Harris division met global need for advanced, secure communications
RF Communications was a local company launched by three engineers and a local attorney in a Park Avenue basement in 1960.
Today, the business-part of Florida-based Harris Corp. since 1969-is a multibillion-dollar business that supplies secure radio communications and embedded high-grade encryption solutions for military, public safety government and commercial customers.
Its tactical communications business serves the U.S. Department of Defense, international militaries and government agencies with a line of secure radios and systems. Internationally, the firm’s Falcon radios form the foundation for communication systems used in command and control, homeland security, disaster relief, narcotics interdiction and other applications.
In 2009, Harris expanded its offerings when it announced it had signed a deal worth more than $600 million to acquire Tyco Electronics Wireless Systems, which the company combined with RF Communications.
Tyco Electronics Wireless Systems provides mobile and portable land radios, IP-based voice and data networks, and related products and services for public safety and government agencies as well as utilities, transportation and some other commercial organizations.
The move gave the local operation access to more markets and products.
RF Communications was launched by Bill Stolze, Elmer Schwittek, Roger Bettin and Herbert Vanden Brul who spent six months in 1960 developing a long-range two-way radio in a Rochester home. The business moved to Merchants Road and then to University Avenue-where one of its local sites remains.
Last year, RF Communications moved roughly half its local work force to the former Xerox Corp. building on Jefferson Road in Henrietta. The business spent more than $30 million to buy and renovate the 573,000-square-foot building. A third site is on Humboldt Street.
The business today employs some 2,200 local workers, up from roughly 1,300 in 1990.
Dana Mehnert, RF Communciations president, said the firm’s ability to innovate over the years-a trait which began with the company’s founders-and RF Communications’ connection with its customers have helped the business succeed.
The company recently released a new mission statement aimed at being a preferred global supplier of trusted communications solutions to those who defend, protect and serve.
"Our goal is to get our customers home safe at night," Mehnert said. "Our customers know they have a trusted communications solution in their hands."
Mehnert, who has led the local operation since 2009, has been with RF Communications since 1984.
The business has been on a growth curve over the past several years, due largely to increased presence in other parts of the world. As the troops have decreased, sales have slightly slowed, but company leaders have said the firm’s diverse global customer base, as well as the number of markets served, have had a positive impact on financial results.
For fiscal 2012, RF Communications logged sales of $2.14 billion, down from $2.23 billion in 2011. Net income declined to nearly $704 million, from $787 million the year before.
Looking ahead, Mehnert sees growth from the firm’s international business, as well as its public safety market, where the company is making substantial investments to boost its wideband networking capabilities.
George Conboy, president of Brighton Securities Corp., said RF Communications has been able to forecast its customers’ needs with new technologies.
"The business hasn’t just made advances in research and development (efforts), but it has made sure the advances actually serve the industry," Conboy said.
While the business has seen a drop in some military sales, as troops have been pulled out of the Middle East, Conboy said the increased need for advanced, secure communications worldwide will help the cyclical business in the long run.
"It is a consistent business and a conservatively managed business," he said.
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