By Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University
Manhattan, KS- Today let’s visit a community college in western Nebraska. As we approach the headquarters building, we encounter a state-of-the-art electronic entry system. The provider of that high-tech alert system is located in rural Kansas.
Nick Strecker is a co-founder of INA Alert, the national company that created this technology. Nick is a native of Great Bend.
“There have been five generations of our family in the Barton, Russell, Ellis county area,” Nick said. After earning a fine arts degree at the University of Kansas and marrying his wife Laura, they moved back to Ellinwood.
“My father Monty is an entrepreneur and my mentor, and I spent a couple of years learning business principles from him. My mother is in education,” Nick said. “One day my dad asked if I could build technology for one of his businesses.”
Nick did so. It worked so well that Nick and other family members launched a technology projects and service company in 2010. Since it used an Instant Notification Application, they used those initials for the company name: INA Alert.
“My father taught me that you have to seek out and find your customers,” Nick said. “My mom, Catherine Strecker, did her dissertation on brain-based learning. She taught me that we need to teach technology in whatever way is best for the learner.”
Nick’s first major project was creating software that was used by the Kansas Board of Nursing to communicate with nurses. Then, companies with oil drilling rigs in central Kansas also needed communication systems, but they wanted video as well. This led INA Alert to connect surveillance cameras so as to remotely monitor performance and assure safety and security of the workers. The business grew from there.
Today, INA Alert products have been used from coast to coast. Nick’s wife Laura is president of the company, Nick is chief operating officer and his brother Jacob leads the sales effort.
“The company has grown from me building something in my garage to 46 employees, 35 of whom live in Ellinwood,” Nick said. “We’re very much a family business, with siblings, cousins, even a mother and son working here.”
The company’s product lines now include texting software, surveillance camera systems, access or ‘smart door’ controls, nurse calling, VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) phone systems, computer hardware and private LTE networks.
Many of these products were developed based on the needs of their customers, according to Nick: “If you listen to the customer, they will tell you what you need.”
“Think locally, deliver globally” is a slogan for INA Alert. “Our business has grown by servicing rural communities with a need for technology,” Nick said.
Major markets include agriculture; state, local, and municipal governments; health care; and education. For example, INA Alert surveillance and security systems have been used in schools, city buildings, implement dealerships, feedyards, sale barns, grain elevators, co-ops and more.
The surveillance camera systems are amazing, Nick said, making it possible to use facial recognition, perimeter monitoring with automatic alerts, and Artificial Intelligence analytics with action-based alarms and notifications.
The appearance search system is a deep learning AI search engine to recognize and detect people and vehicles. The system makes it possible to search through hours of footage in seconds.
How does all this happen in a small community like Ellinwood? “Technology,” Nick said. “We’ll have seven or eight trucks go out of here every day, and we connect and service them remotely.”
“The technology is fun, but the highlight of the business is our culture,” Nick said. “Our mission is to positively impact our community and our region. We live in a great small town with people who enjoy working with each other, and we value our relationships with our customers.”
It’s exciting to find this high-tech business in the rural community of Ellinwood, population 2,131 people. Now, that’s rural.
For more information, go to www.inaalert.com.
It’s time to leave this state-of-the-art system in Nebraska. We give thanks to Nick and Laura Strecker of INA Alert for making a difference with technology and entrepreneurship. I’m glad they were alert for new opportunities.
Audio and text files of Kansas Profiles are available at http://www.kansasprofile.com. For more information about the Huck Boyd Institute, interested persons can visit http://www.huckboydinstitute.org.