Spokane Journal of Business

Systems integrator flourishes

Calvert Technologies looks for balance after growing rapidly last year, relocating

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George Calvert figures he violated several of the basic tenets for surviving in business last year.

He allowed the West Plains company he heads, Calvert Technologies Inc., an automation-systems integrator and manufacturer, to grow at a dizzying 200 percent pace at the same time he was overseeing construction of a new building to house the burgeoning enterprise.

Juggling the cash-flow and other administrative demands created by those developments turned out to be a more formidable chore than he anticipated. Now, bolstered by a what-doesnt-kill-you-makes-you-stronger sort of attitude, Calvert is refocusing his attention and his newly relocated companys energiesalbeit at a less frenzied paceon what he sees as a wide range of potential jobs in various industries.

It looks very positive, he says, of Calvert Technologies prospects for continued growth.

Over about the last six months, the company has been awarded seven projects, with a total value of about $2.3 million, to design, build, and install control panels and related systems for corrections, water, and wastewater facilities in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Alaska, Calvert says. During roughly that same period, it has completed work on seven other projects in the region worth a total of about $2.6 million, he says.

The largest of the new contracts, worth about $1.5 million, is for installation of control panels, security systems, and related low-voltage wiring in an expansion project at the Washington state prison at Monroe. That project includes installing audio, video, and fire-alarm systems, all operated by multiple computer touch screens. The company also has won a contract to upgrade control systems in the prisons observation tower.

This week, Calvert Technologies is bidding to install a parking garage video-security system at Spokane International Airport and electrical and pump-control systems as part of a wastewater-treatment plant expansion in Chehalis, Wash.

Calvert declines to disclose annual revenue figures for Calvert Technologies, but its clear that he sees big potential for the company through diversification within its niche. He estimates that Pacific Northwest job opportunities for automation services amount to $417 million annually, counting water, wastewater, corrections-and-security, industrial, hospital, school, and airport projects.

Our expertise is really taking hardware and software, and integrating it in a system that works for the client, and those skills can be applied to a range of industries, Calvert says.

For now, Calvert Technologies has all the space it needs to accommodate future growth. It moved in January into a new 20,000-square-foot, two-story building that Calvert and his wife, Judy, developed on 21st Avenue in Airway Heights. The company currently is using about 80 percent of the space there. Calvert expects that it eventually will occupy the entire building, but he intends to lease out the 4,000 square feet of unused space for three years and is seeking a tenant for it.

The building occupies about half of a five-acre site the Calverts own. They are looking for companies interested in developing facilities on the rest of the site, and plan to name the entire complex Calverts Technology Park.

Calvert Technologies currently employs about 30 people at its new headquarters and another 10 to 20 electricians in the field, with that number fluctuating based on need. Calvert expects the companys overall work force to grow by 15 percent to 20 percent a year for the foreseeable future.

The Calverts founded the company in 1973 at their home north of Fairchild Air Force Base, and it served initially as a manufacturers representative, marketing high-tech industrial products. It began designing, building, and installing control panels and related systems for water, wastewater, manufacturing, and food-processing plants about 15 years ago, and since then has broadened into other industries. However, it wasnt until November 1998, when it expanded into electronic jail systems after buying a division of Liberty Lake-based Telect Inc., that it really began to take off.

Calvert says the acquisition of the Telect division and the hiring of 14 former Telect employees gave the company the expertise to diversify more into general data communications, including the installation of video, card-access, fire, and fiber-optic systems.

Calvert Technologies now operates three divisionsan integrated-systems group, which does all of the specialty-contracting work; a manufacturing group, which makes ScadaMax Control Products; and a service group, which provides post-installation support to the companys customers.

The integrated-systems group typically is working on 20 to 30 projects at any given time, Calvert says. It receives about 60 percent of its projects through competitive bidding, and negotiates the rest of its contracts. It usually works as a sort of third-tier contractor, hired by an electrical subcontractor that, in turn, has been hired by a general contractor.

The integrated-systems group currently is using about two-thirds of the companys 5,000-square-foot manufacturing area for project staging and assembly work, and the manufacturing group is using the remaining space.

That group is only about two years old. It makes six products sold under the ScadaMax brand name, including a touch-screen control system, a jail-door control system, a line of control panels, a drop-in level sensor for water reservoirs, a wastewater level control, and an uninterruptible power supply, Calvert says.

He says some of the products are used in-house, by the companys integrated systems group, and others are sold and installed through other electrical and system-integration contractors. Calvert Technologies is working to set up a national dealer base for its ScadaMax products and hopes to begin marketing them in Canada next year, Calvert says.

It also is marketing the products through a dedicated web site, www.scadamax.com, that it operates in addition to its main web site, www.calverttech.com, which currently is being updated and will be off line until the middle of this month, he says.

Calvert Technologies revenue soared last year partly due to the companys push to complete a number of projects it inherited from Telect, Calvert says. With all of the work now completed, it expects slower revenue growth of around 15 percent this year, followed by a somewhat sharper rise in later years, he says.

Calvert says the company hopes shortly to resume a technical training program, called Caltech+, that it suspended while completing last years crush of work. The program offers training in instrumentation, ScadaMax software, and programmable-logic controllers and is targeted at engineers and plant service workers, he says.

Kim Crompton
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