Wescam Incorporated

Location: 45 Innovation Drive, Flamborough, Ontario

A Wescam Mount on a Truck (courtesy Leavitt developed the original Wescam technology (which uses shock absorption technology as well as a gyrostabilizer system) in the late 1960's, while head of advanced electronic research and electro-optics at Westinghouse Canada Incorporated. He bought the lab equipment and patents and left in 1974 to form Istec Limited. In the beginning the company had four employees, $250,000 in borrowed money, and Leavitt's home as collateral. After five years of struggling for customers, Leavitt's risk paid off. Istec won a major export contract in 1979 with Ottawa-based Leigh Instruments.

In 1985 Mark Chamberlain (the current president and CEO) joined the company and two years later he led a management buyout. That same year Istec won an Outstanding Achievement Award presented by the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce. After having become Istec's new president, Chamberlain led the company towards annual sales of $1.5 million by 1988. In 1989, Istec received an Emmy award for their ongoing technical contributions to the television industry. Also in 1989, Istec obtained a contribution of $99,433 from the federal government's Industrial and Regional Development Program, to be used towards a $298,600 design and development project. The first phase of the project involved the development of a dual sensor system that combined a colour video camera and infrared sensors for night observation. The second phase enabled the Wescam Mount (their main product) to operate in adverse weather conditions.

A Wescam MountBy 1993 the number of employees at Istec had grown to 70, almost three times as many as in 1987. As a result, Istec's offices were getting crowded. Unfortunately, plans for expansion were delayed due to the federal government's cancellation of its $4.6 billion EH-101 helicopter purchase program, to which Istec was a sub-contractor supplying its recently developed infrared cameras. In 1994, Istec (now known as Wescam Incorporated) was awarded a $6.2 million contract to deliver 152 camera platforms to the armed forces for use on light armored vehicles. Since Wescam now had money to expand, they were considering relocating. However, the city of Hamilton realized that they would attract other high-tech businesses and therefore they negotiated a deal to keep Wescam in the area. Wescam moved to the business park in Flamborough where they built a $2 million facility. In 1995 Wescam went public on the Toronto Stock Exchange, selling four million shares for a net proceeds of $27.2 million. Besides eliminating its debt, this recently obtained money funded the purchase of several companies. The first to be acquired was Troll Technology out of California, a developer of custom microwave remote control systems. A second Californian company, Versatron Corporation, was subsequently bought. Versatron is a developer of stabilized platform electro-optical systems and motion control systems. These purchases provided Wescam with a broader range of products in their niche market.

A Wescam Mount at the Olympics (courtesy 1996 came the separation of Wescam into two independent divisions: Public Safety and Surveillance, and Entertainment. This allowed for greater focus on each area while facilitating growth. Further purchases were made in 1996, starting with TV2 Limited from Wellingborough, England. This company pioneered the use of miniature, on-board cameras in Formula One racing cars. The next company to be acquired was the Broadcast Sports Technology Corporation of Odenton, Maryland. At the time, it was the North American leader in microwave services and remote camera systems for the live broadcast sports industry. Also in 1996, Wescam won the Engineering Project of the Year Award presented by the Hamilton Engineering Institute for its role in providing coverage of the Olympics in Atlanta.

Though Wescam previously had multi-million dollar profits, losses in 1997 due to maturing product lines caused considerable restructuring. 21 employees were laid off and the microwave transmission production plant was relocated from California to Flamborough. However, a new product was introduced that year: a long-range surveillance system for use on fixed wing aircraft. 1998 saw a return to profitability for Wescam as several multi-million dollar contracts were secured with organizations such as: the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Marine Corps, the U.S. Navy, and NASA. In 1999 Wescam made an additional contract with the U.S. Army, as well as a four year deal with ESPN to be their exclusive provider of camera systems. In an attempt to refine its range of products, Wescam sold part of its subsidiary, Versatron. The part that was eliminated focused on actuator motors and motion-control systems for missiles and ejector seats.

The Opening of Wescam's New Building (courtesy since its inception, Wescam technology has been used to film impressive sequences in a variety of major movies. These include early series such as Superman and Indiana Jones as well as more recent titles such as Braveheart, Titanic, and Apollo 13. Additionally, Wescam provided cameras to film the infamous O.J. Simpson Bronco truck chase in 1994.

In 2000 employment rose to 260 for the Flamborough-based company. Developments for that year included a marketing and distribution agreement with a major European electronics contractor. Additionally, two new divisions were created: government services (which focuses on surveillance, search and rescue, and space), and commercial services (which consolidates the existing commercial and entertainment division).

With separate divisions focusing on its most important markets, Wescam looks poised to retain its position well into the future as a top provider of state-of-the-art camera systems.

  1994 1995 1996 1997 1998
Revenue (in thousands of dollars) $16,523 $32,480 $64,811 $57,645 $79,904
Net earnings (loss) applicable to common shares (in thousands of dollars) $615 $1,727 $4,007 $(9,664) $2,825

Wescam Stock



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