As new communications technologies emerge in endless succession, some of the oldest infrastructures are finding it necessary to keep up. Emergency communications systems is one niche of the market that can’t afford to be left in technology’s dust, and as such, the sector has been under almost constant refurbishment for more than a decade.
Eyeing the opportunity for a consolidation play, Golden Gate Capital recently dialed its way into the space by recapitalizing Plant Equipment Inc., a provider of mission-critical communications systems for 911 and other emergency call centers. The recap was conducted in partnership with Plant’s President and CEO Timothy Fuller, who will continue to lead the business throughout Golden Gate’s investment.
Plant, which provides software and hardware solutions for emergency and dispatch communications, was founded by the Fuller family in 1968. The company’s wares are used by traditional public safety answering points, airports, transportation centers, utility call centers and federal government installations, including international military bases. Services provided by Plant’s software include computer telephony integration, computer aided dispatch, digital mapping and digital logging.
San Francisco-based Golden Gate, which completed 27 software transactions in the past four years, was already searching for an entry point to the public safety IT market when it was approached by Barrington Associates, the investment bank that represented Plant. “We had been scanning the market from the top down for a while and, fortunately for us, we were presented with a company that has a strong competitive position and a continuously growing market share,” said Prescott Ashe, a managing director at Golden Gate.
To facilitate the investment, Golden Gate tapped its $1.85 billion Golden Gate Capital Fund II, which held its final close last year. In addition, Plant received a working capital facility from Wells Fargo Foothill. No other financial terms of the transaction were disclosed.
The public safety IT space and its adjacent markets represent a $500 million industry, Ashe said, adding that Plant already has the largest installed base in the market with more than 2,400 public safety call center installations in 44 states. The Temecula, Calif.-based company operates in partnership with telecom vendors such as SBC, which in turn are the service providers to the answering points. Among Plant’s end-users are the California Highway Patrol, Pima County, Ariz. emergency services and the Emergency Communications Center for Warren County, N.Y.
“As technology continues to evolve, these call centers see more demand for digitalization and we see attractive opportunities for continued growth,” Ashe said, noting that the increased use of cell phones and voice-over Internet protocol (VoIP) has raised the bar for updating call routing systems and global position satellite (GPS) tracking.
To continue Plant’s growth, Golden Gate will pursue expansion through add-ons in conjunction with the company’s active organic growth. “There is a comprehensive software stack that 911 call centers use, and we anticipate plenty of opportunities to round out our technology offerings through acquisition,” Ashe said.