Concerns Rise as Contraction Becomes Apparent in the DEC Marketplace

Joseph Pauly Pohrer
Joseph Pauly Pohrer

Questions as to what the current and future market holds have been circling around the detention equipment contractor (DEC) sector for some years. As the president of Pauly Jail Building Company, based in Noblesville, Ind., my company has become increasingly concerned and interested in what is happening in our industry and conducted some research to pinpoint certain changes that have taken place since the 1990s.

We took a look at the corrections industry from the mid-1990s to present day and the results were both astounding and alarming. Several key items that our research uncovered include:

• In the mid-90s, there were more than 20 large DEC firms in the industry. Several of these DEC firms were not only contractors, but also had their own manufacturing plants. There were also many smaller, regional DEC firms in the industry as well.

• Those 20 large DEC firms were financially solid, with large capabilities to bond their correctional projects.

• A large number of all DEC firms in the mid-90s had their own factory and field-trained installers.

We then compared the results of the DEC firms from the mid-90s to the mid-2016 DEC list and saw a drastic change, including less than seven large national/regional DEC firms that have the office personnel, field installation crews and, most importantly, the bonding to complete large DEC projects.

There was also a complete collapse of other key sectors of the correctional market:

• Security Hollow Metal Manufacturers: Decreased from more than 20 firms in the mid-90s to only three firms today.

• Security Precast Cell Companies: Decreased from seven in the mid-90s to only three today.

• Security Lock and Sliding Door Device Companies: Decreased from more than 15 companies in the mid-90s to three left today.

The other products typically involved in a correctional facility such as door controls and security glass have contracted as well.

However, we believe that the marketplace will adjust as it always has. I would throw out one key concept to alleviate this shortage, and that is for the construction managers/architects to go to a design-assist team format. This approach appears to be coming more into play in many parts of the country and is solving the ongoing shortage-of-contractor issues.

By Joseph Pauly Pohrer III, president of Pauly Jail Building Company Inc.