Alcohol monitoring device company moves to town
Keeping drunk drivers off the road is the number one priority of Smart Start, Inc., the company known for making ignition interlock devices, who is also one of the newest businesses in Grapevine.
Smart Start completed a year-long transition to its new corporate headquarters at 500 E. Dallas Road, Ste. 100, Grapevine, in November 2013, consolidating multiple departments under one roof.
Nearly 22 years after incorporation, Smart Start is one of the most visible manufacturers and installers of ignition interlock devices which require a person to provide a breath sample to test for alcohol before starting the vehicle. The device is typically ordered by a law enforcement or other monitoring agency.
“We are just happy to have everyone under one roof,” President and CEO Jim Ballard said. “We were just growing too fast; we couldn’t keep up with the growth.”
“The VP of operations actually had four people in his office,” Ballard quipped.
The move created a considerable amount of space for the company — it went from 16,000 square feet to 65,000 square feet.
“We’re already concerned about busting out of that in our call center,” said Randy Comer, the vice president of franchise operation and marketing. Even if that happens, Comer said that the company could expand into vacant space in a nearby building to keep everything close together.
“We are a U.S. based company and all of our products are manufactured right here in the U.S.,” said Brandy Robinson, the interactive marketing specialist for Smart Start.
The move to a new building also brought 148 employees to Grapevine to run the call center, finance department, marketing, management, shipping and receiving, product development, repairs and information technology support. The company employs 350 people world-wide.
According to Robinson, the only two processes that do not occur at the Grapevine headquarters is the manufacturing of the device and the installation process.
Manufacturing occurs off-site in Garland and Plano.
When individuals are court ordered to get a device installed on their vehicle, they can get it professionally installed at over 120,000 corporate and contracted locations in 47 states and many more worldwide.
“We actually just won a contract in Alberta [Canada],” Comer said. “The plan is to grow the company abroad so we look at what they are doing on the alcohol-monitoring side.”
He mentioned that Australia and a number of European countries are being eyed for future expansion. The plan is to develop more offender monitoring systems in the future.
One of the most notable features pioneered by Smart Start is the addition of a camera to its monitoring devices. The camera gave another level of assurance to law enforcement and monitoring agencies that offenders were producing legitimate samples.
Expanding on that technology, Smart Start released a new mobile monitoring device in October that features a camera with facial-detection software, GPS services and a 120 hour battery. The device fulfills a need for a portable and discrete device so that breath samples can be given anywhere without having to report to a specific location.
Smart Start, Inc.
500 E. Dallas Road, Ste. 100, Grapevine, 800-880-3394, www.smartstartinc.com