Optimists, Cynics Weigh In on Stimulus

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Initial expectations for the $787 billion stimulus package enacted in February have since tempered as many security contractors have become perplexed by the uncertainty of just where opportunities exist and how to snatch them.

“There is a feeling that a lot of the stimulus money is for programs that security and fire installers can’t impact,” says John Chwat, government relations director for the National Burglar & Fire Alarm Association (NBFAA). But real prospects will emerge, industry experts say; persistence and due diligence will be key.

NBFAA is advising its members to follow the flow of stimulus monies at www.recovery.gov, which details project funding for each state. Many of the allocations will be administered through state capitols, and then passed to counties and other localities.

“What installers should do is check with their state government or county or city where they reside. They should inquire at those levels to determine what kinds of programs are available for competition,” Chwat says.

Many dealers and integrators that are making a concerted effort to identify stimulus-funded projects are thus far finding the endeavor slow going.

“Our research and follow-up has shown that not much of the money has made it to the various entities as of yet, so we are seeing no impact from it,” says Wayne Becker, vice president of business development for Allentown, Pa.-based Communication Systems Inc. (CSI).

A recent SSI Web poll asked readers how much impact they expected the stimulus package would have on security business. Perhaps not surprisingly, 65 percent of respondents reported they anticipate seeing little to no benefit.

However, installation companies that remain skeptical about winning stimulus-funded projects have good cause to be more optimistic, according to Thomas Turner, public sector business development manager for Greenville, S.C.-based distributor ScanSource Security.

Increasingly, end users are looking to do business with resellers that are strategically located in their immediate communities, Turner says. “This is absolutely the time for the smaller resellers to really gain some market position.”

ScanSource is helping inform its customers about stimulus funding with an ongoing series of Webinars and other awareness programs and tools. For instance, a technical guidebook includes a detailed listing of stimulus-related Web sites at the federal, state and local levels.

Of particular importance to watch closely are the “guidance” updates issued by government agencies that detail how stimulus funding can be used for a given project. Security contractors can review a guidance report to determine if there will be capital expenditures related to electronic security and fire/life safety.

“I cannot overemphasize it. The minute any guidance comes out, any integrator — even if it seems like it’s not a security program initially — really needs to read the whole thing among their team,” says Don Erickson, director of government relations for the Security Industry Association (SIA).

SIA is keeping its membership abreast of stimulus grant money, in part, with continuous updates to the new “Stimulus Central” section of www.siaonline.org. Security and fire installers will also want to pay close attention to the process itself of how the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is administering funds through the guidance updates that are now coming out.

“I would bet the farm that if there is another stimulus, which there might be, the OMB is certainly going to use these same processes for applying for those funds as well,” Erickson says. “If integrators are paying attention to how the processes are working now, they are going to learn a lot right now in preparation for the future.”

About the Author

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Although Bosch’s name is quite familiar to those in the security industry, his previous experience has been in daily newspaper journalism. Prior to joining SECURITY SALES & INTEGRATION in 2006, he spent 15 years with the Los Angeles Times, where he performed a wide assortment of editorial responsibilities, including feature and metro department assignments as well as content producing for latimes.com. Bosch is a graduate of California State University, Fresno with a degree in Mass Communication & Journalism. In 2007, he successfully completed the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association’s National Training School coursework to become a Certified Level I Alarm Technician.

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