As visitors shuffled into GE Security's new worldwide headquarters, they were ushered through a security checkpoint where the company's EntryScan booth pelted them with three quick puffs of air.
Think of it as a full-body glaucoma test that detects explosives and narcotics. Airports in Miami and Tampa use them already.
The EntryScan booth was the first of several high-tech security and safety devices on display at GE Security on Wednesday as the company hosted an informal open house for Manatee County officials.
The company expects $1.8 billion in revenue this year, according to Michelle May, the company's communications manager.
GE Security develops security, life safety, access control and communications technology. Wednesday's open house was a gesture to thank local officials for facilitating the company's move from Austin, Texas.
May is among the 60-plus employees relocating to Lakewood Ranch from Austin this year. Ultimately, the company will employ 210 people locally.
The average annual salary of the staff moving to Lakewood Ranch is in excess of $125,000, state officials said, when announcing the relocation of the company in May.
GE Security President and Chief Executive Officer Louis Parker said the company had two primary reasons for relocating to Florida. "We wanted to be in a strategic location with ties to our other business groups, and we couldn't pass up the Florida incentives," Parker said. "Florida is a business-friendly environment."
With offices in California, Oregon and Belgium, the company employs 6,500 worldwide.
"We're investing in the area and we're going to grow here," May said.
Private engineering and architecture firms account for most of GE Security's business. Those buyers can then offer large builders the latest in safety equipment and technology. Almost 75 percent of the business is overseas.
"We will use the facility for customer meetings," May said. "We hope to make it more of a tech center for our business in the future. It's the beginning of a long-term relationship with Florida."
GE Security purchased the 109,000-square-foot building off Town Center Parkway from Edwards Systems Technology last year. In July, company execs decided to relocate its headquarters to the area in conjunction with Gov. Jeb Bush's Economic Development Plan.
The state offered a $280,000 tax incentive and $560,000 in Quick Action Closing Funds, according to Herald archives. In addition, Manatee County offered the company tax incentives to relocate its headquarters.
During the tour Wednesday, visitors got to see high definition flat-screen TVs boasting the latest in security technology devices from tiny, sensitive smoke detectors to sophisticated video monitoring equipment.
"Bizarre looking stuff, isn't it?" said Michael Browning, explaining an Intelligent Video Security Platform that alerts security personnel of suspicious movements and behavior. "Big brother is here, man."
Browning, the company's director of marketing communications, said applications for GE Security's products are "practically boundless."
(c) 2005 Associated Press