SECURITY company KingAlarm has invested more than $100 million to expand into Montego Bay with new offices at the ATL Bogue Centre — part of an islandwide and regional push into a growing market for security services, says the company's managing director, John Azar.
The firm opened the 4,000 square-foot Bogue Centre office two months ago and has so far employed approximately 55 new members to the unit in the western Jamaican parish, which has had to deal with an increasing number of criminal elements over the past several years.
"For the past few years, we have been getting calls from prospective clients within Montego Bay and its environs," said Azar.
"These calls intensified last year and we therefore felt that the climate was perfect for our expansion," he said.
KingAlarm monitors clients islandwide but the Bogue Centre property is its first office outside of Kingston, where the company operates from four separate office buildings — administrative offices, central command centre, operations/training centre, and technical office building — which are all in close proximity to each other.
KingAlarm's client base in Montego Bay was "minimal" prior to its recent expansion, but Azar said the response to the move has been significantly better than projections.
"While I am reluctant to give exact numbers now, I will say that the response thus far in two short months has been nothing short of phenomenal and one of our greatest challenges has been installing systems at a pace to keep up with the ever-growing demand," said Azar.
He believes KingAlarm's move into Montego Bay will make electronic security, a market segment of which the company claims control of 65 per cent, more affordable in the western parish.
"In Montego Bay, we have noticed where some of the existing providers actually charge a much higher price than they charge in Kingston for the identical service. We attribute this to a lack of competition in electronic security prior to our launch and assure Montegonians that that climate has now changed, and electronic security will be an affordable and effective means by which they can secure themselves," said the businessman.
Other major players in the Jamaican market for security services include Guardsman, Hawkeye and Atlas.
KingAlarm has a much greater presence in the electronic security market than the segment for static location guards, an area that the company only began to tap into less than a year ago. It currently monitors just under 9,000 client locations islandwide and has relatively an even split between residential and commercial customers, said Azar.
The company's corporate client base includes Digicel, Lasco, RBC Bank, Supreme Ventures, the University College of the Caribbean, several overseas embassies and Government ministries. According to Azar, the company's new and expanded central command centre in Kingston allows it to monitor alarm systems from anywhere in the island using technology that operates independent of telephone lines.
"With that said, we are currently able to monitor alarm systems anywhere in the world from our command centre in Kingston using this technology and our acting as an alarm monitoring centre for companies in North America is something that is also currently being discussed," he said.
Indeed, the Jamaican market for electronic security has grown significantly over the last two decades with new technology becoming more readily available, primarily in CCTV, access control and vehicle/personal tracking services, said Azar.
"Over the past 10 or so years, there has definitely been more of a shift from static security officers posted on locations towards more electronic security systems and associated services. I fully expect this trend to continue year on year with the driving forces behind this shift being both cost and reliability," said the KingAlarm boss.
Azar said the company is currently monitoring demand for its services in other areas of the island as well as in other islands throughout the Caribbean, as it explores more expansion opportunities.
"I would envision KingAlarm offices elsewhere in the Island within another 12 months and in at least one or two other Islands shortly thereafter," he said.
In terms of a major growth area, Azar said the company has recently been doing a lot of Close Protection (Bodyguard) work for families, visiting businessmen and dignitaries, and recently purchased a fleet of armoured SUV vehicles for the division.
"In addition, I suspect that vehicle tracking, CCTV and panic/burglar alarm systems will continue to provide the most demand in the coming 12-24 months," he said.