Stuart Rawling, vice president of market strategy for Pelco, Inc. stands in the company’s engineering department, where workers develop new products and software. Photo by David Castellon
Written by David Castellon
There was a time when Pelco, Inc. was Clovis’ largest employer, with about 1,800 workers operating out of eight buildings in the Clovis industrial Park.
In fact, Pelco was such a dominant business there — designing and building security hardware and software — that many locals called the place “Pelco Park.”
But things have changed considerably in the past dozen years since Pelco was purchased by Europe’s Schneider Electric, including reported losses in market share and the layoff of hundreds of workers, along with the transfer of many on the design and administrative sides of the business to a separate Pelco office in Fresno, near Pinedale.
New way to grow
Pelco downsized so much that it occupied just one building in the industrial park when Schneider Electric sold the company for an undisclosed sum in May.
Now, by some reports less than a hundred people work in that building, which Schneider opted not to sell, and the last remnant that Pelco was there are street sings that say “Pelco Way.”
Despite Pelco’s issues in the past, Stuart Rawling, vice president of market strategy for the Fresno-based company, said the new owners are looking grow Pelco again, but not in the same way it did in the past.
Pelco now operates primarily out of two locales, the office in Fresno and another in Fort Collins, Colorado opened by the company about a decade ago.
Each houses about 200 employees, mostly engineers designing Pelco security products and the software that runs them. In addition, the Fresno site has staff handling company finances, while marketing is done in Fort Collins.
As for manufacturing, with the sale to Transom Capital Group, a Los Angeles-based equity group, Pelco no longer has its own manufacturing site.
“We don’t have a single location like we used to. Now we’re all over the place,” using contract manufacturers in the U.S. and other countries, he said. “Just like most modern companies.”
As such, Rawling said, it’s unlikely, at least any time soon, that Pelco will again employ locally the number of people it did when it manufactured its own products.
Life goes on
Having such a large employer whittled down wasn’t something City of Clovis officials wanted to see, but most of the spaces Pelco used to occupy at the Clovis Industrial Park are filled with new tenants, said Andy Haussler, the city’s economic development director.
Rawling said of Transom’s decision to buy Pelco, “They bought it to grow, and that’s what we’re going to do — building the company … and leveraging the power of the people that we employ in Fresno as a result of it.
“We have open positions today, and we’ll continue to grow,” he said, adding that nearby California State University, Fresno and the University of California, Merced, should be important sources for graduates with the technical skills Pelco needs.
Rawling said Transom officials were confident in buying Pelco. “The three reasons are you have an exceptionally strong brand; you’ve got an exceptionally strong industry, which is growing; and you have a huge opportunity — an American manufacturer, an American company in this space that has a lot of influence on areas around the world.”
While Rawling declined to discuss Pelco’s past problems in detail, he did say that within a couple of years after Schneider Electric bought the company, the security electronics industry underwent a big shift from analog video recording to digital, along with increased competition from Chinese-made products and the Great Recession, the last of which made consumers more price sensitive to security equipment.
“It’s all happened over the same period,” said Rawling, adding that Pelco’s plans now are to find ways to “evolve” its products, along with finding new, creative ways to use them and market them to potential customers who currently don’t use such equipment.
“That’s why we have such a large investment in engineering here.”
The current buzzwords in the electronic security industry are “artificial intelligence,” much of which centers on developing software that can identify things out of place — such as a large number of people or cars gathered in a store parking lot in the wee hours of the morning or people in areas where they shouldn’t be, for example — and notify whoever is monitoring the security system to look at the security feed or even notify law enforcement directly.
“There’s data everywhere, and you can use that data to determine what’s normal and what’s not,” said Rawling, adding that the Pelco is also working on “appearance search” software and equipment to identify people the cameras see.
But the company doesn’t want to be “Big Brother” and would work to ensure such capabilities aren’t misused, he added.