Monday, October 11, 2010

Safariland's corporate history

I haven't really followed the Ontario firm Safariland lately, even though I have a natural interest in the company. Since I've worked in public safety software for the last 15 years, I'm always interested in Inland Empire companies like ESRI and Safariland that also play in that sector.

But when I last checked into Safariland some time ago, they were a stand-alone independent company in Ontario. A September Press-Enterprise story on Safariland's Scott O'Brien updates that history somewhat.

In 1999 O'Brien and Perkins sold their ownership in Safariland and planned on retiring. But the buyer, Armor Holdings, was unable to coordinate the operations of Safariland and 18 other manufacturers of law enforcement products it had acquired, and in 2005 O'Brien agreed to return as president and meld the separate companies into one organization....

Then in 2007 the United States unit of BAE Systems plc, a British global conglomerate, bought Armor Holdings. O'Brien continued as president. Today he is navigating Safariland, which has 1,763 employees and manufacturing plants in Inland Southern California, Florida, Wyoming and Tijuana, through a severe economic downturn.

A word on that downturn - you'd think that public safety would be pretty much recession-proof, but when governments are short on cash, they'll often try to make do with existing equipment and software for just one more year. So I can see O'Brien's challenges.

Be sure to read the interview of O'Brien in the Press-Enterprise.

Oh, and by the way, I can identify with O'Brien in another way, since he sells products that are subject to export controls. O'Brien:

Our biggest market is the Untied States. The international arena has more growth opportunity but the problem now is that BAE is very stringent about how they want business done internationally. You have to do a lot of careful vetting of whom you sell to, to make certain they are not going to take the stuff and sell it to some corrupt government.

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