AUSTELL — The metal box just inside the neonatal unit at Piedmont Hospital was something that Addie Mathes, president of Prime Power Services in Austell, had seen dozens of times before.
But this time, as her first grandson, Allen, born seven weeks premature, lay sleeping inside the neonatal intensive care unit 18 months ago, the NICU power box took on a whole new meaning. It was more than just a gray box with cables jetting out of both ends. For Mathes, the box represented further validation of what has been her life’s work — a power source that people and companies count on every day.
Prime Power Services provides electricity, maintenance services and problem-solving expertise during power outages for health care facilities, data centers, property management companies and other places with critical power requirements. Its client list includes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Grady Hospital, WellStar Health System and Childrens Healthcare of Atlanta. All told, it serves nearly 95 percent of the region’s health care facilities, Mathes said.
In 2011, Prime Power posted $14 million in revenue, and Mathes is optimistic that 2012 will be even better.
“That box is something most people don’t even notice,” Mathes said. “But the truth is, those babies’ lives depend on it and the power it supplies to keep working. At that moment, it became personal. Sometimes, it all takes me aback a bit — that awesome responsibility we have before us. I pray a lot. But I also know that somebody must take on this responsibility. We have the team and expertise to do it. That’s why so many people count on us.”
Mathes joined the company that Roger Bisher founded as Autocon in 1983 as a favor to his wife — her old college roommate and best friend — who had fallen gravely ill and quickly learned how to build the equipment it sold. She eventually partnered with Bisher (they would later marry) and renamed the company Prime Power Services in 1987.
In the early 1990s, Mathes began shifting away from manufacturing and expanded into servicing the equipment it built.
Around the same time, Bisher fell ill. After battling a long illness, he died in April 2000.
“The transformation came at a time that was most challenging for us, professionally and personally” Mathes said. “But it was the right thing to do. It is our crowning achievement.”
Mathes said many people assumed she would walk away from the business when Bisher died.
“I decided I wanted to keep pushing things forward,” she said. “I’d like to think people will say that the decisions I made were the right ones for our business and our customers.”
One of her decisions was to make Prime Power an active and visible member of the community, getting the company involved in local Boy Scout troops, churches and associations such as the Cobb Chamber of Commerce.
“We believe our responsibility as good citizens extends beyond 9 to 5,” Mathes said. “It’s important to give back to the community you serve. It works both ways, as the community gives back to us, too. It’s not only a win-win situation, it’s something we take seriously.”
This year, Prime Power is supporting the YWCA of Marietta with financial contributions and in-kind services. Other local and metro groups it supports financially include MUST Ministries, Childkind, the Children’s Brain Injury Association and Fragile Kids Foundation, the Center for Children and Young Adults and Crime Stoppers.
On the business end, there is another transformation afoot.
“We want people to call at the beginning of the project, not when there’s a problem,” Mathes said. “That’s the biggest item on my to-do list today.”
EXECUTIVE PROFILE: ADDIE MATHES
* TITLE: President of Prime Power Services
* AGE: 55
* EDUCATION: History degree from Agnes Scott College, 1978
* FAMILY: Husband, Richard Knittel; sons, Benjamin Mathes, 32, and Adam Mathes, 31
* FIRST JOB: Babysitting
* BEST JOB: Prime Power
* LESSON LEARNED THE HARD WAY: “I wish we had invested in software for the business three years earlier than we did.”
* ADVICE TO NEXT GENERATION: “Work hard and be the best that you can be at what you do. Remember that your choices and decisions have consequences.”
Michael J. Pallerino has reported on business news for magazines and newspapers in the Atlanta area for more than 20 years.