((Left) Bend Lighting, Inc. located in Bend. (Right) Dave and Tara Finnell with their four “Future Electricians” | Photos Courtesy of Tomahawk Electric)
For Dave and Tara Finnell, their employees are not just workers, they are family. Three years ago, the couple opened Tomahawk Electric in Redmond, and the business was just the two of them working side by side. Now, however, the Finnells are the proud owners of three booming businesses and have more than 40 employees.
“Dave and I don’t have a lot of family in Central Oregon,” says Tara. “Our employees aren’t just our employees; we have made friends with them. We aren’t just their bosses; we want to be there for them. We hang out with them.” COVID has put a damper on the large social functions, Tara says, but in previous years, they hosted barbecues and holiday parties with their staff. “We do our best to treat our employees with respect and help them out in every aspect of life we can. Our moto is work to live, not live to work. We’re all here to live life in the best way we can, and we support that in ourselves and our employees.”
The Finnells decided to start Tomahawk Electric after Dave had been working in the electrical trade for nearly two decades. “My husband has been in the trade for over 20 years, so we decided we were going to give it a shot, and we did,” Tara explains. “I went to school to learn accounting and bookkeeping, and I’m four credits away from completing my degree.” On the Tomahawk website, Dave is described as “Owner and Best Damn Electrician in town,” and Tara’s job description reads, “Chief Everything Officer and mother of future electricians.” The “future electricians” are the Finnells’ four children: Lexie, 14, Shelby, 11, Jonathan, 6 and Liam, 3. “They are great kids; smart, helpful to each other and they make our life great,” says Tara, adding that her children are understanding of the very full schedule. “Together, we juggle being parents and business owners; we do it together because there aren’t any other options!” she says with a laugh.
The Finnells are so family focused that even the name of their first business stems from family. “Tomahawk Electric is named in honor of my dad, who we lost in 2017,” she says. “It’s a unique name, and sometimes we get questions on why it’s named that and if it’s politically correct.”
When the couple began Tomahawk, Tara says they envisioned that the two of them would run the company alone for a while. “We thought the business would be just he and I for the first five years. Clearly, that did not happen. We got the offer to buy out Bend Lighting, Inc., so we went for it. Our plan exploded into what it is today.” The Finnells completed the purchase of Bend Lighting and Quality Builders Electric, Inc. on June 1, and were able to retain all but one of the companies’ employees in the transaction.
“Now, we own two electrical companies and a lighting store. We are insanely busy,” she says. Tomahawk, which is still located in Redmond at 3106 N Canal Boulevard, offers all phases of electrical work, specializing in custom homes, remodels, commercial endeavors and service. At Bend Lighting, there is a 3,000-square-foot showroom featuring products from more than 80 lighting manufacturers, and lighting services are available to homeowners, interior designers, architects and contractors. Quality Builders Electric is an electrical contracting service provider specializing in residential work ranging from small remodel projects to large custom homes. Bend Lighting and Quality Builders Electric are both located at 615 SE Glenwood Drive in Bend.
During the COVID pandemic, Tara says their businesses have remained robust, and they did not have to lay off a single employee. “The only affect the pandemic has had on us is in purchasing supplies. The production of parts has affected us due to the closing of warehouses,” she says. “But at first, we didn’t even feel it. People are working on their houses because there is nothing else to do. One happy story with COVID is that we had no layoffs.”
Tara says that in owning and operating their three businesses, the greatest challenge has been in finding electricians. “With Facebook going in in Prineville and the union going in, a lot of electricians who would work with us now work for the union,” she says. “There was a shortage of electricians to begin with.”
Despite the shortage of electricians, however, the Finnells have obviously figured out what it takes to build a successful team, and they plan to continue to grow their family of employees. Tara says, “Our goals are to be happy and successful and support our employees in any way we can, to have a happy workplace and to service all of Central Oregon and provide the best service we can.”
tomahawkelectric.com • 541-390-6403
bend-lighting.com • 541-318-1940
qbelectric.net • 541-389-0621