NextGen reaps benefits from partnerships

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Thursday, April 1, 2004

SUMMERVILLE, S.C. - In the year since partnering with homebuilders to outfit newly constructed houses with home automation technologies, NextGen Technologies Inc. is reaping the benefits of those relationships.

Before forming the partnerships, NextGen had three employees in one office. Now the company employs 13 people and is expanding into three new markets - Columbia, Hilton Head and Charlotte, N.C. - with plans to move into 10 markets within three years.

Later this year, NextGen plans to have its offices in two of those markets, Charlotte and Hilton Head, ready for operation.

The company’s rapid growth has come as a pleasant surprise to NextGen’s management team.

“We had aspirations to do things on a regional level,” said Chase Michaels, a member of NextGen’s management team. “We thought it would take a few years to open a second location.”

One of the biggest challenges the company faces, Michaels said, has been slow or delinquent payment from some of its clients. Because the company is self-funded, cash flow can fluctuate considerably from month to month.

In addition, the rapid growth has brought new sets of challenges for the management team, as it has had to handle more and more responsibilities. To combat this, Michaels said the company is looking into outsourcing some of its human resource functions.

“We’ve just gotten to be doing so many different things,” he said.

The two-year-old NextGen provides an array of services, including alarm systems, fire systems, home automation and other intelligent low-voltage structured wiring to the residential market. It also operates a central station to monitor the systems it installs.

In addition to providing wiring and networking for new construction, Michaels said he expects the company will be doing more retrofitting of older homes in coming months and years, as sellers realize the added value of a wired home.

“Instead of painting or carpet upgrades, do technology upgrades,” he said. “It’s a huge selling point for real estate agents.”

On top of its residential work, NextGen has been involved in installing fire alarm systems on a local bridge, which Michaels said is one of the company’s largest projects. NextGen expects to begin installation of the system on the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, which is currently under construction and will cross the Cooper River between Charleston and Mount Pleasant, within six months.

While Michaels wouldn’t disclose the value of the contract, he said it was “substantial.”

“This is one of the biggest projects this area has ever seen,” he said. NextGen has partnered with Gatch Electrical Contractors in Charleston on the project.”