Latest from Industry Perspectives


Jim Lucy2015 595 Square 5f24985bee2ca

Small-Town USA

July 30, 2020
They may not account for anywhere near the sales of the nation’s largest metros, but the potential of small towns will surprise you.

I enjoy visiting small towns. Maybe it was living in a cabin in Alligash (population 420 back in 1977)  in Maine’s famed North Woods on the banks of the St. John River, while working a summer job as a helper for a test boring and drilling company, and spending my off hours trout fishing or skipping stones in the river.

Perhaps I got the bug during one of the cross-country car trips my wife and I now regularly take as empty nesters, and gotten the chance to visit wonderful small towns and cities like Custer and Spearfish, SD; Asheville, NC; Taos, NM; and Bozeman, MT.

This appreciation for Small-Town USA has served me well as an editor for EW over the past 30-plus years, because I love writing about the fastest-growing cities and towns of all sizes, and when I am lucky, getting the chance to visit distributors or reps in some of these towns. This issue’s cover story, “Measuring Your Metros for 2021,” (page 14) shows you how to use local market data to find which towns — big and small — are growing the fastest, and how to check on the economic health of your own local market with some simple market metrics like population growth, building permits and electrical contractor or industrial employment.

The growth numbers large metropolitan areas like Austin, Dallas, Atlanta, Raleigh-Durham, Phoenix and southwest Florida crank out year-after-year are indeed impressive.  But I always find the growth in smaller cities and towns equally as interesting because of the impact it has on their electrical sales potential. Consider that Bozeman, MT, has added 24,780 new residents from 2010 to 2019, or that in 2019 it had positive net migration of 2,084, both top in the nation for what the U.S. Census Dept. defines as a micropolitan market. Those new residents need somewhere to live, shop, eat, play, worship and in many cases send their kids to school. Talk about creating new electrical sales opportunities.

You don’t have to be a Harvard-educated economist to see why these local market metrics are important to sales and marketing executives in the electrical industry. To help readers with their market planning, EW has for years provided sales-per-employee estimates for electrical contractors, industrial customers and other end users. In recent years, Electrical Marketing ( newsletter has offered these estimates on a quarterly basis for the state and Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) level (twice-a-year on the county-level) at a cost of only $99 per year. It also offers regular updates on building permit activity on the local level.

The  annual population data available from the U.S. Census Bureau at the state, metro and county level is another solid resource you can use to gauge growth in a market. This month’s cover story uses it to provide insight into which metros are attracting the most new residents and combines it with building permit data on a total permits per 10,000 population basis, so you can compare large and small markets by the same metric.

It blows me away to think that last year the Phoenix-Mesa-Chandler, AZ MSA attracted an estimated 213 new residents each day, or that in 2019, builders in relatively small but very busy MSAs like The Villages, FL, and St. George, UT, actually pulled more total building permits per 10,000 residents than much larger metros like Austin-Round Rock-Georgetown, TX, or Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin, TN, which year-after-year rank amongst the leaders in building permits and last year logged 32,037 and 22,702 total building permits, respectively.

Electrical Wholesaling’s editors hope this article will help you see the potential of Small-Town USA in a whole new way.                   


EW’s editors continue to refine the 2020 Top 200 Electrical Distributors ranking. Because of a clerical error, our estimate for the 2019 sales of Denney Electric Supply, Ambler, PA, was off. The company should be ranked #127 in the Top 200. An updated version of our Top 200 listing is posted on

About the Author

Jim Lucy | Editor-in-Chief of Electrical Wholesaling and Electrical Marketing

Jim Lucy has been wandering through the electrical market for more than 40 years, most of the time as an editor for Electrical Wholesaling and Electrical Marketing newsletter, and as a contributing writer for EC&M magazine During that time he and the editorial team for the publications have won numerous national awards for their coverage of the electrical business. He showed an early interest in electricity, when as a youth he had an idea for a hot dog cooker. Unfortunately, the first crude prototype malfunctioned and the arc nearly blew him out of his parents' basement.

Before becoming an editor for Electrical Wholesaling  and Electrical Marketing, he earned a BA degree in journalism and a MA in communications from Glassboro State College, Glassboro, NJ., which is formerly best known as the site of the 1967 summit meeting between President Lyndon Johnson and Russian Premier Aleksei Nikolayevich Kosygin, and now best known as the New Jersey state college that changed its name in 1992 to Rowan University because of a generous $100 million donation by N.J. zillionaire industrialist Henry Rowan. Jim is a Brooklyn-born Jersey Guy happily transplanted with his wife and three sons in the fertile plains of Kansas for the past 30 years. 

Sponsored Recommendations