Dauphin County top private companies: Tech improving safety, recruitment

Pipeline work to fuel growth for Flagger Force

Mike Doner, executive vice president and COO of Flagger Force - (Photo / Jeff Lautenberger)

Traffic control services might not seem like an area in need of much innovation.

But the business is always changing in the name of greater safety for road crews, said Mike Doner, executive vice president and COO of Traffic Control Services LLC, which does business as Flagger Force.

More recently, the Swatara Township-based company has been relying on data analytics and interactive websites to monitor road conditions and communicate, improving dispatch times for crews to reach job sites.

Flagger Force supplies road crews across the Mid-Atlantic for a variety of clients, such as utilities that oversee gas and water pipelines or construction crews repairing roads and bridges.

Last year, those services helped the company reach $72.4 million in revenue, a 6 percent increase over 2016. Doner sees more growth ahead, especially in the natural gas industry.

“There is not enough pipeline in the ground to support demand for natural gas,” Doner said. “We have like 30 years of pipeline work ahead of us.”

Flagger Force also has seen growth in work for telecommunications companies like Verizon as they enhance their fiber networks. Other utilities also are busy replacing old infrastructure, he said, which often is done ahead of other road work.

On any given day, Flagger Force has crews on about 500 active job sites. The company can scale even higher if client demands call for it, Doner said.

That can be a challenge for human resources. But hoping to find more job applicants as the company expands, Flagger Force has invested in digital marketing and streamlined its online application process, Doner said.

Flagger Force has added about 100 people in Central Pennsylvania over the last year. The company also bought the office building next to its headquarters to centralize its service operations.

Looking ahead, Doner believes advancements in LED lighting and batteries will help the company use more portable lighting at night to cut down on diesel use. He also sees more tech investments in automated and portable flagging devices that employees can control, which will help improve crew safety on more hazardous job sites.

Double-digit growth

Flagger Force is one of eight companies that was on the top 10 list last year for largest private companies in Dauphin County.

Some of Dauphin’s fastest-growing companies are near the top of the county list this year, including Harrisburg-based contractor Reynolds Enterprises Inc., which grew by more than 82 percent.

Swatara Township-based Stephenson Equipment Inc. saw its revenue rise by more than 30 percent, while Harrisburg-based electrical and mechanical contractor Edwin L. Heim Co. grew by more than 20 percent.

Also up by double digits was Swatara Township-based Tanner Furniture Inc.

Tanner, which derives a lot of its revenue from K-12 and higher education clients, finished 2017 with revenue of $12.1 million, up more than 30 percent from 2016. The company also does a lot of business with corporate and health care clients.

“We had a good year last year and we’re having a great year this year,” said Gary Poffenberger, the company’s president.

Not only is Tanner seeing sales come in from new school construction projects, but also smaller interior renovations where the design is focused more on small-group instruction. That means more group tables and movable seating.

Poffenberger said he also sees corporate users are spending less on cubicles and more on group spaces. There also is growing interest in buying standing desks and creating more outdoor spaces for people to work on laptops.

“If you want to keep your employees and attract new employees, you have to adapt to the way they work,” he said.

Poffenberger said his company is on track to finish with $13 million or $14 million in revenue this year.

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