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Vanderbilt Industries Emerging as Access Control Solutions Provider to Be Reckoned With

Company aims to become dominant force amid highly fragmented market.

The Vanderbilt name is famously associated with accomplishing the seemingly insurmountable task of unifying and streamlining America’s splintered 19th-century railroads into a cohesive, efficient network. Cornelius Vanderbilt’s undertaking transformed the transport of goods and revolutionized commerce, helping him become one the world’s wealthiest men. Now that storied moniker is being linked to another fragmented industry: electronic access control.

Although not actually affiliated through blood or business, Vanderbilt Industries brings a comparable pedigree of proven leadership to the fore. The company – launched in 2012 by former HID and ASSA ABLOY executive Joe Grillo along with a couple of fellow industry veterans – is seeking to tap into some of the Zeitgeist of its namesake to forge a successful path of access control consolidation built on open technology platforms.

Grillo, who has more than 30 years’ experience that includes almost every level of the supply chain, and his partners launched Vanderbilt Industries after establishing the holding entity ACRE in 2011. Having acquired Ingersoll-Rand’s controllers business as its foundation, acquisitions of leading OEM Mercury Security and Siemens’ Security Products unit (completed earlier this year), Vanderbilt Industries hit the ground running with a well-rounded offering. Mitchell Kane, a founding partner of the Integrated Access Systems/Geoffrey Industries business Ingersoll-Rand acquired in 2003, serves as Vanderbilt Industries’ president.

RELATED: Vanderbilt Industries Wraps Up Siemens Security Products Acquisition

The company is turning heads among those both within and who follow the historically proprietary access control market. Will it see the widespread adoption of interoperability, embracing of standards, technological innovation, consolidation of suppliers and exponential growth that have marked the video surveillance sector’s past decade of dominance? The principals of Vanderbilt Industries are banking on some if not all of those things coming to pass as they aim to disrupt the status quo.

Vanderbilt Industries will be in attendance at ASIS 2015 at booth 3153.

Let’s talk about building the new Vanderbilt Industries empire. How did you name and set the business up, where do the acquired companies fit in and how is the integration progressing?

JOE GRILLO: ACRE [Access Control and Related Enterprises], the holding company, was formed when I got together with a former colleague, Will West, former CFO of HID, to form the business. We thought that since the access control industry continues to be so highly fragmented and not very progressive, there was an opportunity to potentially to consolidate some of that.

We also had an eye on the potential acquisition of Mercury, which was already in the background with our third colleague Steve Wagner, who had become the president of Mercury. So the first acquisition was what we now call Vanderbilt Industries, which we acquired from Ingersoll-Rand in September 2012. We were already in the process of engaging with Mercury, which we acquired in 2013. And we were already, at that point in time, engaging in discussions with Siemens about the acquisition of their security products business.

The name Vanderbilt simply came about because we needed a new name. Ingersoll-Rand wasn’t letting us use the Ingersoll-Rand or Schlage name, the key brands for them. Vanderbilt was the secret code name of the divestiture project. It’s not easy to find a name for a new business in the security industry. If you put the word ‘security’ in, I guarantee you someone will own that name somewhere in the world, and if you want to be an international company you need a fresh name.

Going forward with these businesses, Mercury will always be a separate platform under ACRE because it supplies Vanderbilt, and will supply Vanderbilt Int’l, but it also supplies products to many of its competitors. The Vanderbilt businesses, and probably others that we might acquire such as security systems and access control manufacturing businesses would probably be additive to the Vanderbilt platform.

About the Author

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Scott Goldfine is Editor-in-Chief and Associate Publisher of Security Sales & Integration. Well-versed in the technical and business aspects of electronic security (video surveillance, access control, systems integration, intrusion detection, fire/life safety), Goldfine is nationally recognized as an industry expert and speaker. Goldfine is involved in several security events and organizations, including the Electronic Security Association (ESA), Security Industry Association (SIA), Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC), False Alarm Reduction Association (FARA), ASIS Int'l and more. Goldfine also serves on several boards, including the SIA Marketing Committee, CSAA Marketing and Communications Committee, PSA Cybersecurity Advisory Council and Robolliance. He is a certified alarm technician, former cable-TV tech, audio company entrepreneur, and lifelong electronics and computers enthusiast. Goldfine joined Security Sales & Integration in 1998.

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