Vector Security grows with demand


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When Pam Petrow started working at Vector Security Inc. in 1982, the security industry was archaic compared with today's technologies.

There were no cell phones to allow customers to monitor their houses remotely. The business could not train operators over the Internet or electronically transmit alarm data to 911 centers.

All of that has changed, according to Ms. Petrow, who took over as Vector's president and CEO in 2010. "Security's much more intelligent than it used to be. It used to pretty much be just contacts on doors and windows," she said.

In recent years, the Ross security company has incorporated new technologies meant to make customers more secure and, perhaps just as important, feel more at ease.

In the last couple of years, Ms. Petrow has seen increased demand for residential video cameras, driveway sensors, gas detectors and thermostat systems that program temperatures. The 911 transmitters that Vector has helped develop can reduce emergency call times by minutes, according to Public Safety Communications, an industry magazine.

"It's not just a burglar alarm or burglar and fire alarm anymore," she said.

To show off those efforts, Vector is matching the advanced technology with a re-branding effort and new acquisitions to grow the company's base in the Midwest and East Coast.

This year alone, the company has acquired a company in Geneva, Ohio, and is in the process of buying two others that Ms. Petrow did not disclose.

Outgrowing its Ross building, Vector sold its corporate headquarters last month, said Ms. Petrow. According to Anita Ostrowski, vice president of central station services, Vector is looking for options, most likely in the Cranberry area.

Between the new corporate office and monitoring center and a Warrendale office that houses service, sales and installation staff, Ms. Petrow expects to add between 25 to 35 jobs to an existing staff of about 150 in the Pittsburgh area. The number of jobs added to the Monroeville-based patrol office will depend on demand, she said.

The re-branding effort is, in part, to spruce up the old Vector logo, which looked like a stop sign on so many lawns. As Vector provides customers with new yard signs bearing the sleeker logo, it will use the opportunity to update them about new products and services and make sure existing ones are meeting their needs.

Vector has 35 offices, including three in the Pittsburgh area, and employs approximately 1,400 people overall. It provides security systems in residences and for commercial companies like Lowe's and Toys R Us and also runs a patrol division.

In 2011, Vector placed seventh on the industry's SDM 100, a ranking by SDM Magazine of the top 100 security companies with the highest recurring monthly revenues. According to the magazine, Vector grossed $212 million in revenue and had more than 250,000 subscribers in 2011. Vector notes on its website that it is owned by The Philadelphia Contributionship, a private insurance company based in Philadelphia.

In an economy that still shows signs of frailty, the security industry appears to be a bright spot. According to a study cited in PRWeb, the private security industry is expected to grow by more than 6 percent this year.

Ms. Petrow said private equity companies are increasingly interested in her industry, and businesses such as Comcast are reaching for a piece of the pie by meshing security products into their other offerings.

"The new players are the biggest change. Technology's the biggest driver," Ms. Petrow said. Customers "want to be able to stay connected to their homes even though they're not in them as much," she said.

Despite the industry changes, one constant is the need for quick response.

Ms. Petrow said even as the company expands, she plans to keep open local offices, which she believes gives customers access to Vector and peace of mind.

"Being able to provide quality customer service is really a differentiator for the market," she said.

businessnews

Elizabeth Bloom: ebloom@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1969


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