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Kirkwood receives lifetime achievement award

By Staff | Sep 23, 2015

The company’s history has spanned three centuries, four generations and more than 1,000 miles.

So it shouldn’t have come to anyone’s surprise when Wayne R. Kirkwood, owner of Kirkwood Electric at 1018 S.E. 12th Court in Cape Coral, received a lifetime achievement award at the Lee County Industry Appreciation Awards on Friday.

The award was well-deserved, going to a man whose father started one of Cape Coral’s first businesses, has seen the city grow from almost nothing and who has always been a giver to the community for the nearly 40 years he has run the business.

Kirkwood’s emotions ran the gamut as he accepted the award at a luncheon at the Harborside Convention Center; happy to be honored, but even happier to have made so many friends through his work.

“I was humbled, surprised, appreciative. I come from a family where you gave back to your community and it’s always been a part of my life,” Kirkwood said. “I guess people thought I deserved recognition. I get much more from it than the honor could ever bestow because I get to work with a lot of very enlightening people.”

The company was founded in Pittsburgh, in 1895 by Harry R. Kirkwood, a locksmith who took up the electrician business because they were energizing the steel mills.

Great-grandpa’s business was carried on by Ralph C. Kirkwood and Ralph H. Kirkwood, Wayne’s father.

The company was established in Cape Coral in 1960 by his father, and was among the first businesses in the city.

“My grandparents had one of the first 10 or 15 houses and we had one of the first 20,” Kirkwood said. “Between us we were among the finding pioneers of Cape Coral.”

Wayne took over the business after graduating college in 1976 and has built it into one of the largest electrical contractors in Southwest Florida.

Many of the higher-ups in his company have worked for him for decades and will carry on the tradition when Kirkwood is ready to retire as his two daughters work in other careers.

“I have a core group who I believed in, but more important, they believed in me. I’m very fortunate. It empowers me to have a little more free time while they continue the business,” Kirkwood said. “I now work on the business and not for the business.”

It has also allowed Kirkwood to work on Lee County economic development and cultivate friendships with mayors, council members and senators while also building bridges with other communities to help improve relations.

“I never believed in borders. I believe there’s strength in numbers and collaboration. I’m a big proponent of partnering, so when I had these opportunities at the CCCIA (Cape Coral Construction Industry Association) and with the chamber, my focus was to erase that river,” Kirkwood said. “Let’s build bridges, not borders.”

The feats that Kirkwood has accomplished have not gone unnoticed, as they have brought jobs and opportunity to Lee County.

“It’s that effort that brings new companies to the area that create jobs for our residents, enhance the tax base that allows the county to provide the services that it does for such a great quality of lifeand Wayne challenged us and that organization to do more. He was instrumental in pushing us to new heights and breaking new records,” said Glen Salyer, acting Lee County Economic Development Director, in a statement.

For additional information about Kirkwood Electric, call the office at 239-574-3449.