Tradefiles: A Family Business

CM Security Group Inc.
Established: 1962
Headquarters: Montreal, Canada
Number of Employees: 80+
President and Founder: Ched (Cedomir) Draca
Chief Operating Officer: Simone S.K. Draca
All-time favorite pastime: “Read, read, read, and read!” said Draca. His all-time favorites are Shakespeare’s The Tempest and Othello.
Simone enjoys travel, golf, food and wine. All time-permitting, of course!

MONTREAL — The 50th anniversary of CM Security Group Inc. gave president and founder, Ched Draca, a moment to reflect on the past and think ahead to the future. Draca, born in Yugoslavia — what is present day Croatia — came to North America and established himself in Montreal, Quebec, where he eventually formed what is now the world’s leading company in detention security windows for correctional institutions, in stainless steel, security steel, aluminum, and more.

Draca has managed to grow the business for decades while establishing a trusted name with clients across the nation and worldwide. He says operating a business can be pretty simple if you work by the right standards and have a qualified and dedicated workforce.

“I think that if one starts with a basic philosophy that’s pretty simple: never promise something that you cannot deliver, but always deliver on your promises,” said Draca.

As a young metallurgist, he began working for Montreal-based Alcan Inc., which is presently known as Rio Tinto Alcan after a 2007 merger. Alcan was one of the leading aluminum companies in the country focusing on the aluminum extrusion process and specialized products.

In 1962 after Draca was commissioned by Public Works Canada for a correctional facility that was designed with specific needs for security windows to hold up to the harsh Canadian climate — he was “bitten by the bug.”

“It [corrections] became a very specific challenge. It’s a security business and a people business as I call it — and because of that I was bitten by the bug, in the sense of what was needed in the field of corrections,” said Draca.

Draca has been one of the founding fathers and chairman of ASTM A627 Committee Steels for Security Applications since 1967.

Forming CM Security

CM Security Group Inc. was formed in 1962 by Draca and Michael Hofman, Draca’s colleague from Alcan. The two set out to transform the security window industry and found a particular niche in the correctional field shortly after designing and manufacturing detention security windows for Correctional Services Canada Maximum Security Institutions.
Sadly, just over ten years later, Michael passed away from a heart attack at 37 years old. With his passing, sole responsibility of the company was left to Draca.

Draca was devastated by the loss of a trusted partner and friend but decided to give the business a go on his own.

He forged on and continued to be an innovative presence in the correctional industry, working side by side with his wife, Jane (Zeljka) Draca, to build the business and reputation.

“Jane, both the bedrock of our family and adept business contributor, has been involved in every aspect of CM Security since the early ’70s. Her vital efforts towards the company’s success have been enormous, on the international as well as domestic scale.”

Members of the ACA for over 30 years and the ICPA since it was officially formed in 1998, both Ched and Jane have attended all conferences and been panelists at numerous workshops.

Draca and CM Security Group were responsible for the design and development of the first-ever panelized cell system in the mid-’80s.

Despite his business success, however, he couldn’t help but be concerned with the environmental conditions of prisoners at correctional facilities around the world.

“I happen to be a believer in a softer approach to the correctional environment. Most specifically when we look at what’s transpired through the years even if we go back to the first prison in Philadelphia, when we look at the concept of pigeon holes, or cells, we are still building along the similar concept — meaning that we are still doing the cubicles, which are unchangeable and totally unfit for the future reuse or reassignment,” said Draca.

Design Setbacks

Draca expressed his concerns with the industry today, including some major setbacks in the correctional market that not only upset him but also made him question the concepts of some correctional designs.

“Window developments had some rather serious setbacks through the years. The five-inch slot window is the biggest drawback in having a humane correctional environment in terms of progressive design for ages,” said Draca.

The five-inch-wide slot “window” was and still is a controversial installation in prisons around the country starting in the 1990s.

Other design methods were brought onto the market, including a three-dimensional cell, which Draca refers to as an “economical box.”

“Now, of course, the three-dimensional cell did not change anything in terms of the concept; it was still a box — except now it was an economical box. In terms of concepts again, the designs are obviously limiting; however, who am I to discuss that after supplying windows for 100,000 cells or more,” said Draca.

According to Draca, a three-dimensional cell is essentially a box of predetermined unchangeable dimensions — inmates often joke that it’s an “early training casket.” The cell “box” fits into design concepts that preclude any future changes to the building or its vocation, i.e., any other function other than corrections.

For Draca, a paradigm shift from the three-dimensional cell would allow new vistas to open up to the design of correctional facilities and beyond.

“Standard commercial and industrial building structures and envelopes that incorporate moveable, reconfigurable security partitions and ceilings create opportunities to reconfigure internal spaces to fit changing inmate profiles and also allows alternate future use,” said Draca.

Major Projects and New Additions

Throughout Draca’s 50 years of manufacturing detention security windows, security steels, panelized cell systems, etc., he has been involved in many major projects both in the United States and in more than 20 countries.

He’s worked on major mental health projects in Germany as well as on more than 20 major projects in the United Kingdom. In the United States alone, CM Security has completed more than 700 correctional projects, including over 11,000 windows at N.Y.’s infamous prison, Riker’s Island.

His most memorable project occurred at the Otis Bantum Correctional Center at Riker’s Island. Working with architectural firm HDR and Morse Diesel, Construction Manager, CM Security was requested to complete a project within 90 days. CM Security succeeded in delivering 500 prefabricated panelized cells, 816 operable security windows and screens, as well as a security curtain wall in 84 calendar days.

CM Security has earned a reputation as a committed and successful business within the correctional industry. Adding to the team is someone Draca has trusted and loved for many years.

Ched and Jane’s youngest daughter, Simone Draca, has been working with the company for over five years, and as of Nov. 1, 2011, is CM Security’s Chief Operating Officer.

“At the end of the day, dad and I share the same fundamental business principles, and I rely heavily on the values that the company was built on: hard work and loyalty, open mindedness, and top-line customer service. I believe that holding on to those allows me to maintain the respect of employees who have been with the company a whole lot longer than me. This holds true with our clients and colleagues as well,” said Simone.

Being a female in a male-dominated industry hasn’t really crossed Simone’s mind much — as she’s been familiar with her father’s line of work as well as the masculine nature of the industry.

“I’m comfortable with it, as my dad has been calling me son since the day I was born,” joked Simone.

Simone received a phone call from her father shortly after completing her master’s in criminology and forensic psychology and passing her panel as a Ph.D. candidate at Middlesex University in London, England. He asked her if she wanted to join the company to “shake things up.” She never pictured herself working for the “family business” and previously envisioned working at CSIS, Interpol, or the UN. After giving it serious thought, however, Simone decided she was ready to pursue a career under her father’s wing at CM Security Group Inc.

“I was not groomed for CM nor did I ever have the intention of joining the company. Very frankly, as a child I resented it greatly for “taking away” my father, as it was essentially built by my father’s [and my mother’s] bare hands,” said Simone. “A whole lot of blood, sweat, and tears as the infamous “they” say, but I love this industry and the individuals involved in it. I feel very fortunate to have been given the opportunity to work with and learn much from a man that I greatly respect both as an innovator and as a father.”

Simone contends that her career was not just handed to her, but instead it was and is being earned, and is honored to follow in a legend’s shadow.

“A few think I’ve had it easy, but what’s not often understood is that because it is a generational business, it’s distinctly more difficult as the bar has a 50-year history of being raised. Upping it further is a specific challenge in itself, as there are many more tangible things at stake than simply a “business” — our history, our reputation, our family name, and our quality both in design/engineering and product. All things that I hold very dear,” said Simone.

Future of the Business

Often the entire family, including Desiree Draca, the older daughter and mother to Simone’s nephew and Ched and Jane’s grandson, Cruz, 5, joke that he is in line for the third generation to take over — as his initial is already built into the name of the company.

All joking aside — Draca has always had a passion for the future and what it could mean for the corrections industry. According to him, a future is not a future without a prominent change.

“Unless those of us in the business of corrections are ready and willing to take chances with the new ways of doing things, corrections will then basically wither on the vine,” said Draca.

According to him, the outdated design of cell “boxes” constructed conventionally or prefabricated and slot windows must be updated in order to grow.

“This is something that is so detrimental in the context of what we are trying to do — to build a humane environment — for correctional officers as well as inmates,” said Draca.