In a recession of epic proportions, much of the news in the electrical market was about layoffs, branch closings and cutbacks. But a strong current of investment ran through the Top 200 companies. Following are examples of where Top 200 distributors made strategic investments over the past year.

During the past year, Border States Electric, Fargo, N.D., was busy with an ERP system upgrade and branch openings in Denver; Albertville, Minn.; and Eau Claire, Wis.

Like many distributors, last year the folks at Butler Supply Inc., Fenton, Mo., had to close some underperforming branches and reduce expenses. But in 2009, the company was also in the middle of a SAP computer system launch and a renewed focus on energy-efficient electrical products, which required additional training for salespeople. John Duda, chairman, says this year the company’s focus will be on training employees, looking for acquisitions and identifying new markets that offer potential for growth.

Green is the word at Colonial Electric Supply, King of Prussia, Pa. Steve Bellwoar, president and CEO, says in addition to acquiring the two Maryland branches of Annapolis Lighting to bolster the company’s growing residential lighting business, his company doubled its sales of energy-efficient electrical sales in 2009.

Doug Borchers, vice president of Dickman Supply Inc., Sidney, Ohio, said the company “attacked the green market full force with good success.” Dickman’s investment in its new energy division called “Green Energy Solutions,” appears to be paying off, as Borchers says Dickman Supply has seen its sales more than double in this area so far this year.

Edison Equipment, Columbus, Ohio, opened new locations in Cleveland, Cincinnati and Greenville, S.C.

In 2009, Elliott Electric Supply, Nacogdoches, Texas, opened 14 new locations and searched for new employees with great customer contacts who had been laid off by competitors.

Fromm Electric Supply of Reading, Reading, Pa., was busy on several fronts: opening a new branch in Bloomsberg, Pa.; constructing a new building for the Mt. Pocono, Pa., branch; launching an energy services division; and enhancing its e-mail marketing and customer relationship management (CRM).

General Pacific Inc., a utility specialist in Fairview, Ore., moved into a new headquarters building that was twice the size of its old location.

Jim Newton, president and CEO, Horizon Solutions, Rochester, N.Y., also likes what he sees in the green market. In 2008, Horizon Solutions acquired Lighting Resource Management, an energy-services company (ESCO) based out of Newburyport, Mass., so Horizon Solutions could manage customer lighting upgrade projects from the initial design stage, through cost/benefit analysis, installation and maintenance. Last month, the company opened a new office in Quincy, Mass., so the Horizon Lighting & Energy Services (HLES) would be closer to the company’s lighting and energy customers in the metropolitan Boston area.

International Electric Sales Corp. (Rexel/Gexpro), Dallas, embarked on a major MIS conversion with its move to the Activant/Eclipse platform for its North American branches.

OneSource Distributors, Oceanside, Calif., opened a new regional warehouse in Downey, Calif., to support expansion in the Los Angeles market; acquired Berkeley Engineering in Hawaii; and promoted green energy sales. Last month, the company announced that it was building on the presence it had established in northern California’s utility market over the past three years and expanding into the commercial/industrial business with the hiring of two sales executives and the expansion of its distribution center in Hayward, Calif. Don Swartz will be rejoining the company as operations manager in northern California, and Joe Helfrich, a sales veteran with 30 years in the Bay Area’s electrical market, was hired to drive sales in the area.

Schaedler/YESCO, Harrisburg, Pa., expanded into western Pennsylania with the acquisition of Service Electrical Supply Co. in Pittsburgh and the Indiana, Pa., location of Gertz Electric. Pittsburgh wasn’t hit as hard by the recession as many other metropolitan areas, and Schaedler/YESCO expects the city to provide solid growth opportunities in the years to come.

In 2009, Summit Electric Supply Co., Albuquerque, N.M., opened new branches in Waco, Texas, and New Orleans, La. The company also has big plans for its international sales division, which it currently services out of a sales office in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The company promoted Ralph Mouret to manage its export division and hired Steven Towler, an electrical industry veteran with 26 years of experience in the United Kingdom and Middle East, to head up Middle East Sales; opened a full-service Summit Electric Supply branch in Dubai; and developed a customer base in the Middle East.