In the spotlight: Michael J. Baer
Tranquillity is in short supply these days among business executives. Challenges posed by competition and the sluggish economy create more than enough worry. Theft, substance abuse, corporate espionage and other problems in the modern workplace are an additional source of concern.
Recognizing that many executives are beset with stress, a Hermon security company sells itself by promoting peace of mind.
“People look at security as a negative, but it’s not,” said Michael J. Baer, president of Vescom Corp. “We help business stay in business.”
Concerns about the security of the plant and its equipment are the primary reason most companies hire private guards.
“We’re often the only people in the mill on weekends and holidays,” said Baer. “We make sure the plant is there when people return to work.”
But Vescom employees do more than just walk the rounds, according to Baer.
“We’re more attuned to customers,” he said. “The buyer of this kind of service needs to get what he wants.”
At Statler Tissue Corp. in Augusta, one of Vescom’s customers, 18 guards patrol the plant 24 hours a day. Baer said they control the flow of people and vehicles, assign loading docks to tractor-trailer trucks, monitor the intrusion and fire alarm systems, handle all incoming calls and implement the plant’s flood-control plan. Vescom personnel also are trained in first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
“The paper industry has demanded more than just a rent-a-cop,” said Baer.
Vescom bills itself as the nation’s leading forest-products security firm. Its employees work at Georgia-Pacific Corp. mills from Woodland to Crossett, Ark. The firm serves a number of other pulp, paper and building-products manufacturers.
While such companies provide 70 percent of its $1.5 million in annual sales, Vescom is involved with several other industries. Despite its low-key approach, Vescom received national attention last year for its efforts to prevent blueberry rustling on the barrens of Washington County. Baer also is courting pharmaceutical companies and hospitals, among other businesses.
“We’ll be expanding our client base,” he said. “I’d like to make forest-products companies about 30 percent of our business in five years.”
Baer, 43, said he spent seven years as a U.S. Navy Seabee. After being discharged, he took a part-time job as a security guard during the Christmas shopping season.
“I wasn’t going to stay, but the company offered me a job as a field supervisor,” he said. “It didn’t pay as well as the other job I had, but it was more interesting.”
A series of job changes led him to Wallace Security as a division manager in Portland, Ore., according to Baer. Later, he moved to Woodland where he managed the Wallace security programs at the Georgia-Pacific paper and chip-n-saw mills and at Calais Regional Hospital.
After 18 months in Maine, Baer said he became vice president for operations at the Wallace headquarters in Chicago. Realizing he would probably remain in the same job for the rest of his life, Baer decided to strike out on his own.
“My first account was the Georgia-Pacific mill in Taylorville, Ill.,” he said. “I employed 10 people.”
After winning contracts in Woodland, Augusta and Passadumkeag, Baer moved the Vescom offices to Maine about five years ago.
“We just had so much going on here,” he said of the decision to locate in the Bangor area. “There was a good airport, and we just worked very well here. It fit.”
Vescom has prospered in Maine, according to Baer. It has grown to employ about 100 people in seven states, he said.
With the increase in business in the South and Midwest, Baer has established a second office in Crosett, Ark. He’s now spending the winter months in Arkansas.
Baer also owns Maine Express Courier Service in Hermon. The firm’s 18 employees deliver packages and occasionally people around the state. Among other things, it ships blood products for the Red Cross.