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Made in Valdosta: Electric Test Labs

March 30, 2015

Valdosta Daily Times, Sunday, March 29, 2015

Stuart Taylor

LAKE PARK — Electric Test Labs got its start in 1997.

Georgia Power had decided to functionalize and centralize its safety equipment testing facilities, focusing on the Atlanta-based lab and shuttering the others.

One of those shuttered labs was in Valdosta. As part of the centralizing process, excess testing equipment was put out to bid.

Billy Grondhal had been working for Georgia Power Company for decades and decided to open a testing lab, putting in and winning a bid on the equipment.

He opened in Valdosta, working on it part-time as his son, Kevin, worked there as well.

Eventually, Kevin moved on to other jobs and Grondhal continued the growing business.

“Back in 2004, we had to make a decision whether to expand or get out of it,” said Grondhal.

After having put seven years into the business, it was a heavy decision.

Grondhal, along with Linda, whom he would marry in 2005, turned to prayer.

“We prayed about it,” said Linda. “We said, ‘Lord, if you want us to shut down this business, then this is it. If not, please open a door (and) show us.’”

Not long after, Grondhal was talking to a friend who was also a commercial builder.

Grondhal and Linda had found a possible site for a new, expanded facility in Lake Park, and Grondhal asked him what it would cost to build a 60x100 lab.

The builder answered Grondhal’s questions with a question: Would a 50x120 facility work just as well?

“He had steel beams sitting in the construction yard from the gymnasium of Sallas Mahone Elementary,” said Linda.

They took it as a sign and expanded, with Linda coming on board and becoming president in 2008.

The 7,000-square-foot lab facility tests personal protective safety equipment — ranging from rubber gloves, sleeves, blankets and line hoses to insulated hot sticks and the buckets on bucket trucks, among other equipment — used by the electric utility industry and manufacturing plants.

“All of this stuff that is actually protecting them has to be tested to make sure there’s not a pinhole,” said Linda. “If there’s a pinhole in that glove, that electricity can come in.”

To test gloves, technicians expand them with air, check for cuts, abrasions and any physical discoloration.

Gloves are partially filled with water and then partially submerged.

An electric current is sent through the water, testing to see if the electricity is passing through the glove.

“Nothing leaves this office I wouldn’t use myself,” said Grondhal.

Since building the current Lake Park facility, Electric Test Labs has continued to grow, thanks in part to their mobile testing truck that tests equipment on site for clients.

“We’ve grown little by little, but the huge growth spurt came when we started doing mobile testing,” said Linda. “In our business, word of mouth is our biggest advertiser. Over a period of time, people see you and see what kind of work we do.”

Since that first full year of operation with about 30 customers, Electric Test Labs has grown its client base to more than 650, testing roughly 60,000 gloves and sleeves a year along with blankets, hoses, coverups and hot sticks, among other equipment.

Electric Test Labs’ customer base ranges from electric co-ops and city utilities to large manufacturing plants and Disney World.

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