Anderson Fire benefits from minority business status

The Maryland company also stands out for its commitment to educating its employees
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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

ELKRIDGE, Md.—Anderson Fire Protection President and CEO Maria Garcia Anderson recently won an award for being an outstanding minority and woman entrepreneur. The honor comes about five years after Anderson and her husband swapped roles and she started running the company instead of him.

Anderson, whose ethnic background is Hispanic and who now owns 51 percent of Anderson Fire, based here in this Baltimore suburb, said that being minority-owned has helped give the company an edge when bidding for certain projects.

Also, being recognized this fall for winning a 2013 Top 100 MBE Award during Diversity and Inclusion Week in Baltimore has generated publicity that has meant more business for Anderson Fire, she said. The Top 100 MBEs honor minority and women entrepreneurs around the region.

“We were written up in the paper,” Anderson said, “… So all these people are calling and going, ‘Congratulations, and hey, I’ve got a job here.’”

Her becoming CEO of the company is just one evolution Anderson Fire has undergone since being founded in 1989. Over that time, it has evolved to meet customers’ every need, Anderson said.

“We’re trying to give our customers all these different angles, so if they say, ‘Hey, can you do fire alarm?’ Yes, we can do that. ‘Can you do sprinklers?’ Sure, we can do that, and service, monitoring, consulting …What is it you need?” Anderson said. “The whole intent is that there’s one number for life safety, and that’s our number.”

Anderson said she and her husband, David Anderson, started the business as a residential sprinkler company because laws had just been passed requiring homes in the area to have fire sprinklers. 

“We decided there was a market for it in the residential end so started doing single family homes and town houses,” Anderson said. “And then people would keep asking, ‘Do you do commercial applications and industrial applications?’ [and we decided to] get into that field as well, because what you want to try to do is establish a balance. If you have one sector of the economy that’s not doing that great, then you can always rely on the other.”

Today, about 40 percent of the business is commercial, Anderson said.

The company continued to evolve, she said, adding offerings that include service maintenance, extinguishers and monitoring and also becoming a licensed dealer for Fire Lite, Silent Knight and Farenhyt Honeywell fire systems.

In another evolution, Anderson and her husband switched roles after their children were grown. She had started out in marketing and sales, but now she runs the company while David Anderson concentrates on such things as consulting and teaching NICET courses, Maria Anderson said. The company believes in educating its staff and will pay not only for NICET training but also for employees to get a college education, if what they’re learning is applicable to their jobs, she said.

Winning a Top 100 MBE Award was a surprise, Anderson said.

“That was very unexpected. I’m not sure who put our name in,” Anderson said. “It was quite an event and I got to meet the mayor. It was very, very nice and I’m very proud of that.”

Anderson Fire works in a wide range of verticals, including single-family homes, apartment complexes, hotels, senior living facilities, and even Costco stores. “It’s really the gamut,” Anderson said.

Anderson Fire also does work in schools. Anderson said that currently, “there’s a lot of money that’s going into schools” as they seek to increase security after school shootings around the nation. Silent Knight, which offers combination fire alarm and emergency communication systems, is in demand at schools and “that has helped because we’re a select distributor with them,” Anderson said.

She said she expects ECS in schools and other public buildings to be an area where Anderson Fire continues to evolve. “If we really are life safety … why not help those individuals in the schools and in the malls [protect themselves against shootings and terrorism]?” she said.