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Vancouver-area integrator plans to prosper by thinking green

Vortechs Electronics Design Ltd., a Coquitlam, British Columbia-based security and home automation products installation service, grew and prospered, along with many of the other system integrators in B.C.'s Lower Mainland, when times were good. But economic conditions have deteriorated since then and Vortechs, like most other companies in the security business, is feeling the pinch.



March 17, 2009
By Peter Caulfield

The company is not letting the recession get it down, however. In fact,
founder and CEO Mitchel Kuijper says Vortechs has a plan that will take
it through the tough times and out into the inevitable recovery on the
other side.

“Our plan for getting through the downturn is simple,” Kuijper says.
“We offer innovative, money-saving products at a competitive price.
With hard work and dedicated employees, we know that the next two years
will be the best ever at Vortechs.”

Located about 20 kms east of downtown Vancouver near the Trans-Canada
Highway that connects Vancouver with many of its suburbs, Vortechs is a
low-voltage electrical  contractor that specializes in security,
communications and multimedia. With a full-time staff of eight,
approximately 60 per cent of the company’s business is residential and
40 per cent is commercial.

Virtually all of Vortechs’ installations contain some form of security, Kuijper says.

“I’d say more than 40 per cent of our business is security-related,
although much of the security we provide could be called ‘observation,’
rather than actual security, because many of our customers don’t want
to use a recording device,” he says.

To be effective, security technology should not be intrusive, Kuijper says.

“The technology needs to be hidden, with low levels of interaction with users,” he says.

Kuijper founded the predecessor company of Vortechs in 1993, when he
was a 21-year-old electronics student at the Greater Victoria Regional
Technical Institute. During the day he went to classes and at night he
installed alarms for a chain of medical labs on Vancouver Island. In
1995, Kuijper moved to the mainland to attend the British Columbia
Institute of Technology in Burnaby, a suburb of Vancouver. After
working as an independent subcontractor building circuit boards,
Kuijper decided to “get serious” and build a business that could grow.

“I wanted to create a company that specialized in low-voltage systems
for residential and commercial customers and that provided
consultation, system design and installation services,” Kuijper says.

In 2000, Vortechs obtained its security licence. In the same year
Kuijper hired full-time sales and administrative staff and leased a
building in Coquitlam. In 2007, he purchased the company’s own
building, the one it occupies now. Vortechs’s warehouse facility is
3,000 square feet in area, which includes office space and an
800-square-foot showroom.

“Our modern facility shows we’re serious,” Kuijper says. “It says
Vortechs is more than just a storage locker and some vans. The
commercial space has enough room to stock all the products we need to
do the job.”

Vortechs completed its showroom in October 2008. Designed and built
completely by Vortechs staff, Kuijper says it has been “a tremendous
help” for the company.

“It enables us to sit down with clients in a relaxed atmosphere and
discuss what they want, using their architectural drawings,” he says.
“A showroom is the best place for us to meet prospects, talk to people
and show them new products and how they work.”

The showroom also doubles as a training center for the company’s staff to learn about new products.
A key element of Vortechs’ strategy for success is “thinking green.”
One of the company’s latest initiatives is a line of energy-saving
wired and wireless lighting control and thermostat products
manufactured by Salt Lake City-based Control4.

“The products will help our customers prepare for  BC Hydro’s tiered
billing schema,  which we think will be introduced sometime in the
not-too-distant future,” Kuijper says.

For example, a home or office’s security system can be integrated into
the Control4 network that allows control and monitoring by touch
panels, TV screens and the Internet.

When an occupant leaves, a push of a button arms the alarm, turn off
the lights, resets the thermostat and shut down all audio-visual
equipment and other electronic devices. In addition, Control4’s 4Sight
Internet service can send an email in case of a water leak, fire or
other emergency.

The geographical area Vortechs serves is huge. It stretches from the
ski resort of  Whistler, 123 kms north of Vancouver, to Hope, a small
town located 150 kms east of Vancouver, at the end of the Fraser
Valley.  In the future, however, the company plans to concentrate its
energy and marketing dollars on its own back yard in the Coquitlam
area.

“We plan to become a leader in commercial IT and security with fast
support for all our clients,” Kuijper says. “After the last two years
of adding infrastructure we plan on going back to the basics and
getting to work in 2009. There is a huge renovation market in BC and we
hope to capture a chunk of that market.”


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