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Security company to open West Des Moines office


A California-based security company plans to open a West Des Moines monitoring center that, when fully staffed, will employ about 120 people.

Westec InterActive has signed a long-term lease with R&R Realty Group to open a visual communications center for its high-tech remote monitoring services at 1089 Jordan Creek Parkway, with occupancy slated to begin by early October. Westec’s president, Mitch Johnson, played a role in the company’s decision to expand into Greater Des Moines. Johnson has lived in Des Moines since 1999.

“We needed a central location for our clients, and Iowa has a highly educated workforce,” Johnson said.

The Iowa Department of Economic Development and the city of West Des Moines worked with Westec to secure a $1.2 million financial assistance package to bring the company to the area, Johnson said. Westec will also invest $2.5 million in the center.

The West Des Moines office will be similar to Westec’s headquarters in Irvine, Calif., where trained technicians evaluate incoming video feeds from clients’ closed-circuit television systems.

According to Johnson, Westec uses “intelligent video” technology that can be programmed to trigger alarms at its visual communications center when certain images are picked up by cameras at a client’s place of business.

“With intelligent video, cameras now have the ability to distinguish whatever criteria we put into it,” Johnson said. “If we want to know specifically whether someone sets a suitcase down and walks away from it, we can program that system to send an alarm to our command center.

“We can tell the equipment that it’s fine for someone to walk over here, but if they go over there, an alarm goes off.”

Client businesses can also manually trigger an alarm if they want Westec’s monitoring specialists to assess what its cameras are picking up. For example, if a hotel clerk receives a report from a guest that someone is breaking into cars in the hotel parking lot, the clerk can trigger an alarm for Westec to pull up video and audio from the hotel’s cameras.

“Within one second of activating an alarm, video and audio pops up in our command center and we can look at the situation from all angles,” Johnson said. “This is cutting-edge technology, and really the first command center in the nation to have these capabilities that we know of.”

Johnson said Westec’s cameras have the ability to distinguish between adults and children, and also to recognize animals and vehicles of varying sizes. Another way that the equipment is used is for companies to record employees’ work habits.

“We have lots of management solutions, such as operational audits where we can report corporate compliance for companies,” Johnson said. “We replace a lot of mystery shopping by supplying actual video for that client to use for training. That’s really our fastest-growing service.”

Westec is the second business Johnson has brought to Iowa. The first was SunCom, now part of Cingular Wireless. While working for SunCom’s parent company, Telecorp PCS Inc., Johnson recommended that Suncom move its regional office to Des Moines. The move created about 150 jobs throughout the state, and the company invested $300 million to build the wireless network and open retail outlets.

Johnson said Westec will hire about 65 people initially, including accounting personnel, intervention specialists to monitor the command center, project managers, sales staff and administrative support. The company plans to expand to a staff of about 120 over the next few years. In addition to its California headquarters, Westec also has offices in Dallas, Texas, Frederick, Md., and Palm Beach, Fla.

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