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VOL. 37 | NO. 31 | Friday, August 02, 2013

Franklin firm scores big with security contracts

By Joe Morris

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FutureNet partners with Ameristar to provide high-security fencing

-- Futurenet Security Solutions

While its name may be better known for firearms, Franklin-based Smith & Wesson Security Solutions has been making inroads into broader, more physical security systems for the U.S. government.

The firm, formerly known as Universal Safety Response, was purchased in July 2012 for around $10 million by FutureNet Group, a Michigan-based defense contractor. Its products include the GRAB net barrier system, XMB, ODDS, SW1900, and a range of other proprietary perimeter security products.

Now operating under the name FutureNet Security Solutions (FNSS), the company has been successfully growing its presence on government contractor lists. In January, the firm announced a $63 million contract for security system maintenance and service from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

As part of a larger, $315 million effort, FNSS will maintain access control systems, electronic security, utility monitoring and physical security for Army installations in the United States and overseas. And earlier this month, it was named as one of seven companies chosen by the Corps to bid on $230 million in new construction projects over the next five years.

The announcements puts FNSS, which is in the same group as several larger companies in Alabama, California, Colorado and Texas, including such players as CH2M Hill, Johnson Controls and a joint venture that includes Brasfield & Gorrie.

FutureNet’s background and experience in maintenance and support carried the day when it came to making the cut for new-work bidding, says Ken Grant, executive vice president. He predicts that also will help it win out during multiple abbreviated bidding processes in the coming months and years.

“About 60 percent to 70 percent of our business has been federal government work, whether for the Department of Defense or other agencies, but we have been acting as a subcontractor,” Grant says. “Now we will be working to secure our own contracts for designing and building new projects, which is a major move for us.”

Becoming a primary contractor means that the company can grow by expanding its own subcontractor network, while also developing its own staff for project management.

“We were confident that we had the management abilities and the corporate processes within our company to do this work, and to take that step,” Grant explains. “Being awarded this ability to bid prequalifies us among a very select group of contractors that has been evaluated for their ability, responsiveness and financial capacity to perform this kind of work.

“Now the government will be looking just as these contractors for some very specific projects.”

Those will include smaller orders for existing entry gates and other installations in the low- to mid-six figure range, as well as larger orders well over a million dollars. That would include such jobs as putting in active and passive vehicle barriers on roadways leading to and from government facilities, as well as electronic security systems to replace, upgrade or complement existing communications systems.

“That’s all fairly complex work, and it’s what we have specialized in throughout the history of the company,” Grant says.

There’s also a certain amount of stability in being named to this pool. The seven companies will not face annual recertification, but will be required to submit monthly reports on their overall activity, just so the government can ascertain their abilities to respond to new bids, Grant says.

Based on the nature of the contracts, which could be awarded for facilities anywhere, it’s not expected for FNSS to ramp up its Tennessee presence. Rather, Grant says, the firm will be focused on putting a network of subcontractors into place so it can be as nimble as possible when bidding on new work.

That said, the firm also would take advantage of its new status to work internally on managerial development.

“There’s no guarantee of when tasks orders will be issued, but we feel like we’re much more focused on this work and can be very price competitive,” Grant says.

“We’ve got the structure and the staff to manage this work, and our business model lends itself to being able to do so without a lot of staff expansion. But as we get a feel for the volume of work, we do believe we’ll be adding to our project management and construction management staff to support the work that’ll be coming through.”