Central Service Association (CSA), a member-owned technology cooperative based in Tupelo, Mississippi, has reached an agreement to purchase the assets of Professional Computer Systems, Co. (PCS), based in Denison. The agreement will expand both the product offerings and service area for each company.
The two companies serve a combined 160-plus utilities in 29 states, plus the island of Bermuda, with very little territory overlap.
While both companies primarily provide billing, financial and related software to public utilities, specific products and technologies from each may now be made available to the other’s customers to help fill specific needs.
Each company will continue to operate from their respective headquarters and each will maintain current or increased staffing and service levels as they build for the future.
In an official news release, Kim Ingerslev, PCS president and CEO said, “The CSA and PCS union is a natural for the two companies. Both companies have a long history of serving the utility industry by providing leading-edge software and solution development, and exceptional customer support. Clients and the industry will benefit from the combined investment into people and products.”
“We are excited to add PCS’s assets - human, physical and intellectual - to the CSA family,” said Tom Underwood, CEO and general manager at CSA. “This opens markets and technologies for both companies and will provide some economies of scale that will make each company stronger and better able to serve its customers.”
Ingerslev told the Denison Bulletin and Review that PCS and CSA have been discussing the collaboration for many months.
“The companies agreed to a study and in the end determined the best way to proceed was for CSA to purchase the assets of PCS and for PCS to operate as a subsidiary of CSA,” he explained.
Roger Smith, PCS chief operating officer and CSA chief business development officer, said that initial discussions began about 18 months ago.
“CSA and PCS have each evaluated the purchase to ensure that the result would be positive for both companies and their members or clients,” he said.
The Denison Bulletin and Review asked how CSA’s status as a member-owned technology cooperative would affect the operation of PCS.
Smith said that initially, PCS will operate as a for-profit limited liability company.
“All financial reporting will be maintained separately but rolled up to Central Service Association for year-end reporting,” he said. “The possibility of moving the PCS clients into ‘member’ status in the future is being discussed and evaluated. CSA is a cooperative organization and as such, we expect PCS to operate at low margins but with enough margin to allow for expanded development to ensure that the client’s needs are being met today and in the future.”
According to the press release, the collaboration will allow PCS to offer an “enterprise solution” to its customers as it initially adds CSA’s Orbit Meter Data Management (MDM) and UtiliSuite, a complete multi-service GIS/engineering package, to its product set.
The companies already have some key integration in place, and their dedication to Microsoft platforms and MultiSpeakTM standards points toward a smooth transition.
Ingerslev told the Bulletin and Review that in addition to the MDM and UtiliSuite solutions, CSA has other products such as Broadbook, hosting options and a broad range of professional services that will be available to PCS clients almost immediately.
“In the future, new products will be designed to work with both platforms when practical,” he said.
“This collaboration will provide each company with valuable intellectual property and resources,” Smith said. “The ability to co-brand products that will work with both companies’ billing and financial solutions will reduce overall development costs and expand the markets for those products.
“Additionally, the ability to spread the costs of advertising, marketing, trade shows, etc. over a wider customer base will save each company, and therefore their members/clients, money, thus helping keep down the costs related to providing services.”
PCS clients will also be able to take part in CSA-sponsored employee benefit plans. These benefits include defined contribution (401k and 457) and defined benefit (traditional pension) retirement plans, life insurance, retiree health, dental and pharmacy plans from nationally known companies like Voya and Mass Mutual.
Smith explained that CSA has provided group benefit plans for their member utilities since the 1940s.
“This allows CSA members to benefit from economies of scale and save money on administrative costs,” he explained. “The opportunity to participate in these great benefit plans will be extended to PCS clients as a part of the CSA family,” he said.
He added, “We are currently evaluating to see where putting the PCS employees on the same employee benefit plans that CSA offers its employees will be beneficial to the PCS employees.”
Upon closing on January 1, 2019, PCS will become Professional Computer Solutions, LLC and will be a wholly owned subsidiary of Central Service Association.
The existing management, technical and support personnel at PCS will remain in place after the purchase.
Kim Ingerslev will remain in the position of senior vice president of Professional Computer Solutions, LLC, upon the closing.
Underwood said, “We want this transition to be as smooth as possible. PCS is already a successful company with loyal customers, and we want to assure them that we are not going to do anything to risk changing that. We are, where appropriate and fundamentally sound, planning to share products, technology, human intelligence and other resources to ensure that both companies are serving their respective utilities in the best possible way, but there are no significant personnel or technology platform changes planned or expected in the foreseeable future.”
Asked if the collaboration could result in more jobs at PCS, Smith said, “As a part of the evaluation, CSA has already identified several human resource needs in the Denison office and the additional payroll for these positions was factored into the evaluation regarding the purchase. We expect to expand the staff by three or four employees in the coming months with ongoing evaluation from there dependent on growth levels and other additional specific skillset needs.”
PCS was founded in 1981 in Harlan by Kim Ingerslev and one other employee. That employee left PCS, but a second employee, Brenda Freese, is still with the company today.
In February 1986 Kim and his wife, Dana, moved PCS to Denison. On or around 1998, PCS moved from downtown Denison to the Valley View Business Park.
PCS won the Chamber & Development Council of Crawford County’s Legacy Award this summer, given to those in business for 20 or more years. The company, administration and staff have been involved in community events, including Rotary, the annual Tri City BBQ Fest and in RAGBRAI this past summer.
Smith said CSA management will encourage PCS, and the employees individually, to continue to participate in these types of community and regional events.
On January 3, 1938, Central Service Association was incorporated as a member-owned association to create a method of using centralized expertise to perform utility customer billing and other joint services that were determined as useful to the efficient operation of public utilities. Today, CSA is still operated without profit and for the benefit of its members. In its 80-plus year history, CSA has grown to serve the entire seven-state Tennessee Valley area and has recently begun marketing efforts outside its previous boundaries.