Crowley Brothers Strike It Right with Lightning Protection Business

Dale Crowley

Did you know lightning strikes occur in the United States 25 million times each year? If you happen to see a lightning storm, you’re actually watching free advertising for the Auburn-based Crowley Lightning Protection. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), lightning is one of the most underrated severe weather threats, often striking from three to 10 miles away from the center of a thunderstorm.

“Lightning can disrupt a building in several ways. It can hit a building directly, it can hit the power line and cause a surge in the building, and static electricity that builds before the storm can cause side flashing,” explains Dale Crowley.

While lightning strikes can’t be prevented, you can take preventive measures to reduce the risk of physical injury and damages. Twenty five years ago, brothers Dale, Dennis, and Randall Crowley seized an opportunity to launch their own business after working for their father’s lightning protection company. Sadly, Randy passed away in 2000, but Dale and Dennis continued running the company. Today Crowley Lightning Protection has become a successful installer and servicer for systems that meet the needs of agricultural, industrial, government and private customers across the Northeast.

Installing and servicing materials designed to handle the high current and short duration electrical current of lightning strikes requires Crowley’s crew to work within two feet of roof edges and quickly overcome any fear of heights. The main components of Crowley’s lightning protection system include air terminals, main conductors, copper ground rods, lightning arrestors, and surge suppressors. Crowley Lightning Protection specializes in installing lightning protection systems that can be concealed during the construction phase so that aesthetics are uncompromised. Electrical engineers and architects incorporate lightning protection systems into the design for most buildings with steel structures and electrical systems that need a lightning protection system.

“Most of our work is subcontracted, about 75 percent through an electrical contractor. Our industry is pretty competitive and we work on jobs in New York, Pennsylvania, and in other New England states,” says Dale. “Installation of the system takes our crews usually two weeks for an average-sized building.”

Crowley’s revenues tend to track the construction industry, and rise when agricultural and industrial companies feel confident to expand and make investment in their facilities. Farms are increasingly turning to lightning protection companies like Crowley since metal is now preferred for barn material and metal automation equipment is becoming commonplace in the egg and dairy industry. Agricultural customers like Hudson’s Egg Farm, Wegman’s Egg Farm, and others rely on their automated systems to stay in operation and use Crowley’s lightning protection systems to reduce the risk of business interruption. An SBA-backed loan from M&T Bank in the fall of 2014 helped the Crowley brothers refinance existing debt and take on additional inventory to meet rising sales.

“We were referred to Sue Fadden at M&T Bank by our accountant, and she was able to put a package together that worked out great. When you have a strong year, you need more materials and this was just right for us,” recounts Dale.

Crowley Lightning Protection also recently completed installing protections systems for 10 Wal-Mart distribution centers across the Northeast. The size of a distribution center is immense-over 26 acres-and the Crowley equipment had to be deployed to the roof using a helicopter. Other large customers include federal and state government facilities such as Fort Drum, Stratton Air Force Base, the New York State Insurance Fund building in Buffalo, the New York State office building in Utica, the New York State prison in Marcy, the Niagara Falls Air Force base, and Buffalo High Tech Riverbend - Solar City in Buffalo.

The Crowley brothers each have different roles and responsibilities at the company that best suit their skill set: Dale runs the sales side and Dennis closely manages the installation process. For both brothers, the fascination with lightning hasn’t faded in the past 40 years and working together has been a wonderful experience that they will continue for many years to come.