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Sometime in the coming months, a Sioux Falls police officer or a Minnehaha County’s sheriff’s deputy will pull out a smartphone while on duty and instantly be connected to data.
Opening an app, the law enforcement officer will be able to access and send information. One tap of a finger alerts dispatch that the officer has arrived on scene. Another pulls up information a caller has provided to 911. With another tap, the officer can pull up a warrant before a suspect is encountered.
The app is connected to a broader public safety software system that local law enforcement is planning to begin using in March 2018.
“I think it will be a really useful tool for our agencies. We’re looking forward to the go-live date,” said Michelle Boyd, chief deputy for the Minnehaha County Sheriff’s Office.
What sets the system apart further, though, is the business providing it.
The Sioux Falls area is the latest of a growing number of customers for homegrown tech company Zuercher Technologies. Based in southwest Sioux Falls, it quietly has grown to 220 employees and is becoming known as a force for change in its public safety software space.
“It’s weird to talk about being a disrupter after 14 years, but our industry moves slow, and we are a disrupter just getting enough scale to do it in a big way,” founder Michael Zuercher said. “It’s what we set out to do, and we’re getting to where it’s actually happening.”
Zuercher was the kind of kid in college who rarely was far from a computer.
He started Zuercher Technologies during a 2002 internship with Stanley County helping develop software for the sheriff’s department. He moved the business out of his parents’ basement six years later and opened a Sioux Falls office with three employees.
The proprietary technology has built on what he originally conceived in the early 2000s.
The Zuercher Suite is a comprehensive system, encompassing computer-aided dispatch, mapping, records management, mobile CAD and records, jail management, civil process, criminal investigations, crime analysis, agency financial, agency administration and more.
“Everybody talks about service being important in any industry, but reliability along with that service is so important,” he said. “We’re part of the process that answers 911. It can’t have bad days. It can’t not work. We have a track record at this point that’s really attractive from a reputation perspective, and that’s a lot of what’s helping us.”
In 2015, the company was acquired by industry leader TriTech Software Systems, the world’s largest public safety software system, with more than 3,500 agencies served in 16 countries.
Zuercher, however, has a niche within the company. TriTech primarily serves large and medium-size metropolitan areas, while Zuercher has focused on smaller communities, so “it’s been a great relationship, and together we can serve any agency in the U.S., so that’s gone really well,” he said.
In smaller cities, the market is still “extremely fractured,” Zuercher said, leaving his business plenty of ceiling for growth.
“Until recently, there wasn’t anybody who had even double-digit market share, so that’s part of what we’re doing through acquisition is consolidating a market that has stayed fragmented for a long time. And we’re seeing real impact on the quality of solutions that can be offered through that.”
Zuercher has acquired three companies plus a product line in the past two years.
Gaining the Sioux Falls area as a client means Zuercher soon will serve the vast majority of law enforcement agencies in South Dakota.
“It’s going to be pretty cool to serve our hometown,” he said. “It certainly makes projects easier when you don’t have to get on planes.”
Zuercher was selected through a competitive process to provide an integrated public safety software system that includes computer-aided dispatch, records, civil cases and services for the Minnehaha County Jail.
“We met with different vendors, and Michael actually showed up. It was so impressive,” said Galen Smidt, assistant police chief for the city.
“When they were asking technical questions, he would add an addendum to his experts. He’s just so knowledgeable of every aspect of his business, and he hasn’t lost touch with the technical side of it as he’s grown the business.”
Zuercher Technologies was chosen for its end-to-end solution that allows law enforcement agencies to share information easily and to customize the system as their needs change, said Boyd of the sheriff’s office.
“We also know from talking to different agencies that Zuercher is a good company. They stand behind what they tell you,” she said. “The response we have had from Zuercher on the build has been wonderful as far as responding to our needs.”
Sioux Falls police staff just started training on the system but are finding “it’s so user-friendly,” Smidt said. “Just a couple days into it, we have been hearing really positive responses.”
Zuercher’s newly released mobile app is further positioning the company for growth. Called Field Ops, it’s designed to serve law enforcement from their vehicle or on scene.
“There are interesting and important things you can do there that contribute to time, safety and intelligence,” Zuercher said.
“One of the most dangerous times in public safety is writing a ticket on the side of a road. The faster we can get you off the side of the road, the better. There’s information in the system that needs to be at the fingertips of people on the road.”
A partnership with Samsung is designed to integrate the app with wearables, Zuercher said.
“If you have a Samsung watch running our app, it can notify the officer of things he or she would want to know out of the car. There are a lot of cool things we think we can do in the coming years, and this is a good start.”
The next-generation system also is helping the company grow beyond the Midwest, where it traditionally has been strong, he said.
“That’s what’s allowing us to be attractive enough to disrupt some of those regions that have been pretty entrenched. A lot of our growth is farther-flung national growth.”
Despite the added staff, the company experiences extremely low turnover. The 130 Sioux Falls-based employees enjoy a newly built, modern office in the area of 58th Street and Solberg Avenue, with lunch catered daily.
The perks, though, are only part of a culture built around products that serve a greater purpose.
“We’ve worked hard to be a place where people can do their best work,” Zuercher said. “I think that’s a big part of why people stay here. And it’s work that makes a difference. We’re serving public safety. A large chunk of our employees are very motivated by that.”
Organic growth shows no sign of slowing, and acquisitions likely loom, too. The company does business in 44 states and is closing in on some longtime players it set out to disrupt, he said.
“We’ve accomplished a lot more than I ever could have assumed in 2008 when we came to Sioux Falls to start growing for real. We were three people. I think it would have been delusional to assume this was going to happen. It’s become more believable piece by piece as things have gone the right way.”
Zuercher Technologies quietly has grown to 220 employees and is becoming known as a force for change in its public safety software space.