Perry Mehta, CEO of FutureNet Group, has found a winning combination of international and local.
Trained as a civil engineer in his home state of Gujarat, India, Mehta moved to the United States to pursue his master’s degree and the chance to combine his engineering skills with his entrepreneurial interests. His first job after graduate school brought him to Detroit in 1990, and though his work took him to other major U.S. cities like Chicago and Los Angeles, he felt most at home in the “humming, international, industrial” atmosphere of Detroit in the 1990s.
“It’s a big-small city, with all the great aspects of a big city but you don’t feel like you get lost. Everyone is friendly,” he said. “It’s become my home away from home.”
Mehta went on to found his own company in 2003, providing services in the high-growth sector of infrastructure solutions for construction and environmental industries, which he later expanded into perimeter security solutions. Located in an inner city Detroit neighborhood, FutureNet saw the city through the economic downturn, but even in the toughest times, Mehta said that his company was able to tap into unique talent pool of local professionals eager to learn and interested in building a career with FutureNet. Indeed, Mehta said that one of the traits that set his employees apart is their dedication to the company.
“People from Detroit tend to stick with you for longer than other employees might,” he said, noting that some of his employees have been with him for over ten years. “Maybe it’s from the automotive culture, the days when people would work for GM or Ford for their entire lives. Loyalty is in the air in Detroit.”
Today, Mehta’s firm employs over 250 people in the fields of construction, perimeter security, technology and environmental solutions. He reports that FutureNet protects over 500 U.S. military installations, including the Pentagon. A six-time winner of the Inner City 100 award for fast-growth firms, FutureNet has taken on major projects in India, Qatar and elsewhere, and Mehta plans to continue growing by both expanding FutureNet’s international impact while doubling down on its Michigan operations. Winter 2016 has seen Mehta spending a lot of time on the road, exploring potential new projects and raising capital. Like many inner city business owners, Mehta identifies access to capital as a key challenge to his firm’s growth, and he has participated in ICIC’s Inner City Capital Connections program.
In 2011, we featured FutureNet as an Inner City Capital Connections company making a big community impact. As Mehta told us then, “We purchased a warehouse in the inner city, which is our base of operations, and hire locally as much as we possibly can. We strategically manage the relationship between the company’s economic success and that of the city by providing jobs and opportunities for the people who live in this community. Our success is their success and vice versa.”
Mehta is currently raising capital for a new factory that will enhance FutureNet’s capacity to manufacture its own security equipment in Detroit. Mehta says that if he secures his goal of $20 million in investment, the facility, slated to open by the end of 2016, will create over 400 new jobs in the city. He aims to make the company a billion-dollar operation by 2025, and expanding beyond federal contracting to serve customers in the Middle East, Africa and more of the Indian subcontinent is key to this vision. With each new international customer, FutureNet will have a combination of Detroit-trained and locally-trained hires on staff, ensuring that both local know-how and core company culture will drive success.
As the company continues to grow and enters new markets, Mehta emphasized his team’s dedication to their core values of transparency and honesty, and their ultimate goal of making the world a safer place. He noted that not all potential customers will have values that align with theirs, and he has no problem with that.
“We don’t have to do fancy marketing. With us, what you see is what you get, and the right people will see that,” he noted.
On February 11 at the Paving a Path to Growth workshop, hosted by Staples and ICIC, Mehta and two other Inner City 100 CEOs shared insights into how successful, rapid-growth companies can grow while remaining true to the core values and ideas that set them apart.