; that's a huge industry mindset change.That equipment has to be kept up-to-date. You don't just do it once and you're done."

"We can pretty much take things from cradle to grave, from something new, maintain it, life extend it, then at the end, you can't do anything more with it, start that cycle over again," Mr. Turczynski said.

Since 2010, he has been selling portable solar panels he designed for the residential market.

Homeowners are looking for eco-friendly ways to lower their electricity usage and utility bills while still being "green" or sustainable, according to the website for "Powershed" products.

"There's a lot of interest in the product," Mr. Turczynski said. "It's kind of a niche thing, for those people who can't put it on their house. Here's an opportunity to put it in their backyard, and you get storage with it."

He said MEC has done some limited testing of wind turbines on wind farms, but "the green industry is very young; it needs to mature.Green energy is going to be much more prevalent, but it's going to take time yet. We have our core business we continue to expand.

"It's a very niche market," he said. "There's not many people that do the work we do, to the extent that we do it. That's one of the reasons we're still around after 21 years."