Firm scans the Midwest

Monday, August 1, 2005

IRVINE, Calif.--Westec InterActive expects to finalize plans for an additional central station this month in an effort to improve efficiencies and customer service.
The company applied for business incentive grants in three cities, and, as of press time, Des Moines, Iowa, led Dallas, and Kansas City, Mo., as the preferred city.
"That's what is appealing about Iowa," explained Mitch Johnson, president at the company. "They got back to us real quick." The city offered a $1.2-million incentive package over five years that includes forgivable loans based on certain conditions, including if the company hires as many people as promised.
Westec anticipates the new central to go live this fall, almost one year after the company changed hands last October.
The company budgeted $3 million for the facility, according to Johnson, and will be based in an existing building, saving expenses and move-in time, he said. The new monitoring center will supplement the company's existing central here, where its executive offices are based.
Westec, which monitors 2,000 locations, has grown between 15 and 20 percent since the acquisition last fall, said Johnson. Its services, which are targeted across Canada and the United States, include video and two-way audio communications for restaurants, supermarkets and convenience stores.
Westec is the latest venture for telecommunications veteran Jerry Vento. In 2002, Vento sold his digital wireless communication services company TeleCorp PCS to AT&T Wireless for $5.7 billion.
Last fall, when Vento paid an undisclosed sum for Westec, he attained one of the most recognized brands within this segment of the security industry. While remote video monitoring is poised to take off, widespread adoption has not yet occurred.
However, remote video monitoring applications such as remote-guard tours and enhanced video verification promise to become staple security services in the future.
Central stations have promoted video guard tours to provide the same watchful eye as having someone present, but at a much lower cost.
Although these applications of the technology have value, the most important use is still up to date.
"I don't see a huge market for it to replace guards," said Matthew Rogers, managing director at investment firm USBX Advisory Services. "My current thesis is to work in cooperation, and not competition, with the guard industry."
One of the problems central stations and alarm dealers face is price. Video is time intensive for central stations, which makes the cost of monitoring more expensive, and requires costly additional hardware. But that doesn't mean the service should be discredited.
"There's a huge potential for video monitoring," said Rogers.