Origional Published at Edmonton Journal
EDMONTON - Few executives make the transition from the glitzy world of television to the decidedly unsexy world of industrial manufacturing.
But that’s what former Allarcom president Harold Roozen did in the early 1990s, after spending a dozen years working for legendary Edmonton entrepreneur Dr. Charles Allard. Roozen has never looked back.
“With the new media, I don’t quite know how they make their money. The numbers just aren’t there,” he says. “I guess they’re hoping they can build a story that they can flip to someone else. Believe me, I get up every day and say I’m glad I’m not in the media business anymore.”
Allarcom, Allard’s broadcast arm, owned Edmonton’s CITV, which is now part of the Global TV network. In what was then a watershed deal for Canada’s television industry, Allarcom was sold to Vancouver’s WIC Western International Communications in 1991.
Allard, whose widely diversified holdings included everything from real estate to car dealerships and energy companies, died the same year, at age 71. And although Roozen continued working for WIC after the deal closed, running CITV and a sister station in Red Deer, he was already plotting his next move.
“I was a hired gun at CITV of course, and I was making a good salary over there. WIC had bought us and I had no reason to leave,” he says.
“But I had been around public companies long enough to know you’re better off being in control of your own destiny. The average CEO’s life is only seven or eight years.”
So in 1992, Roozen and his wife Cathy — Allard’s daughter, who married Roozen in 1981 — took the plunge and acquired Ciscan Industries, a small Edmonton firm that manufactured a patented line of explosion-proof gas catalytic heaters for the oil and gas industry.
“The first couple of years were a little rough, and I really wondered if we’d made a mistake,” he admits.
But Roozen forged on, and over the next 11 years he completed half a dozen more acquisitions, sharply expanding the company’s geographic reach and product line.
Today, Ciscan’s corporate successor — CCI Thermal Technologies — is an industry leader in specialized heating and filtration equipment for the oil, gas and railway industries. Its customer list reads like a Who’s Who of the energy and rail transportation industries.
Besides its sprawling 120,000-square-foot plant and head office in southeast Edmonton, CCI owns plants in Ontario, Indiana, Colorado and Texas, where it makes a wide range of high-tech products under such brand names as Cata-Dyne, Ruffneck, Caloritech, Fastrax, 3L Filters, Norseman and DriQuik.
Over the past 21 years, CCI’s payroll has mushroomed from just 25 people to more than 400 at peak periods today. The company’s annual revenues have hit the $100 million mark and are on their way to the $150 million level over the next five years, Roozen says.
Although acquisitions have helped drive CCI’s growth, he says the company’s commitment to research and development has also been a key part of its success, allowing it to stay ahead of the curve and develop new, innovative products.
“The best example of our R&D would be the rail business. We weren’t even in the rail business 10 years ago. But we saw Bombardier and Siemens and Alstrom and Hyundai building these beautiful facilities that all needed specialty heating, and they started coming to us to talk about it,” he explains.
“So we designed specialty heaters that go in these train cars or subway cars. And now we’re serving markets like New York, Washington, Toronto, Vancouver, Denver and Boston.”
After penetrating the rail car market, CCI began making gear to heat the switches on the underlying rail lines.
“We have a lot of patents on specialty applications like this. When you’re crossing a track in Wyoming or Colorado, if your train has to do a switch, that switch is heated by something we’ve made. And it has to be made to a high quality standard, because when you’re working in the transportation sector, you don’t have a whole lot of room for error.”
Roozen, now 60, recently gave up day-to-day management responsibility for CCI by handing over the CEO’s title to veteran company president Bernie Moore. “Bernie should have been CEO five years ago. He’s been doing the job, I haven’t been doing it. I just felt he deserves a chance to be CEO,” says Roozen.
“I could sit here like a lot of entrepreneurs do until finally somebody says ‘You’re so antiquated you have to leave.’ But I didn’t want to do that. So I said to my board, I think I should step back. I’m still involved in decisions, but I’m more at the 20,000-foot level instead of being at 5,000 feet. I’ve just been so fortunate that the people we’ve put into this company are so good.”
Roozen and his wife Cathy also decided to give up some of their equity, so senior managers now have a direct ownership stake in CCI.
“Cathy and I owning 100 per cent didn’t make a whole lot of sense when they were doing everything. So we formed a separate company, took a piece of CCI and put it into that company. And over the next five or seven years those guys are going to own that piece, so they in fact are my partner-owners now. To me that was a key element in gaining their confidence and commitment to make this company the best.”
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