Security controls division moves beyond U.S. borders as companies go global
NOVATO — W. Bradley Electric has diversified into much more than an electrical contractor, and now the company is becoming more than a North Bay or even national company, as opportunities grow for security-control jobs and, soon, telecommunications-related work outside the U.S.
A WBE Security Control Systems (wbeinc.com) team recently has been in the cultural and tech heart of Paris working on a 50- to-70-workstation office for Mountain View-based Mozilla. It’s a highly anticipated expansion there for the maker of the Internet browser software Firefox, a move the organization wants to complete this spring. The client is the largest outside the U.S. for the WBE division.
“Security Controls is taking us internationally,” said Leslie Murphy, chief executive officer. Division revenues are $7 million to $9 million a year. The company had $63 million in revenue in 2012, up from $55 million in 2011. With more than 200 employees, it was the largest North Bay-based electrical contractor on the Feb. 11 Business Journal list.
With six working from the Novato headquarters and 50 in the field, WBE Security Control Systems has been at project sites in New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Mexico, Germany and Asia. Started a dozen years ago, the division has been working on jobs around the U.S. for upwards of 10 years, but large clients with operations outside the country have wanted seamless help securing access to those locations, according to Michael Nann, vice president and division manager.
Previously, the division would scout for integrators and reliable installers that serve a foreign job site then handle quotes, bids and project oversight. WBE has been a part of the National Security Integrators network (nationalsecurityintegrators.com) and worked with partner firms to accurately implement WBE designs on jobs in the U.S. and Canada.
In the past five years, WBE has cemented a partnership with First City Care, a 26-year-old enterprise-level security system installer with offices in London and Singapore. Division technicians specify and program the access systems then conduct site inspections to ensure design criteria are followed, but First City Care can handle the job locally from installation to commissioning.
“The end user doesn’t have to have multiple relationships around the globe,” Mr. Nann said. “With this model, we have a more personal relationship with the end user.”
That trust built on each other’s expertise comes in handy when tackling a job like Mozilla’s new Paris office.
“This design-build project is very unique, as many of the doors are very ornate, and we must maintain their integrity while installing electromagnetic locks, card readers, exit buttons and break-glass units,” Mr. Nann said in a company newsletter. Planning for and working with cabling also has been touchy because of the solid walls and ceilings.
Security Control is one of W. Bradley Electric’s six divisions. After electrical work, the second-largest division is Telecom with 60 employees and averaging $22 million a year in revenue. It was established in the 1980s and has expanded to tackle jobs across the nation, partly thanks to the National Telecommunications Integrators network that formed in 2010. Data center projects are becoming a booming business opportunity for the division, with a large expansion to an Arizona center in progress and a possible one emerging in Hawaii.
Through network partners, that division also can work internationally, and telecom will be next company group to do so, according to Ms. Murphy. She calls this kind of expansion through the security and telecom integrator networks “smart growth.”
“We don’t have to go out and buy a company in another area and have the associated overhead,” she said.
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