Southern States honors late investor’s contributions at building dedication

By Jason A. Smith
Times Correspondent

Leaders at a successful business in Henry County are hopeful that a state-of-the-art facility will help them to continue a tradition of excellence that began nearly a century ago.

Southern States’ new complex, housing it’s Power Switching Division, was named in honor of Mary M. and the late Sash A. Spencer. Photo by Mickie Jackson

At the same time, they hope the new complex will serve as a fitting tribute to a man whose expertise helped to put the company on the worldwide map.
Southern States LLC in Hampton, unveiled a new complex to house its Power Switching Division. The complex was dedicated, last month, to Sash and Mary Spencer. Sash Spencer, an investor in Southern States, also served as founder and chairman of Holding Capital Management, a private equity company, until his death in 2008.

Southern States provides equipment to the transmission portion of the electric power utilities industry. The company’s President and Chief Executive Officer, Raj Anand, said the Spencer Complex will allow Southern States “to obtain manufacturing space for lower voltage equipment and to consolidate engineering, sales, marketing and administration of the division into one place.”

Southern States began in 1916 as a repair shop for electric motors and transformers. The company later became well known for its air disconnect switches, for which it is now a leading supplier around the world.

The Power Switching Division at Southern States got its start in November of 2000. The company, Anand said, obtained a patent that year for a device known as a load-and-line switcher.

“Basically, it allows utilities to switch actual current,” he said. “It allows you to operate more efficiently and more reliably.”

In 2004, Sash Spencer aided in Southern States’ expansion with the acquisition of disconnect-switch manufacturers in France and Italy.

At the dedication of the new complex, Anand cited Spencer as a “mentor” and a “good listener” who taught him a great deal over a 12-year period about how to run a business effectively.

“I first met Sash in 1995, and I instantly liked him,” said Anand. “He and I developed a special bond as I worked to turn the company around and help it grow. I called Sash often and he offered insights, he was the best listener I have ever known. At times, I would think the phone line was dead because he would not say a word until I stopped talking. There were times, I would talk my way to my own solution and he would say ‘that does make sense.’

Regarding Spencer’s business philosophy, Anand said Spencer taught him that business success comes from people, and from a commitment to high standards.

“We are eternally grateful to Sash for his involvement in our business, and miss him, but his legacy lives on through us,” said Anand.

Jeff Howe, the Power Switching Division’s vice president and general manager, said the division has grown steadily over the years. During his presentation at the dedication, Howe also noted that Southern States has more than 130 patents to its name.

“While most of those inventions are related to electric power equipment, we have a few outside the box,” he said. “For example, did you know Southern States invented the 6-pack carton for Coca-Cola or that we invented the paint bomb to apprehend bank robbers? Today, we are especially proud of our accelerated rate of innovation inspired by Raj that has led to the 25 patents we have received since the late nineties.”

In his remarks, Howe credited Anand for the work he has done at Southern States since coming on board in the 1990s.

“Raj brought new energy, vision and a sharper growth trajectory to the company,” said Howe. “He solidified the Switch business and began growing new businesses like the Power Switching Division, Service Division and, most recently, the Automation and Sensors Division. In 2004, we expanded our global presence with the acquisition of two European disconnect switch manufacturers – Egic of Lyon, France and Coelme of Venice, Italy.”

Howe also credited Spencer for his contributions to Southern States’ success.

“We are trying to live up to the ideals and inspiration that he’s brought to Southern States,” said Howe.