Custom Alarm’s fire business growing

Company hires new fire project manager
Tuesday, July 5, 2011

ROCHESTER, Minn.—Custom Alarm, based here, started out 43 years ago in the basement of the home of the company’s president and CEO Leigh Johnson, whose background was in sound.

Today, the company of more than 75 employees still offers sound solutions, but also is a full-service security company and owns and operates its own UL-listed central station, and has more than 5,000 monitored accounts.

And one of the fastest-growing areas of the business is fire, according to Nikki Johnson, Custom Alarm’s director of marketing and an owner of the company, a Notifier by Honeywell dealer that also has branch offices in St. Paul and Winona, Minn.

She told Security Systems News the fire side of the business helped Custom Alarm, also known as Custom Communications Inc., weather the recession. “We do so much fire, and that was something that’s not an option for people, it’s a necessity,” she said.

The fire part of business is doing so well that the company, about 90 percent of whose work is commercial, this spring hired a project manager to work specifically on fire projects with a large national retail customer of Custom Alarm.

Johnson said Custom Alarm had for about five years done only CCTV work for that company, the name of which Custom Alarm cannot disclose. But last year Custom Alarm also had the opportunity to do some fire jobs with that customer, and wants to do more of those jobs, which the customer puts out to bid individually.

“We decided we’re going to commit to this and bid all the jobs with fire,” Johnson said. To do that, the company decided it needed a special crew dedicated to that retail customer and in April announced the hiring of Monica Nigon as project manager to lead that group.

“Monica fit the bill perfectly,” Johnson said. “She has great certifications … and great technical experience.”

Also, Johnson added, “It’s nice to see a woman in a normally male-dominated industry.”

In addition to Nigon, the company, which primarily serves customers in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa, also has a project manager for its regular fire customers, such as banks, and a project manager for a second large, unnamed commercial customer for whom Custom Alarm just does fire jobs, Johnson said.