Anchors Aweigh!

July 1, 2012
Throughout a 45-year career in the electric utility industry, it seems the only thing Charlie Grannis could not manage to tie down was his own lifestyle.

Throughout a 45-year career in the electric utility industry, it seems the only thing Charlie Grannis could not manage to tie down was his own lifestyle.

Grannis, currently a sales representative for Young & Company (manufacturers' representatives for the electric utility industry covering California and Nevada), cut his electric utility teeth on technology used to tie down and anchor transmission towers. And while that kept him focused on how to keep towers secured in one place, his career path took the opposite route, leading him around the world through most of the United States and Middle East over the past four decades.

Grannis started with Florida Power & Light (FP&L) in 1967 as a civil engineer tasked with working on foundation structures for transmission towers. But even his path to southern Florida has an element of wanderlust to it.

Born during World War II to an army engineer father, Grannis moved around quite a bit as a child, including life in Big Sur State Park in California when his father took an engineering job there. Eventually the family settled in the Miami, Florida, area, but Grannis got his engineering degree from Tri-State University in Angola, Indiana. He graduated in December and was about to take a job in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, when his parents coaxed him back down to Florida for a one-month vacation.

“It was colder than heck in Milwaukee,” Grannis recalls. “So while I was there, my brother-in-law said I should check with FP&L about a job. I never went back to the cold after that.”

He did, though, go many other places. At FP&L, Grannis worked on guy anchors and screw anchors, and through his work was offered a position with earth-anchoring company A.B. Chance, now part of Hubbell Power Systems. Chance moved Grannis to its headquarters in Centralia, Missouri, where his engineering group was tasked with expanding the company's screw anchor line across the country and around the world. Within a few years, Grannis was tapped to head up Chance's international business for screw anchors and related technology, with his first assignment in the Middle East, specifically Amman, Jordan.

In the late 1970s, Grannis traveled the Middle East and Asia, from Jordan to Egypt to Iraq and to India and Pakistan lining up Chance agents and reps.

“I hit the road with about 300 slides in carousels and a couple of short movies,” Grannis recalls. “It was 1978, we didn't have computers back then. My wife, Diana [the original Charles and Lady Di], did not like Amman too well. It was kind of tough living.”

Grannis told Chance the couple wanted to move to Dubai for the remainder of his contract in the Middle East, while Chance would have preferred he be based in Saudi Arabia. Dubai won out, and for at least one member of the Grannis family, things started to get better.

“The apartment house we lived in was owned by Hyatt Regency,” Grannis notes. “In the lobby, we had an ice skating rink, the first one in the Middle East. It was pretty elaborate for 1979. So while I was fighting through the airports of Libya and Syria, Diana was living in the ‘Taj Mahal,’ ice skating and enjoying the good life!”

At the end of the Dubai stay, the coupled moved to Birmingham, Alabama, still with A.B. Chance, but after three years was ready to move to the San Francisco, California, area, where his wife was from. Grannis signed on with Young & Company to sell products and services, including instrumentation, system controls, tools, materials and training for electric transmission and distribution systems throughout California and Nevada.

Happy to be settled in the Bay Area, Grannis comes away from four decades traveling the world with fond memories.

“We sold the first bucket trucks ever in Syria,” he exclaims. “They had never even seen them before we brought them over. We sold the first expulsion cut-outs to Baghdad, Iraq.”

He has also collected observations on the global electric utility industry. “The biggest change has been in equipment, not materials,” Grannis begins. “The advent of the computer is the biggest thing I have seen in this industry. We used to go out with surveyors. Now they use Google and aerial photographs. It seems they can build a line and never have to leave the office. You can simulate an earthquake with a computer. When I was getting started, you had to go out and shake something to see if it would stand, or wait for an earthquake and then go out and see what lasted and copy that design.”

The current industry buzzword “smart grid,” Grannis adds, is really not that new. “The smart grid started in the 1960s. That's when we started with automatic switches, putting motor controls in them.”

Regarding the future of power generation, Grannis has some advice: “Nuclear will always be the most efficient way to generate electricity. This is an old man saying, ‘Wise up guys, somebody develop a nuclear generator that does not create nuclear waste.’”

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