The Elements That Combined To Make BlueWater

In its third year of working together out of a 60,000-square-foot facility in Southfield, MI, BlueWater Technologies Group (BWT) and Visual Productions, Inc. (VPI) have cultivated a business that can handle anything from point-of-purchase all the way through to training and conference rooms. Together, the companies boast a client roster that includes the likes of General Motors, Ford Motor Company, Daimler Chrysler, Mopar Parts, Marriott, The Ritz-Carlton, Hyundai and several national retailers.

"Having VPI located in the same building is a huge plus," observed BlueWater's executive vice president of sales John Rose. "They have the creative and retail mindset and we at BlueWater understand the best technology to integrate into their designs. This has enabled us to get involved with the retail segment of the industry because we are able to install kiosks, digital signage and systems on a national basis."

In addition to Rose, BlueWater's leadership includes president Tom Schoeneberger and executive vice president of operations Tom Battaglia. There are approximately 105-125 employees working between the two organizations, and the company makes the most of this joint arrangement by cross-training its sales professionals. "We are looking at providing a number of different service offerings and support tracks to put in place," Rose said. "With some accounts, we will actually staff them with some of our employees. We have become very closely tied with some of our customers, rather than just being an outside supplier."

Founded in 1985, BlueWater Technologies began as a rental and staging firm, and in response to client demand expanded into systems design, engineering and integration, as well as systems for exhibits and information technology (IT) services. "The company was founded as a hotel services organization that supplied audiovisual equipment here in Metropolitan Detroit," Rose explained. "A couple of years later, we made some contacts at the Ford Motor Company which enabled us to get involved in the systems integration side of the industry, and it developed ever since."

VPI was established in 1990 as a point-of-purchase display company. The organization's specialty is large production runs of custom-designed displays. Today, VPI offers interactive kiosks and permanent in-store fixtures, in addition to event marketing and training programs.

In the near future, BlueWater and VPI will continue to target the retail market. "The key to our future is national retailers that are looking for a company that is very creative," Rose said. "Digital signage and retail is a sweet spot for our organization, because we have the best of both worlds. BlueWater understands the systems technology, and VPI has a large network of installers from coast to coast, which is what it takes to do large-scale roll-outs."

While BlueWater and VPI continue to examine new avenues for growth, this expansion is closely monitored. Rose noted that the key to growing effectively is to appoint a knowledgeable individual in each department. "We have found that the secret is having a designated champion in as many of the different areas in the company as possible," he said. "I like to compare it to a quarterback: for each individual area in the company we have a good quality quarterback. It's the key to our longevity."

BlueWater Technologies/VPI •

Carolyn Heinze has covered everything from AV/IT and business to cowboys and cowgirls ... and the horses they love. She was the Paris contributing editor for the pan-European site Running in Heels, providing news and views on fashion, culture, and the arts for her column, “France in Your Pants.” She has also contributed critiques of foreign cinema and French politics for the politico-literary site, The New Vulgate.