Security has become booming industry

Security has become booming industry

By Larry O'Conner – Staff Writer
March 1, 2004

As business entered the new millennium, the hue and cry was all about protecting assets.

Hysteria over Y2K morphed into shock from the horrific events of Sept. 11, 2001, which further heightened the collective need to be on guard.

As a result, businesses that specialized in security personnel, electronic or software solutions experienced double-digit growth.

By 2009, the commercial security market is expected to soar to a $29 billion industry, according to a study by Frost & Sullivan, a national firm that analyzes industry trends. The biggest surge was expected between 2002-04.

After a crippling recession, market forces have joined general insecurity as the common denominator for those specializing in protection and peace of mind.

On the equipment end, the boom continues with smaller, more efficient and affordable video surveillance and alarm systems.

Jackson-based Comtronics only expects to grow as sales of its home and business alarm systems soar.

The company, which employs 125 workers, recently added two technicians to its roster of 25 and opened a new outlet in Lansing, along with its stable of 23 stores.

Comtronics has 6,000 customers in an eight-state region.

"Security has gone to a new level," said John Campau, Comtronics president and CEO. "The technology is actually growing the business, which has grown our technician base."

Instead of deploying people to watch over various outposts in a corporate or factory setting, a single person can patrol a bank of TV monitors.

In addition to security, shopping malls and businesses are using video cameras to increase worker productivity, Campau said.

Such trends are a result of companies trying to get the most from their existing security systems, the Frost & Sullivan study reported.

For security companies whose services are labor intensive, that's not necessarily a good thing.

As firms look to cut costs, they are increasingly scrutinizing line items like security, said Al Cavasin, president and CEO of Great Northern Sentry Co.

"I talked to a client today who said, 'We're beyond cutting fat. We're drawing blood,'" Cavasin said.

Along with consultant and investigative services, the Jackson-based company provides special event security, which increasingly has come to include plant closings and labor unrest.

Great Northern Sentry employs 70 to 80 workers.

Loss of manufacturing firms and jobs overseas can only hurt companies like his in the long run, Cavasin said.

Firms that remain will want protection, but at bargain prices. In order to compete, security companies might cut corners on hiring and training.

"The only thing we can cut is wages and benefits and training," Cavasin said.

"In our business, you don't have the option of buying cheaper materials from Malaysia. You can't automate the process."

Reprinted with permission from The Jackson Citizen Patriot
Copyright March 2004

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