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Small businesses trump economy in niche markets
[May 28, 2009]

Small businesses trump economy in niche markets

May 28, 2009 (The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- For nearly a year, layoffs, foreclosures and bailouts have dominated the headlines.

The bleak economic horizon makes what a Zelienople company is doing all the more unusual.

"We are hiring and have been hiring through the recession. We have to hire because we still have lots of prospects as clients," says Kirk Farra, founder of In-Synch Systems LLC, which makes police records management software.

"We are passionate about supplying systems that can provide safe and just communities," said Farra, a Beaver Falls native who says he has always had a knack for technology.

Last week, Farra, 46, was one of nine business owners from around the country who testified before the House Committee in Washington during National Small Business Week.

If the problems of AIG and General Motors attract the most attention, small businesses like Farra's -- which generate 60 to 80 percent of the nation's jobs, according to the Small Business Administration -- are the key to economic recovery, said Rep. Jason Altmire, a McCandless Democrat and committee member.

"Small businesses are the backbone of our economy. They are creating jobs and growing the economy," said Altmire.

Farra, whose company employs 13 people, hopes for further growth, at least indirectly, from the federal stimulus plan.

"Federal grants for law enforcement are very important for our business. All across the nation, police departments are underfunded," he said.

The company's software streamlines police record management, improving communication among various police agencies. In-Synch's clients include police departments from 30 states.

"Our software allows first responders to communicate wirelessly in times of crisis and, in their everyday efforts, advances the capabilities of departments' drug enforcement and maximizes the time officers are on the streets by reducing their paperwork and creating a mobile office which operates anywhere," Farra told the committee.

The cost of the system ranges from $60 to $80 per month. It puts everything from arrests to calls and cases at the officers' fingertips, he said.

"It's easy to see why this company is growing. There's real demand for this kind of software," said Len Keller, chief of police in Jackson Township, Butler County, and a client.

Good record keeping is vital but elusive at many police departments -- especially smaller ones.

"Important records can be about something as simple as whether you have been to a house, and it has firearms. Often, even that kind of information is not available," said Harry Fruecht, police chief in Peters.

Fruecht said the In-Synch system is effective compared to others his department has used.

"The last one was a nightmare. There was no support at all," Fruecht said.

In-Synch is interested in making sure its clients understand the system, he said. "Their support staff always gets back to use very quickly." To see more of The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to Copyright (c) 2009, The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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