With Newly Bolstered Portfolio, Potter Zeroes in on Large-Scale Life-Safety Projects

The acquisition of three product lines, including mass notification and voice evacuation, positions the company to go after campus settings, high-rises, industrial infrastructure and other mass assembly applications.

I bet more than a few of you will fondly recall the TV show “The Jeffersons” from the late 1970s-early ’80s about a family who hit it big in business and then set their sights on bigger to fish to fry. As the show’s theme song went, the Jefferson family was “movin’ on up, to the East Side, to a deee-luxe apartment in the sky.”

I didn’t mention it to him at the time, but when I spoke to Dave Kosciuk of Potter Electric Signal Co. this week about the company’s intriguing acquisition news, the “Movin’ On Up” jingle was burning in my head the entire time. 

The pop culture analogy here is not entirely without merit. The deal for three life-safety product lines acquired from Moline, Ill.-based Harrington Signal Inc. – Harrington Fire Alarm, Evax Systems and CPG Signals – expands Potter’s ability to provide fire systems and voice evacuation systems to high-rise buildings, campus settings, industrial facilities and other large applications.

“Our dealer base wanted us to move up market quicker than we could have done this organically,” Kosciuk, who serves as EVP of the Potter’s fire/security division, explained to me. “We had to go out and acquire to fill in product holes in our product portfolio.”

Where Potter heretofore specialized in low-rise facilities and small- to medium-sized market niches – ex: strip malls, smaller school applications – now the privately held St. Louis-based company is loaded for bear, so to speak.

“That was our sweet spot in the market and it still is. That is one of our strengths and it always will be. But this allows us to move up market to larger type systems, much more complex type systems where you do need networking and smoke control, and you need integrated voice evacuation, you need command centers,” he said. “That is the stuff we didn’t have before and now we are able to move into that marketplace.”

Here’s a quick glance at Potter’s asset purchase haul:

Harrington Signal Fire Alarm – Fire alarm system products for a wide variety of vertical commercial and institutional markets. Product include conventional and addressable fire control panels, smoke detectors, annunciators, duct detectors and more.

Evax – Voice evacuation and mass notification systems. Products include large head-end bulk amplifiers, distributed audio, small side-car voice evacuation systems, firefighter telephone systems and mass notification systems.

CPG Signals – Products for commercial and industrial explosion-proof notification markets worldwide, including speakers, strobes, horns and an array of other explosion-proof signaling devices.

For the near-term, the company will maintain individual branding as Harrington By Potter, CPG By Potter and Evax By Potter. As the technologies are integrated into Potter’s current portfolio, Kosciuk and gang will be sorting out go-to market strategies and how these newly acquired lines ultimately get branded. 

Potter has a good deal of heavy lifting ahead in order to assimilate the three product lines in a cohesive fashion. They must define to the marketplace what their intentions are for each of the brands and how they will coexist, sans channel conflict. For instance, the Harrington and Potter lines are competing brands in the engineered systems distributor (ESD) channel. The chore will be to find the synergies necessary to maximize revenue potential and satisfy their existing customer base.

The company will have an easier go with Evax since that brand has a smaller presence with fire customers and will meld nicely into Potter’s distribution channel. Evax will also continue to sell to its current OEM partners, as well as seek new such business.

CPG proves to be a complimentary offering that Potter’s dealer base gets involved with when they need explosion-proof signals. It is an adjacent market the company currently serves, but now their offering just got a lot better with improved products that can satisfy far more of Potter customers’ needs.

“We are definitely going to stay in both channels,” Kosciuk stressed. “Absolutely our mainstay is the direct channel. There is no question about that. We will also maintain a strong presence in the fire and security distribution channels.”

Potter figures the process to fully assimilate the three product lines will take at least a couple of years. However, look to ISC West 2016 for a splashy rollout to introduce their new bounty. To help with the transition and integrating of the technology, Potter will get help from Evax President Pete Binkley, who Kosciuk described as “the godfather of voice evacuation in our industry.” Binkley will continue in his role at Evax, managing OEM partners while still heavily involved with voice evacuation and mass notification R&D.

Dick Eisenlauer, president of Harrington Signal Inc., will remain with his company, but Potter will be taking on about 20 employees in all through the acquisition. The Evax product line will continue to be manufactured in Branford, Conn., along with engineering and technical support. Production for the CPG and Harrington Fire Alarm lines will move to Potter’s St. Louis facility, while customer service, tech support and engineering will continue at Harrington’s headquarters in Moline.

Is Potter movin’ on up? You be the judge.

“There is a lot of work ahead of us. We have product and technology integration still to do, but this acquisition puts us on keel with the big guys,” Kosciuk said. “It puts us on the same level as the Honeywells and the UTCs.”

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About the Author


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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