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WELCOME TO AMERICA TOWN, USA
Walking around the Pelco campus the "Pelco Pride" is palpable. Executives have "Pelco" on their license plates. Employees can use "Pelco points" to buy corporate swag in the Pelco Gift Gallery. A giant electronic scoreboard keeps track of the profit sharing plan.
By all accounts Pelco looks like a model employer. Its 1,600 workers receive a turkey at Thanksgiving and a ham at Christmas. Employees can make payroll deductions to save for a cruise thanks to the in-house travel agency. Individuals with little education can move up the ladder quickly to a well-paying job with benefits.
Pelco is a fiercely American company. It prides itself on manufacturing all of its products right here in the central valley, and has received much press and accolades for keeping jobs at home in the USA.
Pelco operates a two-pronged marketing strategy: customer service and patriotism. A 100-foot American flag waves in front of building Three, which houses the California Memorial and Museum.
The museum occupies the lobby of the executive office building where CEO David McDonald [whose black Mercedes is "PELCO 1"] smokes cigars in his office guarded by three secretaries. The lobby is wall-to-wall 9/11: chunks of the World Trade Center, matches from Windows on the World, a fireman's uniform worn at ground zero. Large, framed photos of the exploding towers line the walls, as do photos of McDonald marching with the FDNY in the Saint Patrick's Day parade. A thank you note from President Bush is mounted nicely in several locations.
The museum is open to the public, free of charge, six days a week. If you come to visit, a nice receptionist will give you a Memorial issue of the "Pelco Press," a 15-minute commemorative video, and a snappy blue bag.
Immediately after the attacks on the World Trade Center, Pelco and McDonald paid for many of the first responders to fly out to Clovis on private planes for a memorial service in their honor. It was one of the largest memorials in California and earned McDonald the goodwill of thousands, a spot in the St. Patty's Day parade, and a photo with Mayor Giuliani.
Pelco is one of the largest, most visible companies in central California. It manufactures a wide variety of products such as security cameras, CCTV equipment, and monitors. Lehman Brothers, an investment bank, estimates the global video surveillance industry to be worth $6 billion.
A prominent sponsor of the Marine Toys for Tots program, Pelco has also been involved in numerous political campaigns, such as the failed gubernatorial bid of Bill Simon. Its most recent project is the "Save our Zoo, Yes on Z" campaign, chaired by CEO McDonald.
Campaign filings show that Pelco and McDonald have donated over $200,000 to the zoo effort. A tidy sum, but nothing in comparison to what Pelco spent immediately after the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center when it flew 1,150 New York firefighters to Clovis and hosted them for the memorial dedication.
For such a high-profile company, little is known about the details of Pelco's business. As a private company, Pelco is not required to release any financial information, and it doesn't. The most the firm will say about its financials is that revenues have increased 40-fold since McDonald and his partners bought the firm in the 1980's. That's not much to go on.
Pelco did not respond to an email request for comment.
When we visited the corporate campus, we saw a modern, professional factory and warehouse. Boxes of Pelco products were stacked neatly in rows. They had both "Made in Korea" and "Made in America" printed on them, with the "Made in America" in larger print, and a bar coding sticker over the "Korea." An employee who did not want their name printed explained that much of the design was outsourced to a Korean firm, and the product was then tweaked in the Clovis factory.
For the most part, Pelco seems an enjoyable place to work. But for those who may not share the conservative views of McDonald, Pelco can be an uncomfortable place.
The Blue Ribbon Pride Cafeteria serves Freedom Fries and Freedom Toast, not the French variety.
Customer service representatives encourage callers to support the president.
Signs urge employees to register to vote-- at "Save our Zoo" headquarters.
While the patriotic sentiment at Pelco is genuine, that doesn't mean that it isn't also wildly shrewd marketing. Its actions after September 11 brought it reams of media coverage and the attention of law enforcement in New York and elsewhere. It's also fitting that a firm that has much to gain from the post 9/11 world perform this tribute.
Pelco has plans to add another 500 employees over the next year, and is one of Fresno's few real hopes for attracting high-tech workers- those that don't use Heinz ketchup, anyway.