Opinion Research Corporation was sold earlier this month to a Nebraska-based firm, InfoUSA, but it will continue to operate independently in the Princeton Forrestal Center. The sale price of about $134.3 million, including assumption of debt, amounts to $12 per share in cash. The transaction is expected to close by the end of this year.

InfoUSA has business and consumer information products, database marketing services, data processing services, and sales and marketing solutions. It pioneered the concept of multi-channel marketing in its marketplace, and with this buy it expects its revenue to rise to about $600 million. It trades on Nasdaq as iUSA.

Founded in 1938 by Claude Robinson, a cohort of George Gallup Sr., ORC is one of the pioneers in market research. An employee-owned firm until 1968, it was bought by McGraw-Hill Publishing Company, which sold it to Arthur D. Little in 1975. In 1993, two years after a management-led buyout, ORC went public and expanded from 35,000 feet at 518 Business Park to 40,000 feet in the Computer Associates building on Orchard Road.

That year the firm had 112 full-time employees, including its office in the United Kingdom, and more than 1,000 part-time hourly employees (telephone operators and data processors). Nearly 20 percent of its $21 million gross revenues came from customer satisfaction surveys done for the United States Postal Service.

John Short succeeded Michael R. Cooper as CEO in 1999. In 2003 ORC down-sized from 40,000 square feet on Orchard Road to 30,000 feet at 600 College Road. Now Opinion Research has 1,500 workers in the United States, 55 on College Road.

"InfoUSA is a recognized global leader in sales and marketing solutions and we are confident that Opinion Research Corporation can make a meaningful contribution to InfoUSA’s continuing growth and success," said Short in a press release.

"The acquisition of Opinion Research Corporation is a significant step in infoUSA’s plan to become a diversified marketing services provider to the corporate and public sectors," said Vin Gupta, infoUSA’s CEO, in a press release.

Opinion Research has a social research unit that includes such clients as agencies of the federal government, and state and local governments, and InfoUSA expects to "significantly" expand its public sector customer base. Also, Opinion Research’s commercial market research unit are expected to offer cross-selling opportunities to InfoUSA.

Opinion Research Corporation (ORCI), 600 College Road East, Suite 4100, Box 183, Princeton 08542-0183; 609-452-5400; fax, 609-419-1892. John F. Short, chairman and CEO. Home page: www.opinionresearch.com

Powered Start-up

A start-up venture, nothing more than a brainstorm for its founders until March of this year, is up and running now. Already it has a three-year contract that should yield $9 million per year in gross sales.

IBS CompreCore, a value-added reseller of cable products to major telecommunications and power companies, was founded by Claude R. Pelzer, 44, and William A. Watson, 57. With a little help from Verizon, the company was in the planning stages from December, 2004, and officially launched in March with the lucrative three-year contract from Verizon Communications.

The company provides the wire that feeds the telephone system and, when necessary, customizes the cable into sizes and formats that work in different customer applications. For example, IBS CompreCore’s 72,000 square foot warehouse might receive a reel with 5,200 feet of wire for a customer that needs hand coils of 250 feet; warehouse workers will cut, coil, test, and package the coils, put them on pallets, and ship them to the customer.

Pelzer and Watson met when Watson was executive director of the John S. Watson Institute for Public Policy at Thomas Edison State College, where he worked for five years. (He is the son of the late John S. Watson, the former state assemblyman, after whom the institute was named.)

Pelzer was seeking advice from Watson, who has extensive public sector experience, about markets for a company he owned. That business was in the telecommunications sector and involved purchasing bundles of minutes wholesale from telecommunications companies and selling them to call centers.

The two men began looking at other opportunities they might explore together. They started a company called Nadir to help other companies to ensure the correct placement of telecommunications pipelines in new construction; they had learned that architects simply placed a box on their drawings and no one paid enough attention to its placement until the building was going up. An ill-placed box could mean unnecessary expenditures later on. They brought in an engineer who designed infrastructure and got a contract to provide services to a firm in Camden.

But something surprising happened that left that company in the dust. They had contacted Verizon to find out where they were going to be installing new infrastructure – in hopes of going to planning boards and uncovering customers for Nadir. They figured that new infrastructure plans by Verizon would key them into areas of new construction where they could sell their services. The surprise was when Verizon asked if Nadir was doing supply.

Watson and Pelzer’s response – "not really, but can you tell us more about it" – moved them into an entirely new direction. "We talked about what telecommunication companies need for companies in their supply chain," says Watson, "and they mentored us for most of a year on what it would take to build a business to provide services to telecommunications and power companies." And thus was the genesis of IBS CompreCore.

In addition to the Verizon contract, Watson, the executive vice president, and Pelzer, the CEO and managing member, are negotiating with two power companies for contracts that, together, would equal the size of their Verizon contract. The company’s staff also includes three people in the warehouse, a director of accounting, and a business development person.

Describing the business as "high volume, small margin," Watson says that, although some companies supply cables inhouse and their new company does have competition, the marketplace is huge.

The lengthy period of development, nearly two years, was necessary because of the complexity of the systems they had to put into place, particularly given the national scale of most utilities; their contract with Verizon, for example, requires them to service Verizon’s entire 38-state footprint. They had to put in a warehouse management system, Electronic Data Interchange, that handles all communications, orders, and invoices electronically through secured networks. They are also using ERP, a package of programs that handle business functions, including accounting and auditing.

Watson grew up in Ewing Township, and has spent his adult life in Trenton. He was not only the son of a prominent assemblyman (the first African American to chair a state appropriations committee) but he also earned his public policy knowledge from hands-on experience. In 1970 he worked for the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights and then worked 14 years for the New Jersey Department of the Public Advocate, which he describes as "immersed in public policy."

In 1990 he left the state job, as the deputy director for citizen complaints and dispute resolution, to run the campaign for the mayor of Trenton, Douglas Palmer, for whom he served as chief of staff for five-and-a-half years. Then Watson moved to the position at Thomas Edison. Although he attended Trenton State and did course work at Ramapo and at Rutgers, Watson never finished college. He married at 18, and has three daughters and three granddaughters.

Pelzer graduated from Claflin College in South Carolina and has an MBA from Wharton. He worked on Wall Street for such companies as Ernst and Young and then created his own software business. Its software, says Watson, could "drill into a bank’s customer base and allow them to determine profitability among their customers." The company did well, and after about seven years Pelzer and his partners sold it.

About his switch from public policy to business, Watson says, "I always had a desire to be an entrepreneur," and he quickly adds, "Some of my consulting work was about business development, so it was not an unnatural progression." Then he says he had the "very good fortune of meeting Claude Pelzer," with whom he has been sharing the excitement of "thinking about building a company from the very beginning."

-Michele Alperin

IBS CompreCore, 1561 North Olden Avenue, Ewing 08638; 609-695-5200; fax, 609-695-5285. Claude R. Pelzer, CEO.

Savino Expands On Alexander Road

The Savino Financial Group expanded from 9,500 square feet at 777 Alexander Road to 15,000 square feet at 731 Alexander Road. It is part of The Northwestern Mutual Financial Network, the marketing name for the sales and distribution arm of the Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

"We have been growing dramatically in recent years, and it’s a trend we intend to see continue," says Joe Savino, managing partner. "One of the critical factors in our decision to expand and yet remain in Princeton was the ability to find professional office space with easy access and parking for our customers and our employees." Additional offices are in Wall and Clinton.

The group increased sales of all product lines by 30 percent over the previous year. The group has 80 financial representatives – 20 are new this year – and it plans to hire 25 more, plus support staff will be added.

Savino began working at the firm in 1972 as an intern, while he was a student at the University of Rhode Island, and in 1983 was appointed managing partner – the youngest in the nearly 150-year history of the Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company.

A member of the business advisory board at Rider University and a volunteer wrestling coach, he received the citizen of the year award from the Italian-American National Hall of Fame. His wife, Joanne, is the company’s director of recruiting. Their oldest daughter, Marissa, joined the firm as a financial representative in 2002, and two sons attend Brown University.

Having been an intern at the start of his career, Savino believes that an early introduction to the life of a financial representative makes a good preparation for any career, and he hires from his internship pool. Northwestern Mutual’s internship program has been ranked, for 10 straight years, in the top 10 on the Vault Guide list of America’s Top 10 Internships. The move took place in late August, and Tom Romano, of GVA Williams Buschman, represented Savino.

Savino Financial Group – Northwestern Mutual Financial Network, 731 Alexander Road, Princeton 08540; 609-951-8700; fax, 609-951-8788. Joseph M. Savino, managing partner. www.nmfn.com/savinofinancial

Crosstown Moves

Palmer Square Management LLC, 40 Nassau Street, Princeton 08542; 609-921-2333; fax, 609-921-3797. David S. Newton, vice president. Home page: www.palmersquare.com

Palmer Square Management has moved from 17 Hulfish Street to 40 Nassau.

Expansions

The Porter Group, 103 Carnegie Center, Suite 319, Princeton 08540; 609-378-3900; fax, 609-378-3919. Karen Meskill, regional vice president. Home page: www.portergroup.com

The Porter Group, a business-to-business sales and sales management recruiting firm, expanded this year from a shared office space with Regus at Princeton Overlook to the Carnegie Center. It places sales people, from entry level to management.

Zeldis Research, 800 S Denow Road, Pennington 08534; 609-737-7223; fax, 609-737-9272. Ken Zeldis & Doris Kaiser, owners. Home page: www.zeldisresearch.com

Zeldis Research expanded recently from 2,000 feet at the Straube Center in Pennington to Denow Road to accommodate growth in its marketing research practice. The firm focuses on the financial services, education, and publishing industries. It expanded its staff from three to eight.

Direct Mail Changes

Direct Group, 1595 Reed Road, Pennington 08534; 856-241-9400; fax, 856-241-3329. Don McKenzie, CEO. www.directgroup.net

Direct Group has moved its corporate offices from 820 Bear Tavern Road in Trenton to Pennington. On September 5 Don McKenzie is scheduled to take over day-to-day management of the firm from founder Manny Ortiz, who will remain chairman.

The 11-year-old company provides direct mail and direct marketing services, from customer acquisition through fulfillment. Its services include printing, lettershop, data and database management, laser and other personalization, fulfillment, interactive voice response, and inbound/outbound telemarketing.

It also has facilities in Robbinsville and Swedesboro and has 1,100 workers statewide.

RchPrinting Inc., 1873 North Olden Avenue Extension, Trenton 08638; 609-883-6858; fax, 609-883-7799. Bob Houghton, owner. www.rchprinting.com

Bob Houghton purchased the former business formerly named Jeff the Printer and has renamed it RchPrinting Inc. He has already expanded the business by adding direct mail, large-format digital printing for posters and banners, and advertising and business support materials for small to midsize businesses.

A native of Red Bank whose grandfather and uncle owned a commercial press, Houghton observes, "I have ink in my blood." His degree from Kean University, from which he graduated in 1981, is in printing technology.

Houghton worked for Webcraft Technologies in North Brunswick for 17 years, eventually becoming director of acquisitions services, in charge of product development and design, estimating, and pricing. Then he did sales and marketing for four years for R. R. Donnelley and Sons in New York.

Three years ago he went out on his own and in November he purchased Jeff the Printer.

New in Town

Quantum Financial Home Loans Inc., 2135 Route 33, Hamilton 08690; 888-907-9100; fax, 609-890-2477. Maryanne Lowrie, mortgage consultant. www.quantumhomeloans.com

Quantum Financial Home Loans, a mortgage broker, recently moved its Bordentown office to Route 33 to handle both sales and operations; in its fifth year of business, the company has a sales office in South Philadelphia. Started by a husband and wife team, the company has been growing by about 100 percent a year, even in a down market, according to principal Thomas Lowrie.

Lowrie says that Quantum tries to keep its closing costs low and never takes an application fee. "Our customers are with us because they want to be and we don’t want to lock them into a fee."

Lowrie himself has come to the mortgage business as a third career. He worked his way through college as a golf pro, managing a course in his home town of Feasterville, Pennsylvania, and serving as its teaching pro. He has a biology degree from Bucks County Community College, a bachelor’s degree from Temple University, and a master’s of science in physics at Drexel University. A mass spectrometrist at Argonne Labs in Illinois, he worked in scientific software for 25 years. He ended up as vice president of engineering for a company in Piscataway, but after 9/11 he and 42 of his staff members were out of jobs.

He came to the mortgage business through his daughter. "She was in mortgages, and she convinced me to learn the business," he says.

His wife, Maryanne, joined the business two years ago and her background in sales has added an important dimension. "She nails the loans and I get them closed," says Lowrie. She grew up in Hamilton and used to sell communications equipment; they met at a trade show.

As the company has become more successful, Lowrie says it has been able to draw more seasoned loan officers. But as the company continues to grow, Lowrie says he is always "on the lookout for good people."

-Michele Alperin

Deaths

Richard Gordon Barker,, 69, on August 22. A chemist with patents in paper making, he had been director of research at Union Camp.

Michael J. Sweeney, 58, on August 22. He was a newsroom editor at Merrill Lynch.

George H. Brown Jr., 72, on August 24. He had been an engineer at RCA Corp.

Michael Kevin McCloskey, 45, on August 26. He worked at the Flower Market in Princeton.

Theodore Bodnar, 55, on August 26. A geologist, he worked at Triassic Technology, an environmental consulting firm in Hopewell.

First Tenant For Speculative Office

With construction nearing completion, the first tenant has signed on to Carnegie 902, a five-story Class A structure with 136,000 square feet of office space at the corner of Route 1 and Carnegie Center Boulevard. With rental costs of about $35 per square foot, the building will soon be home to brokerage house Stifel, Nicolaus & Company, which has signed a 10-year lease on 4,612 square feet, and has thereby become the first company to commit to moving into one of the trio of new speculative buildings in the Route 1 Corridor.

The other two buildings are a Patrinely project, at 1100 Campus Road, and University Square, a Reckson project at the northeast intersection of Route 1 and Alexander Road. The first building contains 130,000 square feet, while the second contains 250,000 square feet. (U.S. 1 reported on the building boom in its May 10 commercial real estate issue.)

"Location and quality is the pitch on this," Matt Malatich of Hilton Realty said at that time. Hilton is the owner and the leasing agent of the new building. "Our mechanicals are state of the art, and we have access to Route 1 from Meadow Road, Alexander Road, and Carnegie Center Boulevard."

An unusual aspect of 902 Carnegie is that it has basement storage space, which will rent for just $10 a square foot. Stifel, Nicholaus employees will not be underground, however. The company, a subsidiary of 126-year-old Stifel Financial Corporation, is planting its flag on the first floor.

Stifel, Nicolaus opened an office in Princeton in April, but the principals have been in the area for much longer (U.S. 1, June 14.) The branch manager, Stephen Jusick, had been on Nassau Street for 38 years (just next door to Hilton Realty’s offices) with an investment firm that changed its name, in 2002, from Tucker Anthony to RBC Dain Rauscher.

Four months ago Jusick got a call from a former Tucker Anthony colleague, who told him that the 115-year-old firm, Stifel, Nicolaus, had begun to expand in the eastern United States and wanted to open an office in Princeton.

As part of this expansion Stifel, Nicolaus had acquired the capital markets division of Legg Mason from Citigroup, which meant an addition of about 450 people to its payroll.

Stifel, Nicolaus is occupying temporary, shared office space at 100 Overlook Center while its space at 902 Carnegie is being completed. Construction is expected to wind up in December, and Stifel plans to move in four months after that.

Stifel, Nicolaus (SF), 100 Overlook, Second Floor, Princeton 08540; 609-375-2271; fax, 609-375-2656. Stephen Jusick. Home page: www.stifel.com.

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