The bright lights of Atlantic City cast a sky glow that on clear nights can be seen from Wildwood.

It's a tribute to a local company that has played a key role in the development of the resort for more than 100 years.

Calvi Electric Co. has worked on nearly all of Atlantic City's casino hotels and the Atlantic City Convention Center, among many other public and private projects from its headquarters in a former blacksmith shop in the shadow of Tropicana off California Avenue.

The company was founded in 1909 by the late Joseph Calvi, who opened an electrician's shop in Philadelphia before moving to Hammonton and then Atlantic City.

"The business was small until after the war. That's when they started putting fire alarms in all the hotels, and the business took off," President George Brestle said.

Brestle, of Ventnor, joined the company in 1967 to work for his wife's father, Francis Calvi, as an electrician's apprentice. A business major at Villanova University, Brestle served as a radar operator in the U.S. Air Force.

"He told me the only way to learn this business was to do it," Brestle said.

During the years, the company has installed electric lines or telecommunications systems in seven of the city's casino hotels, including most work at Revel Casino Hotel, during which time the company employed 400 union electricians.

Calvi Electric handles mostly business and commercial clients, installing electric, security and telecommunications lines throughout buildings.

It also has a sign division, which was responsible for the eye-catching lighting package that graces the exterior of Harrah's Resort.

"We're the first ones on the job setting up the temporary electric service and the last ones on the job putting in the light fixtures," Brestle said.

The company's employees are members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 351.

Local President Edward H. Gant, of Egg Harbor Township, said Calvi has had a big influence on the development of Atlantic City.

"There's nobody better. Calvi can do a job that has two men on it or 400," he said. "That's what makes them unique. George Brestle has always supported the industry first. That's been good for business, for his customers and for him."

The company's geographic area stretches across Cape May, Cumberland, Atlantic, Burlington and Salem counties. The company also worked on 14 solar-energy projects across South Jersey.

They did the wiring for South Woods State Prison in Bridgeton and Mainland Regional High School in Galloway Township.

Project Manager Brian Gemberling, of East Greenwich Township, said the company uses computer-aided drafting to plot where the electric systems will go in coordination with the architect and engineers. This is important since most projects tend to evolve from blueprint to reality, he said.

"Seasoned electricians know what it takes. We turn their drawings over to our draftsman, who submits them for review," he said.

"Our trade is constantly evolving," said Michael Brestle, of Margate, Brestle's son and vice president of the company. "We've done a lot of LED lighting and security systems, fiber optics. One casino might have 14 or 15 systems."

Electricians in New Jersey take a five-year apprenticeship that includes schooling and on-the-job training, he said.

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