In the continuing expansion of the utility construction segment of its diverse market interests, MDU Resources Group Inc., a North Dakota-based electric utility, has purchased two more electrical contractors.

With the purchases of Bell Electrical Contractors Inc., St. Louis, and Oregon Electric Construction, Portland, Ore., the Bismark, N.D.-based company will add $140 million in sales and increase its coverage of the Pacific Northwest and the Midwest.

Bell Electrical Contractors Inc., a 27-year-old electrical contracting firm with 50 nonbargaining employees, 200 union employees and annual revenues of approximately $40 million, focuses on commercial, industrial and institutional electrical work, as well as well as communications engineering, design and construction.

Bell Electrical will become part of MDU Resources’ Utility Services Inc. subsidiary. Utility Services Inc. (USI), also based in North Dakota, is an infrastructure construction company specializing in electric, natural gas and telecommunications utility construction as well as interior industrial electrical, exterior lighting and traffic signalization. USI operates throughout most of the United States.

Ron Tipton, USI’s president and chief executive officer, said the acquisition complements the company’s existing operations in Missouri and the central U.S., where it also owns Capital Electric Construction Co. Inc., Kansas City, and Capital Electric Line Builder Inc., Leavenworth, Kan. It acquired these companies earlier this year. “Bell Electrical is a leading contractor in its market,” said Tipton. “Through its diverse capabilities, the company has become a single-source provider for its electrical contracting services.”

The acquisition of Oregon Electric Construction gives USI/MDU Resources another electrical contracting firm with expertise in power-line construction. The 50-year-old contractor specializes in new construction, repair, maintenance and service work for high-tech, industrial, health care, commercial, institutional and power generation customers. The company also provides preconstruction, design-build, design-assist and turnkey services for both electrical and integrated systems work. The company has 100 nonbargaining employees on staff and up to 600 union employees. USI’s Tipton says the acquisition will help the company expand in the Northwest.

“Our expanded services will include inside electrical construction, specialized, low-voltage systems, electrical service and maintenance along with power plant controls and installation,” he said. The management teams of Oregon Electric and Bell Electrical will continue to manage the operations.

Since its start-up in 1997, USI increased its revenues to $169 million in 2000. The company has grown primarily through acquisition, and through its acquisitions this year expects 2001 revenues to top $400 million. Along with this year’s purchases of Oregon Electric, Bell Electrical, the Capital Electric companies, the electrical contractors that the company owns include Wagner and Smith, Dayton, Ohio; International Line Builders, Portland, Ore.; Harp Line Construction Co., Kalispell, Mont.; and Pouke and Steinle Inc., Riverside, Calif.

Its parent company, MDU Resources, is a natural resource company with $1.87 billion in 2000 annual sales that focuses on construction materials and mining operations, oil and natural gas production, sales and transportation of electricity, natural gas, and natural gas transmission and storage.