A rare fifth-generation business owner, Evansville Electrical and Mechanical Services Company, Inc. (EEMSCO) vice president Tom Mathias is proud to carry on a longtime family tradition. Since taking leadership from his father John Mathias in June 2015, Tom focuses on demands new technology will bring while maintaining signature services on which the company was built nearly a century ago.
As a one-stop industrial maintenance shop, EEMSCO rewinds and repairs AC/DC electric motors, pumps, and gearboxes, and also performs millwright and machine shop services for businesses within a 150-mile radius, which includes Southern Indiana, Southern Illinois, and Western Kentucky. Its services benefit a wide range of industries, including plastics, aluminum, steel, automotive, pulp and paper, power plants, refineries and pipelines, aggregate and mining, utilities and municipalities, hospitals, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, food processing, and colleges and universities.
“Businesses count on us to keep them running,” says Tom, an Evansville native who earned his bachelor’s degree in business management from Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana, and master’s degree from Belmont University, Nashville, Tennessee. “If their industry is succeeding, then we’re succeeding.”
Tom attributes the company’s nearly century-long success to its adaptation to the region’s new and diverse industries, continuity in management, and longtime employee tenure, as well as constant dedication to its customers.
“We want to continue to grow and find ways to improve so we are always able to meet all of our customers’ needs,” says Tom. “I talk to the guys on the floor and ask about certain processes and ways to improve. We don’t want to say we can only handle a portion of your repairs — we want to fix it all. We want to listen and ask questions and always be looking for ways to do things better. If we do that, we will never stop growing.”
Founded by Tom’s great-great-grandfather John Poling and great-grandfather Gil Poling, the business moved into its current facility at 600 W. Eichel Ave. in 1920 and was incorporated in 1921 to serve the booming coal mining industry. John relocated to Evansville from the Eastern Ohio and Western Pennsylvania area upon realizing coal had become the leading source of heat and power for transportation, fueling locomotives, paddlewheel boats, and in turn, the companies of the Industrial Revolution.
Back then, EEMSCO manufactured parts for railroads and railroad cars serving the coal mines. In addition to the growing coal mining industry, the Polings also saw the rise of electricity as a common power source, leading it to begin rewinding and repairing some of the earliest industrial-sized DC electric motors in the infancy of the electric age.
As the region’s coal industry gradually diminished, other industries rose and filled the gap left by fewer mining jobs.
“This area has always had a great industrial base — even in the transition from mining to other heavy industries, such as plastics,” says Tom.
EEMSCO remains at the same location where it has been standing for almost 100 years — on Eichel Avenue, just west of Garvin Park. Today, the 45,000-square-foot facility consists of three areas: a storage warehouse, built in the late 1800s; a machine shop, constructed in the early 1940s; and an electric shop, including management offices, added in the 1980s.
The company has specialties across four divisions: electrical services, mechanical services, field services, and new motors and warranty services. In the electric shop, services include AC motor rewinding and repair — up to 3,000 horsepower — and DC armature winding and repair — up to 2,000 horsepower.
“We can fix just about anything,” says Tom. “And if we can’t fix it, we have the resources to find you a new one for a great price.”
The facility’s major capabilities include a 30-ton crane capacity for lifting motors during repairs, and a 4,160-volt test panel for assessing how motors are functioning. EEMSCO also provides field services, such as predictive and preventative maintenance, and can send teams out for any on-site repair needs.
“Machinery breakdowns can be much more costly than routine maintenance,” says Tom’s father John.
EEMSCO helps companies maintain, repair, or replace critical motors to keep daily operations running, says Tom. With in-shop repair available from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m. and offsite after-hours repairs, EEMSCO offers its services 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“If you have a critical motor down, your operations grind to a halt, your production line stops, and you can’t do anything,” says Tom. “You call us — even in the middle of the night — and we will be there and get you back up and running. Our quality and our turnaround time are why people come to us and stay with us.”
Because EEMSCO works with specific industries and their highly technical and specialized equipment, customers also rely on the longtime staff’s experience and guidance.
“We have the technical knowledge to advise the customer on the right product,” says Tom. “Our knowledge is a great asset for our customers.”
That knowledge has been passed down from generation to generation.
“There isn’t a school for what we do,” says John. “Employees receive on-the-job training.”
Through the years, continuity in management was maintained by keeping the business in the family and consulting past owners. Workforce continuity also helps the company be successful. From motor technicians, winders, field-service specialists, machinists and bookkeepers to inside and outside sales representatives, average tenure is more than a decade — and eight of the 25 employees have been with the company for more than 20 years.
“Our longest-tenured employee, Flavian Elpers, retired this past spring with 53 years of service under his belt,” says Tom. “We have very little turnover. We really are a tight-knit family.”
As the company continues to grow, so do Tom’s 1- and 3-year-old sons — the sixth generation that could potentially take the company into its next century.
“I would love for them to continue the family tradition,” says Tom.
For more information about EEMSCO, call 812-426-2224 or visit eemsco.com.