Prospective buyers seek information on Harris broadcast; business as usual in Quincy

Harris Corp. announced Tuesday its intent to sell the Broadcast Communications Division and has been contacted by several interested parties. (H-W Photo/Michael Kipley)
Posted: May. 2, 2012 9:14 am Updated: May. 23, 2012 9:39 am

Herald-Whig Senior Writer

Harris Corp. executives say they have been contacted by several interested parties since announcing Tuesday morning that they want to sell the Broadcast Communications Division.

Chris Parsons, vice president of global operations for Harris, spoke by phone with Quincy Mayor John Spring and Jim Mentesti, president of the Great River Economic Development Foundationn. Parsons said Quincy operations will continue "business as usual" as Harris seeks a suitable buyer.

"Their goal is to try to come to a decision and possibly a sale by the end of the year ... in the meantime, they're committed to this workforce," Spring said.

Mentesti said Parsons described the Quincy operation as "a very good asset" on the corporation's books, with a beautiful campus and state-of-the-art equipment.

Spring said he is optimistic that Harris Broadcast will continue to be a major employer in the community, and that by itself or as part of the larger Broadcast Communications Division will be an important manufacturing site for broadcast transmitters.

Terri Black, director of marketing for Harris Broadcast, confirmed that nothing will change in the short term for the Quincy facility, where 384 people are employed.

Harris President and CEO William Brown announced plans to sell the Broadcast Communications Division on Tuesday, saying that division "is no longer aligned with the company's long-term strategy" or core business efforts.

Black explained that Harris Corp. does far more business with government entities. The Broadcast Communications Division, which has 1,700 employees, would be a better fit with a "media focused company or a broadcast focused company," she said. In addition to the Quincy facility, other Broadcast Communications Division operations are in Toronto, Denver and Mason, Ohio.

Several broadcast transmitter contracts are in place that will keep the Quincy site in operation for months to come, Spring said.

Local Harris employees declined comment after Tuesday's announcement.

The Harris Corp. quarterly stockholders' report said revenues during the previous quarter were down in the Broadcast Communications Division "as a result of weaker demand in North America and longer international sales lead times."

Market analysts said broadcasting sector sales have been affected by economic fluctuations in recent years. Meanwhile, Harris Corporation's core businesses on government contracts have remained strong.

Black said projections call for better sales in South America as Brazil prepares to host the World Cup. The Olympic Games will be in London this year, boosting some European sales. An improving economy in America is positive is expected to help the North American market, which represents 56 percent of division sales, Black said.

Quincy has been home to broadcast firms since 1922 when Gates Radio was founded by Parker Gates and his parents in the earliest days of radio.

Gates Radio was purchased by Harris Intertype Corp., in 1957 and Harris entered the TV transmitter business in 1969.

Harris has grown through a number of acquisitions, including Allied Broadcast Equipment Corp., Intraplex and Pacific Research & Engineering, a part of Midwest Communications Corp., and many smaller operations.

Harris sold off its distributor business in 2007 and realigned its Broadcast Division into the Integrated Network Solutions arm last year.

Harris stock closed at $44.50 Tuesday, down $1.04.