As the residential construction market collapsed in the Inland Northwest in 2008, Brenda Blood decided she had to steer MAC Industries Inc., a North Idaho automated gate company she had just bought, in a different direction.
So she created a new division called Perimeter Security Group that would focus on antiterrorism protection at government and industrial facilities.
"I knew we had to have something to be excited about," says Blood, the company's president. "Projects at high-security facilitieslike damsare fun to us."
The new course has landed Perimeter Security Group a firm spot in the growth industry of perimeter security, also called facility hardening, or force protection. Now, Perimeter Security Group LLC has left the MAC Industries name behind and emerged as a fabricator and installer of much more than iron driveway gates.
The company now specializes in design, fabrication, and installation of exterior barriers and access controls to help protect military bases, federal courthouses, border crossings, airports, data centers, and other critical infrastructure.
Perimeter Security Group tripled its sales volume during the last two years, and last month acquired the Coeur d'Alene operations of Northwest Fence Co., which her father, Kelly Nelson, had founded, Blood says. Nelson is now a minority owner and vice president of Perimeter Security Group.
"Perimeter Security Group went from 10 employees to 50 employees, overnight," Blood says.
With the acquisition, the company now operates in two adjacent buildings in Dalton Gardens, the tiny North Idaho community wedged between Coeur d'Alene and Hayden. Its administrative office is located in the longtime Northwest Fence building, at 7488 N. Government Way, and its warehouse and fabrication building is located just to the northeast, in the former MAC Industries building, at 7551 Aqua Circle.
A typical perimeter security job at a federal facility is valued at upwards of $500,000a huge leap from the typical $3,000 residential jobs the company specialized in a few years ago, Blood says.
"When we started, our focus was 70 percent residential and 30 percent commercial," she says. "Now we do mainly government, industrial, and commercial jobs."
Nelson says Perimeter Security Group conducts most of its installation work at facilities outside of the Inland Northwest area. Recent jobs have been spread out geographically from the Camp Murray military facility in Western Washington to U.S.-Canada border crossings in North Dakota. The company currently is going after a project in North Carolina, he says.
Perimeter Security Group's products include automated gates and pivoting arms sturdy enough to impede moving vehicles. One of its stationary barrier products is capable of stopping an approaching 50,000-pound truck within 3.5 feet of contact, Nelson says. Some perimeter security projects include cameras, card readers, vehicle identification equipment, and control systems.
Some projects are much more complex than Blood had envisioned when she reworked Perimeter Security Group's mission, she says.
"That's part of the ride," Blood says. "Everything we branch out into has new challenges, and when we overcome them, we can take pride knowing we did that."
She says, though, that she's not able to disclose details publicly about some of the work that Perimeter Security Group performs because clients want that information kept secret.
When the company works on the design of government jobs that require security clearances, it uses special printers that can read encrypted files to produce plans. In such cases, all copies of plans must be accounted for and eventually returned to the client via a secure means.
Blood says she can't even name some commercial clients because of confidentiality. She says she can drop Microsoft Corp.'s name but not the location of a job site for that client.
Perimeter Security Group completed a highly visible facility-hardening project at the historic Broadview Dairy Building north of downtown Spokane, but the U.S. General Services Administration, which was the client for the project, prohibits the company from disclosing further details about it.
Blood started in the construction industry 15 years ago as a marketer for Northwest Fence, and was a sales manager there when she bought MAC Industries in 2007.
"I got into the books and contract administration out of necessity, and took it from a very small volume to three times what it was," she says.
Because the majority owner and operator of Perimeter Security Group is a woman, the company qualifies as a minority business enterprise as defined by most government jurisdictions, Blood says. The MBE qualification raises Perimeter Security Group's visibility to general contractors on government facilities, because many publicly funded construction projects require that a certain percentage of work be performed by MBEs, she says.
"It's been good for us, but we go after it pretty hard," Blood says of the force protection work. "Our staff here is made up of forward thinkers. They don't stop at the status quo."
Nelson says the company expends a lot of effort scouting out potential jobs and working through the design phases with potential general contractors and clients.
Most projects take two years from the design stage to completion, Nelson says. More complex projects can take 18 months to three years in the design stage alone, he says.
Blood says the company's expertise at designing and fabricating exterior security products give it an edge over other subcontractors that rely on ready-made components.
"Contractors like us because we can bond projects and have multiple capabilities," she says. "Our name is starting to get out there. Quite a few contractors have called us back to bid on work after they have worked with us once."
The Dalton Gardens office of Northwest Fence will continue to operate under that 35-year-old name, concentrating on residential and commercial work in the Inland Northwest as a subsidiary of Perimeter Security Group, Blood says.
Nelson says the Spokane Valley office of Northwest Fence Co., at 14909 E. Sprague, is owned and operated separately from the Idaho operation, although the two fencing concerns often work cooperatively.
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