Since our founding in 2006, Platte River Equity ("Platte River") has been committed to the companies that drive the American economy – the so-called Engines of America. These are the businesses we embrace; the ones who operate behind the scenes, receiving less public recognition than they deserve given their invaluable contributions to the country's growth. As a positive force, the Engines of America drive change, adoption, and profitability, but they also work to achieve a delicate balance between competitive advantages and the interests of the investor, the executive, the manager, and the employee. Industry, communities, and families that cohabitate in this special place in America represent the change that has driven the most successful country in history.
We are unwaveringly dedicated to partnering with companies that are delivering exceptional value while upholding the highest standards of quality, safety, and growth. Across many industries, many sectors, and many stories we find success lies in our center, our heart, and our hope for the future.
Over the next several months, Platte River will embark on an initiative with our portfolio company leaders (past and present) to discuss what it means to create – through business building, innovation and entrepreneurship – enterprises that serve as the Engine of America.
Our inaugural article is from Tom Hubregsen, President and CEO of Municipal Emergency Services (“MES”). Tom discusses the role of efficiency in their business approach and strategy. MES is the leading national distributor, service provider, and manufacturer of safety equipment for the first responder community. Since Platte River’s investment, we have successfully executed on a strategy to expand the company’s national footprint, diversify our service offering and invest in digital technologies to better serve our customers.
“Platte River was our partner of choice to pursue the next stage of growth at MES. We retained a meaningful ownership stake in the company because we believed in the Platte River vision and the opportunity for future growth,” said Tom Hubregsen, President and CEO of MES. “We just marked two years in October, and it has been the partnership we had hoped for.”
When we think about first responders, there's a couple of things that are unique.
First, solutions in the first responder sector have no room for error. Tools and products must operate correctly - 100% of the time. It can't be 90% or 95%. It’s quite simple: if a firefighter wears an Air-Pak into a fire, that first responder can’t have that equipment fail. If a first responder arrives on a scene with people trapped in a car, the extrication tools that are used to cut them out of that car can’t work 90% of the time. They need to work—all the time.
Second, it might come as a surprise to some, but 65% of firefighters are volunteers. Having access to professionals who understand their needs and how to quickly service their equipment is critical. If a volunteer firefighter needs something fixed, it can’t be a six-week turnaround. It needs to be fixed immediately. It needs to be fixed today. Larger cities like Los Angeles have the resources, spare equipment, and people in place to always be ready for unexpected events, but smaller towns across America do not. It’s worth repeating: the resources we provide must work 100% of the time— because these small towns rarely have extra equipment or additional resources.
To achieve our goals of 100% reliability—100% of the time, we bring innovative technologies to help us and our customers.
Our company was one of the first to introduce individual issue thermal imaging, which improved firefighter efficiency immensely. Standard procedures taught today for firefighters responding to a structure fire without thermal imaging includes manually and methodically sweeping from room to room. Studies have proven that firefighters equipped with thermal imaging can reduce their rescue and recovery time for downed firefighters and victims by 30 to 50%. Firefighters will go room to room, and if there's a bed, they will actually sweep their arm under the bed to see if there's somebody there if they can’t see. They can now sweep that room with thermal imaging to see if there's a thermal signature under a piece of furniture.
The metrics of success in search and rescue operations is oftentimes defined as: how quickly a firefighter can get in and out of a building? How many people do they need to search for? Needless to say, in these scenarios, the measurement of success is lives saved and individuals rescued.
The other way that innovation comes into play is through protecting human capital – the people that are needed to do this important and dangerous work. Sometimes technology is a game-changing alternative and difference-maker. If a firefighting robot can be sent into a situation that may be dangerous for firefighters, the fire department is massively increasing its efficiency. Lost time on the job—whether it be because of injury or something else— is inefficient, so trying to minimize these situations and ensure “everyone goes home” is not only beneficial on a personal safety level but a business level as well. We are staying at the forefront of these technologies and helping bring them to first responders across the country.
Over exertion or heat stress is the number one killer of firefighters, and it is also a challenge for law enforcement, especially when it comes to body armor. There are new fabrics coming into play, some of which feel cool to the skin. The technology around lighter, more breathable materials that also provide heat protection have become more common recently. MES is proud to be investing in the products that provide for the increased safety of these brave first responders.
At MES we also have a cultural need for efficiency and innovation. When I think about transactional efficiency, there's plenty we do at MES in that area. One thing we have done is to streamline the purchasing experience for our customers by leveraging digital technologies. We give our customers who are working 24hr a day an online 24/7 shopping experience. The organization gets transactional efficiency and financial accountability by loading allowances for each individual firefighter or police officer. Having a system that is easy to navigate and directly serves our customers’ interests is a positive for everyone involved. It makes getting the equipment or uniforms they need simple and straightforward.
Protecting first responders and allowing them to be more efficient in protecting the lives, property and safety of their communities is how we define success and deliver impact. The emergency services world is one where failure is not an option and is a backbone to daily life. In many respects, our work is an engine of the American economy.
- Tom Hubregsen, President & CEO of MES