The History of Colonial Electric

Colonial Electric Company, Inc. is a family owned business that has proudly been serving customers in the Maryland, Virginia and Washington DC area since 1970. Born of the entrepreneurial spirit of founders Clayton and Butch Katski, the Company has grown into one of the leading electrical contractors in the Mid Atlantic region – all the while maintaining its strong family culture. We take pride in our rich history and share our story…

1950s – 1960s

In 1951, Clayton O. Katski founded Bay Electric out of his home in Tracey’s Landing, MD. Clayton ran a small but profitable business which employed various family members including his brothers, Harold and Alfred. Clayton was a believer in hard work and rewarding employees based on their performance. He felt so strongly about this that he helped form an organization in Anne Arundel County named Associated Builders and Contractors (“ABC”), which later became a National organization. Today, ABC has over 25,000 members – the Katski family takes great pride in knowing that they helped create ABC!

In the 1960s, Clayton’s son, Robert H. Katski (“Butch”), worked for his father’s business while also attending Anne Arundel Community College (“AACC”). Unfortunately, in 1965, tragedy struck the Katski family when the office burned down in a fire. Everything was lost – including the majority of the assets of Bay Electric. Insurance proceeds were insufficient and Bay Electric was forced to file for insolvency. Clayton was devastated, both on a personal and professional level. Somehow, though, he found the strength to persevere and went to work for Drake Electric as a General Manager. Butch did his best to remain strong, as well, by continuing his courses at AACC and also working at Drake Electric (“Drake”) as an Assistant Estimator. As Butch will tell you, it was here that he learned the lessons of the trade from experts like Frank Bowen and Eddie Sheriff – lessons whose benefits would prove immeasurable down the road. Father and son were also working together again – little did they know this would be a theme that would repeat itself for decades to come.

While Clayton and Butch continued to work hard at Drake, Butch was also busy in his personal life — working on his dream of starting his own family. On February 24, 1968, Butch married his high school sweetheart, Jo Ann Hodges, in Owensville, MD. In November of the same year, Butch was drafted and joined the National Guard. He left home to serve his country for 6 months, returning in May 1969. Upon his return, Butch resumed his job at Drake, working side by side again with his father. Butch enjoyed the work he was doing at Drake, but was finding that it wasn’t the challenge he was looking for — he had the heart and spirit of an entrepreneur and wanted to strike out on his own. Butch approached his father and told him that he was leaving Drake – he asked Clayton to come with him so that they could continue working together, but this time in their own family business. A thrilled Clayton accepted and in November 1969 they signed their first job with IKM Custom Homes.


On January 29, 1970, the Articles of Incorporation of Colonial Electric Company, Incorporated were officially filed with the clerk of the Circuit Court of Anne Arundel County, Maryland. In April 1970, Colonial rented a small office on West Street in Annapolis, MD and continued working with Ed Middleton and IKM Custom Homes to provide electrical service for new single family homes. Later in 1970, Butch and Jo Ann welcomed their first and only child into the world, Robert T. Katski (“Travis”). During the early 1970s, the economy entered a recession and times were tough for the Katski’s young electrical business. In the beginning, Colonial had just 7 employees, and they all had to work extremely hard just to keep the Company alive. For a time, Butch and Jo Ann would often work together at nights, with Jo Ann unscrewing receptacles and Butch wiring them. There were other times when employees were asked to hold off on cashing their paychecks – somehow the Company was always blessed to have people who were willing to sacrifice for the good of the Company. An early win (January/February 1970) was achieved when Colonial was able to secure a key contract with Levitt & Sons, a large developer and builder performing work in Bowie and Belair, Maryland. This provided a stable base for the Company to grow from and by 1974 Colonial had approximately 60 employees. At this time, Colonial was performing several jobs for a contractor named Construction General, who went bankrupt. This series of events cast doubt on the very survival of Colonial. Fortunately, however, another contractor named Harkins Builders took over these jobs and Colonial worked with Harkins to complete them in a timely manner for the owners and bonding company. This was yet another example of how adversity led to opportunity for Colonial. Harkins and Colonial have now been working together for the past 42 years!

1980s – 1990s

Colonial endured its share of ups and downs through the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s. There were recessions in the early years of each of these decades, but the Company was able to make the right decisions to effectively capitalize on the opportunities presented.

In the early 1980s, the Company made a strategic shift into multifamily construction that has turned out to be an extremely wise one. Multifamily construction is now Colonial’s “bread and butter.” Also, in 1987, Jo Ann Katski transitioned from a part-time to a full time employee, directing the Office and Human Resources.

In the early 1990s – during a particularly difficult recession in which many construction companies went bankrupt – Colonial was nearly forced into bankruptcy. However, Butch would not allow it and fought to streamline operations, cut costs, eliminate waste, add customer relationships and reduce debt. Over time, this plan worked. In the late 1990s, the Company formed relationships with Donohoe Construction and other prominent regional General Contractors – all of which are still strong partnerships today.

2000 – Present

In 2000, the Colonial family faced another severe obstacle when Butch Katski suffered a serious heart attack and was forced to step away from the day to day operations of the business. Fortunately, his son Travis had graduated from Towson University, was working in various capacities at Colonial, and was ready to step up to the challenge in front of him. Travis jumped in and did not look back, taking the strong Company that his Father and Grandfather built and growing it the right way. Travis has also been able to maintain the family-owned culture while widening the moat of the business. Jo Ann remains actively involved in the day to day business, as well.  Even more important, many of the employees who worked alongside Clayton and Butch remain with the Company today!  We are proud to have 13 employees with over 25 years of service.  Working together as one big family we have proven that anything is possible.  During the 2000s, the Company has grown into one of the leading electrical contractors in the Mid Atlantic region – and we haven’t even gotten started!

The Future

There is no telling what the future may hold for Colonial.  However, we do know we will continue to live by our core beliefs!  Beliefs which were born of the entrepreneurial spirit of Clayton and Butch Katski; beliefs which have been imbedded in the Colonial culture and battle-tested through three generations of the Katski family; beliefs which have overcome personal tragedies and four economic recessions. Indeed…as we write this…a new generation of the Katski family is growing up.  The future is bright at Colonial Electric…