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5/22/2003

Bravo, Intrado

By Tony Kindelspire
The Daily Times-Call

LONGMONT — It started in Longmont in 1979 with two partners running a part-time consulting company. Things have come a long way since then, in terms of corporate culture, technology and even the state of the world.

“We provide virtually all the (911) infrastructure around the United States with the exception of New Jersey,” said George Heinrichs, president and chief executive officer of Intrado. Heinrichs and Stephen Meer, the company’s vice president and chief technology officer, founded the company on the basis of providing public safety agencies with radio frequency and computer support.

Today, Intrado is perhaps best known for its “targeted notification service,” which allows public safety agencies to contact people by telephone in their homes during emergency situations.

Commonly known as “reverse 911,” Intrado company officials shy away from calling their products this for a couple of reasons.

“I think (reverse 911) is a really good name,” Heinrichs said, while at the same time noting that the phrase is copyrighted by another company.

He said the more significant difference is in the capability of the two systems.

“They don’t use 911 data,” Heinrichs said of the competition, adding that Intrado’s technology gathers data for use both by public safety agencies for 911 and by the Incumbent Local Exchange Carriers — the local phone companies — for billing.

From sources such as these ILECs, Intrado receives up to a half million updates per day, and the company’s staff has to — because of glitches, large or small — perform “interventions” on about 7 percent to 10 percent of those.

A glitch could be one letter misplaced in a person’s name, but the error must be corrected, Heinrichs said.

“It’s all over the map, and it can be caused by a variety of things,” he said of the updates.

He used a college town as an example. Each fall, when thousands of new people move in and sign up for phone service, these

names must be added to an emergency notification database — Intrado’s database.

Another thing that sets his company apart, Heinrichs said, is the ability to give an evacuation notice to “10,000 people in 10 minutes,” which he claims is much faster than any of his competitors.

“So we kind of think of ourselves as having an industrial-strength version of (reverse 911 technology),” Heinrichs said.

Recently, the Compass Bank robbery and last week’s flood in Boulder were two examples of Intrado’s technology being used locally.

“While we provide the technology and support, the local officials provide the control,” Heinrichs said.

Local public safety agencies construct the “boundaries” of where a “call event” will occur. Such call events, he said, must be “strictly public safety, and it’s got to be an emergency.”

The beginning of the Intrado of today began in 1993, when Heinrichs and Meer made the decision to change their business model from being sellers of licensed products to becoming an outsourcing company for public safety agencies and others to use Intrado’s products to conduct their transactions.

With backing from its private investors, Intrado began signing contracts in 1994 under the new model.

“I think credibility continued to increase every time we signed more customers on,” Heinrichs said.

During its most recent quarter, Intrado reported revenue of nearly $30 million, a 24 percent jump from the first quarter of last year.

In the past year, the company completed the move of its headquarters out of Boulder to the city where it got its start, occupying 290,000 square feet in the 550,000-square-foot Boulder County Business Center in Longmont.

Heinrichs said that when he and Meer decided to devote their full-time attention to running the company — then called SCC Communications — in 1985, they thought it was important that they have a Boulder address.

“At the time, we thought it would make us more credible somehow,” he said, adding that “at the time, it was the home of Mork and Mindy.”

The company doesn’t have such concerns today. Now, with multiple locations around the country and an employee base of more than 700, the company finds itself positioned in a perfect marriage of technology and increased public safety awareness. And just as importantly, the company seems prepared for anything, whether it be growth or someone outside the company wishing to do it harm.

“We even have computers that have their own power in the computer,” Heinrichs said. “You can take this facility offline, and 911 would continue to operate just fine in the U.S.

“You won’t destroy 911 by destroying Intrado’s Longmont site.”

The company’s name change from SCC came about in concert with its decision to purchase Lucent Public Safety Systems two years ago. That company was spun out of Bell Laboratories, which had helped develop the nation’s 911 system.

“It was a big deal,” Heinrichs said of the purchase of the former competitor of SCC. “I don’t know what the incremental revenue impact was off the top of my head, but mostly it was the addition of a number of very talented people from Lucent into our own team.

“Part of the reason for changing the name was we wanted them to feel welcome.”

As part of the renamed company’s move back to Longmont — into the former home of Storage Technology Corp. — three massive skylights have been installed on the building to let in natural light — an indicator of how Intrado feels about its employees.

But the premier example of Intrado’s corporate attitude may be in the “Employee of the Month” awards the company gives out regularly.

Rather than a cash award or a parking space, winners — nominated by their peers — are given what they would most like to have but probably wouldn’t splurge on themselves.

The winner’s family and friends help choose the award. In one case, it was a fishing trip to Alaska. In another, an avid golfer was sent to Pebble Beach. Recently, a woman who loved to shop was given a trip to the Mall of America in Minnesota.

“The neat part about this to me is it really is about the employee and what their needs and desires are,” said Linda Hobaugh, director of corporate communications. “They’re all unique, they’re all different, and that’s what makes it fun.”

Tony Kindelspire can be reached at 303-776-2244, Ext. 291, or by e-mail at tkindelspire@times-call.com.