Roland Harrison was 25 years old when he and a business partner founded Capitol Electric Motor Repair in July 1964. He opened up a checking account for the business with just $20.
“The woman at the bank gave me a book with 20 checks in it and said ‘I think that will be sufficient,’” he recalled.
Fifty years later, Capitol Electric has 13 employees and does about $3 million worth of business each year. At age 75, Roland Harrison still gets up every morning at 5:30 a.m. to tend to about 100 head of cattle on his ranch in Minco. Most days, he also walks at least two miles around his property before heading into work at the shop, where he still loves to work with his hands, making machine parts and welding.
“He’s the kind of guy who is so good at fixing things that had he been on the Titanic, it wouldn’t have sunk,” said son Ron Harrison, who took over ownership of the business after Roland Harrison had a massive heart attack in 1984.
Doctors told Roland Harrison he would likely need a heart transplant in a few years after his heart attack, but he changed his diet, started exercising, kept working — and never stopped.
Harrison opened Capitol Electric on July 5, 1964, with business partner Jerry Unsell, whom he later bought out. After starting the business in a leased space on SW 29 for $125 a month, the company purchased a warehouse building at 2215 SW 11 in 1968 for $35,000, where the business still sits today.
When Ron Harrison took control of Capitol Electric in 1984, it was in the wake of the the oil bust in Oklahoma, and many businesses were struggling. Today, he says the secret to keeping the doors open for so long is simple perseverance.
“Things were tough — companies were going out of business right and left,” Ron Harrison said. “It makes us really appreciate how good the business climate has been the past five or six years.”
Today, a lot of Capitol Electric’s business comes from elevator maintenance companies, as well as the food distribution business and oilfield equipment.
Many of the company’s customers have been doing business with the Harrisons for decades, including some whom Ron Harrison can remember coming into the shop when he was a child.
“We work hard, and take care of our customers, whether it’s night or day—we’re on 24-hour call,” Roland Harrison said.
Longtime Capitol Electric employee Rick Muirhead said Roland Harrison is “like a dad” to him and other workers at the shop, many of whom have been with the company for decades.
Capitol Electric offers its employees health benefits, a 401(k) plan, and buys lunch every Friday.
“They just do little bitty thing like buy our insurance, our uniforms, they take very good care of everybody,” Muirhead said.
Ron Harrison said he learned that from his father.
“You have to take care of your employees — they are your business.”