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Fasttrack

CHRISTOPHER WOODARD Staff Reporter Within hours the Aug. 7 terrorist bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, the phones starting ringing off the hook halfway around the world at Valencia-based Delta Scientific Corp. Since the bombing and consequent U.S. missile attacks, family-run Delta Scientific considered the world’s premiere manufacturer of high-security vehicle-access controls, such as ramps and other barriers has seen a 50 percent increase in requests for price quotes. It will take a few weeks for those requests to translate into sales, but company officials say Delta is on track for a 70 percent to 100 percent sales increase in the current fiscal year ending June 30, 1999. Even before the recent bombing, Delta Scientific had begun hiring workers in preparation for adding another shift. Company officials are searching for more space since they’re running out of room at Delta Scientific’s 50,000-square-foot plant at the Valencia Industrial Center. Harry Dickinson, the company’s president and founder, said Delta’s success is powered by an age-old necessity. “If you look at any property of value it could be an embassy, a warehouse, a private residence being able to protect it against forced entry is pretty fundamental,” he said. “The mode of attack is just getting more sophisticated.” Delta Scientific manufacturers a host of traffic and parking control products at its plant, including prefabricated guard booths and information kiosks, tire spikes and motorized gates that swing down at parking garages. But the company’s biggest source of income, and its biggest claim to fame in the security industry, is its heavy-duty barriers that help prevent cars or trucks from crashing through guard stations. Delta holds 14 patents on various devices, and has its traffic barriers in place at 125 embassies around the world, 50 federal courthouses and about 85 nuclear power plants. Among its customers are the Pentagon, the Capitol and U.S. Supreme Court buildings in Washington, D.C., and the Federal Reserve Bank, the United Nations buildings and the World Trade Center in New York City. In addition to government installations, the company’s customers include car rental agencies, distributors and other companies that need to prevent thieves from crashing through gates or doors and driving off with cars or other property. Bob Buckley, a security consultant with the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, a division of the U.S. State Department, said Delta Scientific is the premier manufacturer in its field. The company’s barriers provide a critical obstacle to keep would-be bombers at bay until a consulate’s security staff can check out the car or truck attempting to gain entry. “What it provides is the ability to inspect vehicles. That’s what the key ingredient is,” he said. Buckley said the State Department has been in the process of fortifying its embassies for the last several years, but the recent bombings have caused officials to pick up the pace. One popular device made by Delta Scientific is a “bollard” system, which features hydraulically powered pistons that pop out of the ground. Another is a steel ramp that can be raised or lowered to prevent or allow access. The company also makes a series of decorative, crash-proof gates that also prevent forced entry but are more aesthetically pleasing than ordinary security gates. All the devices can be controlled by guards via a push-button panel, allowing authorized vehicles to come and go. Crash-test photos on display at Delta Scientific headquarters show in graphic detail what happens to a car or truck that tangles with one of the company’s barriers. One photo shows a 2.5-ton truck that was carrying a 15,000-pound load, which slammed into a barricade at 50 mph. The results aren’t pretty. “We take great pride in the structural integrity of our products,” said David Dickinson, the company’s senior vice president and the founder’s son. Because Delta Scientific has so many products, and a team of engineers always refining those products and developing new ones, it’s difficult for other companies to compete, the younger Dickinson said. “I can say without hesitation that we’re the world’s leader in high-security vehicle-access controls,” he said. “We control 95 percent of the U.S. market.” In fact, one of its few competitors in the U.S. dropped out of the vehicle barricade business in August. “What Delta has done, either through luck or strategy, is we’ve picked a narrow market niche that doesn’t invite competition,” said David Dickinson. He added that the company’s sales are definitely linked to instability in the world. Delta Scientific has seen surges in sales after many terrorist incidents, such as the bombings of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, the World Trade Center and the federal building in Oklahoma City. Sales by the privately held company grew from $4 million in 1991 to $6.9 million in 1997. Revenues in fiscal 1998, ended June 30, reached $8.5 million, and company officials are projecting sales of $14.4 million in fiscal 1999. In April, Delta Scientific was included in the General Services Administration’s multiple contract program, which allows government agencies to buy Delta products without going through a lengthy procurement process. In addition, the company has computerized its accounting and inventory systems. That, coupled with the hiring of additional workers for another shift, positions the company to meet the demand for new orders. Harry Dickinson, a mechanical engineer by training, worked in the aerospace industry until 1972, when he left to take over a small machine shop and start Delta Scientific. Dickinson didn’t start the company with an eye toward developing and manufacturing parking controls; that line of work evolved after Dickinson’s shop received orders for some spring-loaded tire spikes. The younger Dickinson said the company did have some of its products at the Nairobi embassy, but said he couldn’t go into detail on the matter for security reasons. Security systems are only as good as the people operating them, Dickinson said. If the guards are well trained and vigilant, the chances of fending off a terrorist attack are greatly increased. “What our products really do is give guards control,” he said.

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