Silent Witness eyes land, new building for growing company

Sunday, December 1, 2002

SURREY, B.C. - Camera manufacturer Silent Witness is looking to build a new facility here that would provide more room for the company's growing business.

In early October, Silent Witness entered into an agreement to buy 11.9 acres of land for $3 million Canadian. Over the next month, company officials plan to look at options, such as whether Silent Witness would own the building or lease it from a developer.

"Because there's no existing inventory here, we took the step of securing land and examining alternatives of how the project would work," said Mike Longinotti, chief financial officer of Silent Witness.

Need for a new facility comes a year after Silent Witness bought the CCTV assets of Gyyr Inc. "That Gyyr acquisition moved us from revenues of $40 million a year to $58 million a year," said Longinotti.

It also increased Silent Witness' manufacturing load. While Gyyr's sales and research and development people remained onboard at a facility in Irvine, Calif., manufacturing of Gyyr's digital and analog video recorders and other products came to Surrey, B.C. The company now employs 130 people out of its Surrey, B.C. location.

Historically, Silent Witness has been a solid company, said Mark Lagasse, an analyst with Acumen Capital Partners in Calgary, Alberta. Over the past two years the company has struggled a little, he said, as it moved into the broader camera market, such as digital recording, and in direct competition with the likes of Sony and Panasonic.

"They're really transitioning to a larger market and at some point they're going to need larger offices," said Lagasse.

Silent Witness is now housed in two adjacent buildings that measure 45,000 square feet combined. That lease is set to expire at the end of March in 2004, providing the company with about a year-and-a-half to find an alternative location.

Longinotti said a new facility would enable Silent Witness to increase manufacturing efficiencies and to set up receiving, warehousing, packing and shipping in an automated and logical manner. "It gives us a chance to redesign all the product flow and product management from scratch," he said.

If all goes as planned, Longinotti said Silent Witness could break ground on a new facility in early 2003.