U.S. Rep. Jim Himes' tour of 17 towns in 17 days led to a stop at BICOM, a digital audio company on Main Street in Monroe, on Thursday. It was day 13, just before Himes (D-4th) headed off to Better Packaging in Shelton.
Ekin Binal, president of BICOM, said his company has invested in research and development and now needs a loan for the mass production of a product that enhances the sound of music and home theaters.
"Everyone we show the product to says, 'Wow, this is amazing. Why aren't you selling a million of these?'" Binal told Himes during his visit. "We want to make a splash with this product, but we're having trouble with banks."
Binal said banks want to see past revenue from sales before approving a loan, but BICOM had not gotten to the sales stage yet.
Himes told him his office could put BICOM in touch with the Small Business Administration, a state program assisting small businesses with information on loans, grants and bonds. He also mentioned CT Innovations, which makes equity investments to businesses in the state.
When asked if he could help the company, Himes said, "I hope so. This is exactly the kind of business we need in the economy: High technology and high paying jobs. The kind we need to attract."
Himes said it's exciting to have companies in Connecticut that innovate and make new products. He also liked the fact that BICOM works with other businesses in the state. Pernek Cabinet Shop in Monroe cuts corian for BICOM and assembly is performed in Orange.
Of his statewide tour, Himes said, "I'm seeing a lot of different kinds of businesses. This is our own piece of Palo Alto here — Higher tech, higher value products."
Monroe Economic Development Commission Chairman Lee Hossler and Town Councilwoman Dee Dee Martin toured BICOM's facility with Himes. Peter Yazbak, the outreach coordinator for Himes, also participated in the tour.
Of Himes' visit, Hossler said, "I think it's a great compliment that he would come to Monroe and choose to visit a small high tech business in Monroe."
When asked about his impression of BICOM, Hossler said, "I'm impressed."
A Company is Born
Mehmed Binal emigrated to the U.S. from Turkey in 1985 and went on to work at companies like Dictaphone and Pitney Bowes before deciding to strike out on his own three years later. Binal started BICOM, an audio company specializing in voicemail systems, out of the basement of his home.
BICOM is now run by Binal's son, Ekin. The business is located in Building 3 of the Bradford Green business park at 755 Main Street in Monroe and employs six engineers.
One of the engineers, Charles Wills, a Masuk High School graduate of the class of '89, said BICOM was forced to evolve about five years ago.
"We saw changes in the market," Wills said. "Technology was changing. We could either switch to the Internet technology or do something we're more passionate about: High end audio products. We're bringing our expertise in digital audio over to the audio world. What we designed is cutting edge."
When a signal passes over a wire to speakers, Wills said the sound loses fidelity and the further away the speaker is, the more it loses.
"We found a way to transfer that signal digitally and it loses no fidelity," he said. "It's over ethernet. There's no lose in signal quality and you can add on to other rooms in your house easily."
BICOM's technology is used for sound systems for music and surround sound for TV. Its own product is Zoet, but the company also sells its patented technology to other manufacturers.
Wills showed an AV receiver set up at BICOM's headquarters. "I can control any room in the house from here. If my daughter's TV is too loud, I can turn it down. I can control what music she listens to on her iPod."
Ekin Binal said the price range for BICOM's products is from $250 to $5,000.
His company is also involved with "smart technology" in which systems control all of the electronics in a home, as well as things like drapes and sprinklers.
"We're authorized installers," he said. "We can put them in."
Anyone who wants to hire BICOM's engineers for an install can call the main number at (203) 268-4484 or send an email to email@example.com.
Binal said Himes seemed to be knowledgeable of technology from the questions he asked and observations he made during his visit to the company on Thursday.
"It's really neat to have someone who's at the head of our community giving us time and appreciating the technology development we're doing here," Binal said. "I hope he can help us with the funding."