HiTech finds business on the high seas

HiTech Integrated Solutions' business is booming, has new service for oil rigs
 - 
Tuesday, October 20, 2009

HOUSTON--HiTech Integrated Solutions, a fire and security company here, is running 24 percent ahead of last year in terms of revenue, something vice president Eric Cooley chocks up to the diversity of the company.

"Business is moving along strong," Cooley said. HiTech does about 60 percent of its work with fire alarms. It started a sprinkler division two years ago, and six months ago it launched an Offshore Marine Fire Systems Inspection division.

That division is headed up by Bob Parker and staffed by two additional technicians. Extensive market research indicated a big opportunity with the oil rigs in the area, Cooley said. Parker had experience working on oil rigs, "so I tapped him on the shoulder and asked him if he was interested in getting back out on the oil rigs," Cooley explained.

HiTech has landed a contract with Seahawk Drilling, a company that has 20 rigs out in the Gulf of Mexico. It has two other contracts lined up and, for the next year or so, Cooley's set his sights on "the big oil companies."

Fire inspections on oil rigs follow the same NFPA guidelines as locations on land, but there are additional Coast Guard regulations. And workers need to get their TWIC clearance.

Do HiTech inspectors need to be braver and more hardy than your average fire inspector? They have to travel by boat or helicopter to the job, and jobs last for a week at a time.

"They have to have a certain level of self-confidence to do that job. It's not like you can run back to the office if you need assistance," Cooley said.

Cooley started HiTech 10 years ago with his father and stepmother. Today it is a Gamewell-FCI dealer and has 105 employees. In addition to business in Houston and on the high seas, it services "all of the outlying counties."

"We focus a lot of our time on service contracts and inspections. We have salesmen dedicated to selling inspections. That and being diversified has helped us [through the slow economic times]," Cooley said.