Once a polygraph agent for the state, ERMC founder Emerson Russell made a name for himself in the investigations and security business. Founding the company in 1972, he landed his first security account and followed with two more in the Chattanooga area- the Van Heusen Shirt Factory, Chattanooga Cold Storage and Northgate Mal.
These accounts anchored the origins of the organization he runs today-a multi-disciplined facilities services company. Thirty-nine years later the Van Heusen Shirt Factory still uses ERMC’s services, along with 42 other business locations around the country.
“They’ve been fantastic,” says Van Heusen Distribution Center Manager Tim Brymer. “Security has become more than just going around locking the doors at night. Visitors have t be checked in, shipments monitored and the security team also deals with any incidents of workplace violence. Emerson and his team are right there with us,” Brymer adds. The company also helps out with Van Heusen’s annual golf tournament, a fundraiser for the Walter E. Boehm Birth Defects Center. The long-term relationship between the warehouse and ERMC continues to evolve.
Just what do shopping malls, airports, warehouses and office buildings have in common? All need security, visual appeal and a clean environment, say ERMC officials. Over time, ERMC relationships have grown stronger and the company has taken on the supervision of janitorial staff. It has also added landscaping projects and general maintenance for the corporations it has already been protecting.
“The bundling of services gives the customer the opportunity to more efficiently operate,” says Russell. “They only have to deal with one vendor, practically creating an in-house function, streamlined for a better flow of service at a better value- with only one responsible party.”
Russell was an early contractor for Mose Lebovitz, founder of CBL, providing services for the Arlen Shopping Centers in several states. Early growth was rapid, but has been eclipsed by recent expansion. Russell cites an example of how responsive his company is, when it comes to customer needs. “One customer gave us three and a half days to take on 22 locations across nine states,” Russell remarks. “We took on that new business without any major hiccups. Employees had to be properly equipped with the training in place, then a transition team was sent into the new operation.
“We do it the way we always do it-people get trained, equipped, have the proper supervision and follow-up. That is the only way the job gets done properly.”
Russell and his associates are confident this methodical process is the best way to maintain customer satisfaction. Throughout ERMC headquarters at the One Park Place office building, philosophical signs read, “Life begins at 200 mph!” The mantra extends outward. ERMC has cultivated a legal division with over 30 attorneys nationally, and runs Insurity Group, the second largest privately held insurance company in Chattanooga. In a large conference room overlooking the park-like setting on the east side of the city, teams work together laying out strategies for efficiency. Maps of the U.S show all the locations for which ERMC is responsible. Although headquartered in Chattanooga, the company maintains offices in Florida, Texas, Utah, Mississippi, and Missouri
The company works closely with Homeland Security to make airports across the nation more secure. ERMC professionals install high-tech scanners and provide services ranging from security guards and monitoring equipment to janitorial and landscaping services. The company already has 5,000 employees and Russell expects it will add 1,800-2,000 by the end of the year. This rapid growth is exciting and Russell is energized by it.
“I wake up with a new goal every morning,” he says.
One of the more exciting areas of the building is the Central Monitoring Station where seven people oversee daily activities at customer locations all over the United States-24-hours a day, seven says a week. The CMS is dimly lit with multiple screens lining the room. Quiet, intense attention is paid to each bank of cameras, watching playgrounds, entrances, parking lots, reception areas and passageways. In addition to electronic monitoring systems, uniformed guards patrol shopping malls on bicycle and in patrol vehicles.
A spin-off business that is a natural fit for ERMC is its uniform company, located in East Ridge, Tennessee outfitting not only the company’s security force, but providing services to other companies as well.
Most recently the company has added event planning and is in its third year of operating the Renaissance Center- a place for weddings, banquets and corporate functions. The 7,500 square-foot center has superb acoustics, a stage and sound system, a full banquet kitchen, large poolside patio, indoor and outdoor fireplaces and a food service area. A new pergola has been added for smaller outdoor ceremonies. The grounds are suited to photography and include an attractive stable complete with horses.
ERMC continues to cultivate the bundle of services used by corporations near and far. Company officials say the concept of having one point of contact for these specialties can streamline any company’s workflow, minimize its risk and impact its bottom line. Emerson Russell says, “It’s a better way to do business.”
For more information go to www.ermc2.com.
Photography Courtesy of ERMC
This story was originally published in the 2011 October/November Issue of Chattanooga Magazine.