Dave VerPlank was the kind of kid who took things apart, like radios and toasters he found around his family’s house, and says, “I shocked myself a few times.”
VerPlank followed that love of all things electric and now owns his own electrical contracting business - VerPlank Electric at 3830 Mill Creek Ave. NE in downtown Comstock Park. The company does electrical work for commercial, residential, and industrial properties including new construction, remodeling, and general repairs.
He founded the company in 2002, and has relocated several times. He moved the business to Comstock Park in the summer of 2014 from downtown Grand Rapids. At his previous locations VerPlank leased the buildings and property. He said he wanted to own his own building. The Comstock Park building had previously housed a heating and cooling business. VerPlank said he likes the location for its closeness to downtown Grand Rapids and the 131 expressway. He also likes “the community and people.” However the property is small. The building has an office space as well as shop and storage areas. There are nine employees including VerPlank and an office manager. His service area is mainly greater Grand Rapids and West Michigan, roughly within a fifty mile radius of the shop, but he does do jobs outside that area. Advertising is mainly by word of mouth.
Becoming an electrician is not an easy process. It requires commitment and time. There is a minimum of 8000 hours working and four years of supervised on-the-job training as an apprentice under the supervision of a journeyman as well as four years of classes. Then there is an exam to pass to become a journeyman. To become a master electrician requires another 2000 hours under the supervision of a master electrician, and another exam to pass. To become an electrical contractor and have your own business, the company must have a master electrician on record and pass a contractor license.
VerPlank attended trade school at Grand Rapids Community College to become a master electrician and eventually own his own electrical contracting company. He has also taught at the college and currently has two apprentices from GRCC working in his company, one of whom is close to become a journeyman.
It’s extremely hard to find people who want to go into the trades including electric said VerPlank, and an existing shortage is expected to worsen. Baby boomers are retiring, and there aren’t enough new workers with the skills to take their place. VerPlank said he thinks young people are more interested in technology that working with their hands. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that 165,000 workers in the trades needed by 2024, and companies are already struggling to find talented workers.
VerPlank, who graduated from Northview High School, and his wife Heather live in Grand Rapids with their four children, who range from a high school senior to a sixth grader. When he’s not working, VerPlank enjoys spending time with his family, off-roading with his jeep, fishing and “playing with new technology.”