Law, Technology, and Travel & Tourism

Video camera maker focuses on law transit markets

August 31, 2012
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Product lines and sales territory have expanded since Steve and Liz Peacock launched Pro-Vision Video Systems Inc. in their basement in Kentwood in 2003, but the pillars of the operation remain intact: reliability, simplicity and affordability.

Many potential clients have enough on their plates and are not interested in learning how to operate complex recording systems and related products. “We figured it out when we demonstrated our products — to keep it to those three (reliability, simplicity and affordability),” said Steve Peacock, president and CEO. “Since then, it’s been our whole marketing effort.”

Pro-Vision initially created a niche market when it developed a miniature camera for use on commercial vehicles. Now, the company manufactures, engineers and installs rear vision and solid-state drive video recording systems for commercial and law enforcement use, and for use on school and transit buses — a total of 12 commercial grade cameras that are part of more than 40 systems, used for mobile surveillance, video evidence and blind-spot elimination. It serves clients in 14 countries.

The couple first started selling video systems and rearview cameras through dealer networks, but in 2005, during a utilities tradeshow in Louisville, Ky., where 400 rear camera units were sold, they decided they needed a different strategy.

“That kind of opened our eyes that we had a problem,” said Peacock. “We were feeding a handful of dealers around the country, but no one would spend enough time with the utilities, direct. We asked, ‘What would happen if we called the utility on our own?’

“We grew even faster. I don’t want to make it sound like I’m belittling the efforts of our dealers, but they couldn’t see the potential. These cameras are used for backing up trucks — it differentiated our Pro-Vision from the rest of the companies out there.

“Things took off at that time. We went from selling five to 10 units weekly to several hundred in a month’s time. It launched us to selling direct to large fleets around the nation.”

In 2006, sales topped $1 million for the first time, followed by the company’s first international sale in 2007. Pro-Vision had outgrown its 1,800-square-foot facility on Clyde Park Avenue, and had hired its first employees: a telephone receptionist and a sales representative whose territory covered “west of the Rockies.”

In 2009, the company entered the commercial recording system market, and released its four-camera systems for school buses.

In 2011, the company moved to its current 16,000-square-foot facility in Byron Township, where it now houses 22 employees, earning that year, and again in 2012, an Inc. 5000 award as one of the fastest-growing private companies in the nation, with a growth rate of 85 percent in sales over the last three years — from 2011’s $3.5 million to a projected $7 million this year. Pro-Vision is ranked as the 93rd fastest-growing manufacturer in the nation and the fourth fastest-growing manufacturer in Michigan, with the top three located near Detroit.

In 2010, Pro-Vision had entered the law enforcement recording system market, which Peacock believes is fertile ground, especially as it pertains to smaller police departments. According to Peacock, 80 percent of police departments do not have recording systems, with the average price tag for one ranging between $5,000 and $8,000 per patrol vehicle. That’s cost prohibitive for cash-strapped municipalities that on average already shell out $20,000 per patrol car plus another $5,000 for related equipment.

Pro-Vision sells its units for $2,500 to $3,500 with a five-year warranty on a state-of-the-art system with no moving parts to be jostled around, said Peacock. Such DVR recording systems include four cameras (one focused on the dash, one on the person handcuffed in the back of the patrol car and two on the outside) for a 360-degree view, and wireless transfer of videos. These are often sold to municipalities with 30 or fewer patrol cars, which Peacock said comprises 60 to 70 percent of the market.

“They have the same crime rate and financial issues as the majority of the agencies out there,” said Peacock of the smaller departments.

Pro-Vision sells the same model of DVR recorders to commercial and law enforcement officials, but each is configured differently based on projected utilization.

“The concept is to build one product for multiple industries so it can work for law enforcement, buses — it hits all the main criteria. It really comes down to how fast can we get to the next opportunity. There’s no goal here. It’s either yes or no, black or white.”

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