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Saturday, Feb 4, 2023

Giddens Still Running on a Strong Current After 60 Years

For more than 60 years the Giddens family has provided electrical contracting services in the Los Angeles area. First was the father, Syd, who built his business serving Lockheed when the aircraft manufacturer was still a vital presence in Burbank. Then followed sons Al and Jerry and continued with Al’s own sons, Jeff and Bill. For that same 60 years, those electrical contracting services have been provided from a location on Burbank Boulevard. Behind a fence stands a two-story structure with offices on the lower floor and living quarters above with the entrance to A. Giddens Electric off the alley in back. Al Giddens has strong personal and professional roots in Burbank having lived in the city his whole life save for a few years in living on the border in Glendale. (“I used to hang over the fence when I got homesick,” Giddens said.) He has coached Little League and is a long-time member of the Road Kings car club, an offshoot of his interest in hot rods. In business, Giddens is flexible as the construction industry rises and falls with the economy. He is forward thinking enough to have entered the solar power market and now offers installations of residential solar panels. Going solar wasn’t a big step for the company as much as it was a natural step, said Giddens. “When you think of all the rooftops even getting a small percentage is a lucrative business,” added Brad Clayton, the new business development manager. While both Clayton and general manager Rob Hansen are relative newcomers to Giddens Electric both are long-time family friends of the family. Hansen was coached by Al Giddens in Little League, his team winning a championship one year. Being coached by Al Giddens introduced Hansen to the concept of team sports, working together and knowing how the different positions interacted with each other. “It was the foundation of understanding organizations,” Hansen said. With his background in the software industry, Hansen brings a corporate professionalism to keep Giddens successful while not overpowering the sense of family brought by Al Giddens and son Bill, who works as an electrician and foreman. (Another son Jeff briefly operated the family firm under the name J.A. Giddens Electric Inc. until he passed away in 2007.) What Al knows about operating a business he learned from father Syd. Starting at a young age he worked first in the warehouse and by junior high school was out in the field where Syd’s Electric installed electrical systems in residential tract homes and commercial buildings. Work for Lockheed provided access into the famed Skunk Works, where secret and advanced aircraft were designed and built. Al Giddens later joined his brother Jerry in his electrical contracting company and then bought his sibling out in 1986. One long time acquaintance called the brothers very different from each other, with Jerry as the serious hard-headed businessman. “(Al) is one of those delightful fellows and likeable,” said Don Russ, an accountant who has done the books for Al Giddens for years. After Syd became ill, Al took over his father’s business and then later closed it down, moving his own firm into the Burbank Boulevard location. From his father, Al Giddens said he learned what not to do when it came to managerial skills and employee relations and much about estimating engineering work, the heart of electrical contracting. It is not uncommon, for instance, to have a foreman come in with vague information about a job and having to calculate an estimate, Giddens said. “If you mess up you cost the company money,” Clayton added. Gary Henson, a long-time client, called Al Giddens responsible, diligent and reliable. The relations between the Hensons and Giddenses go back to Henson’s grandfather and father who operated their development company Continental Buildings in Glendale. Giddens Electric now performs primarily maintenance work on properties that Gary Henson manages. “We have used them for decades,” Henson said. “We have no reason to change.” Along with expanding into the solar market, Giddens also redesigned its website and brought on a marketing director. These are moves that even Syd would have been pleased with as he had mellowed out in his later years, Al Giddens said.

Mark Madler
Mark Madler
Mark R. Madler covers aviation & aerospace, manufacturing, technology, automotive & transportation, media & entertainment and the Antelope Valley. He joined the company in February 2006. Madler previously worked as a reporter for the Burbank Leader. Before that, he was a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago and several daily newspapers in the suburban Chicago area. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

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