By Bill Radford III | Jul 16, 2018
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Antenna mounts and poles; radio and antenna shrouds
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Industry: Electronics & Aerospace
Products: Antenna mounts and poles; radio and antenna shrouds
A shift in focus has paid off handsomely for ConcealFab, which is enjoying tremendous growth. The company doubled revenues in 2016 and 2017 and is looking to do the same this year. In late 2017, it moved from a 23,000-square-foot facility on Colorado Springs' west side to a new, 96,000-square-foot facility on the city's fast-growing north side.
ConcealFab started in 2007 with the making of PVC enclosures for communications and satellite equipment. When Fitzhugh bought a stake in the company and came on as CEO in early 2013, "I thought they had an interesting niche in what was expected to be a growing market in commercial telecom. They seemed to be heavily focused in government, and I thought that a renewed or hyper focus on commercial would be a better use of company time and resources."
In the five years since, the staff has quadrupled from about 20 to 80 employees as ConcealFab has leveraged a wave of dynamic growth in wireless. The company is now primarily focused on infrastructure solutions for commercial small cell deployments, such as decorative streetlights that are also miniature cell towers. "The industry is migrating away from macro towers, which are typically built outside cities, to small cells, which are deployed inside of cities," Fitzhugh says. "The ability to put giant macro towers in downtown areas is limited, if not completely restricted."
While ConcealFab doesn't manufacture the guts of its "hide in plain sight" products, it does provide the service to integrate those components, such as cabling and antennas, to provide a complete unit.
Growth has been fueled by both individual wireless carrier growth and an increased number of carriers participating in the small cell market. ConcealFab has also diversified its portfolio, such as RF (radio frequency) interference mitigation products. "We've really tried to go where our customer wants us to go," Fitzhugh says, noting that adaptability and product development are key. "As carriers expand, what Kansas wants to see as a solution is not necessarily what Florida, New Jersey, or California want to see."
A "robust" design and engineering team allows the company to move quickly in modifying its portfolio. "Most of our products are custom for either the requirements or the jurisdiction," says Douglas Hinkley, chief operating officer.
ConcealFab is creating jobs not just within the company, but within the Pikes Peak region, with a focus on keeping the supply base local when possible. Working with such Colorado Springs companies as IP Automation makes it simpler to address problems when they arise, Fitzhugh says. And it makes it easier to follow a company philosophy that sees those suppliers more as partners. "So we grow, they grow," Hinkley says. "We flex, they flex with us."
Challenges: Increasing competition. "The theory of efficient markets is when there's profit to be had, there's more competition," Fitzhugh says. "You have more innovation in the market you have to compete with."
Opportunities: Fitzhugh sees mitigation of RF interference as a big growth area. "As we are helping to facilitate all of this densification going on, you have a lot of antennas that are firing off, bouncing off things, coming back, causing interference with the signal. . . . So we're starting to aggressively deploy interference mitigation products that kind of come along with this densification effort."
Overseas markets offer another opportunity. "We're not going global, but we're partnering with people who are multinational and they are helping take our products elsewhere," Fitzhugh says. Yet another path to growth, he says, is the move to a 5G wireless network, "which will create even more densification."
Needs: Money and manpower. "Growth comes at a cost, so we're always on the lookout on how can we get better, more competitive capital to fuel our expansion," Fitzhugh says. As far as labor, "we've done really well so far finding top-quality talent." But, he adds, "It's going to be interesting to see what happens in the next couple of layers of growth, especially with the economy being so hot."
Hinkley says the company works to find people "any way we can," from job fairs to word of mouth to internship programs. "We work really hard to hire the right people."