Former military and law enforcement security experts help business and government clients prepare for worst-case scenarios.
A simple siding and brick building in a Powell business park gives no indication of the global and often lifesaving work coordinated within its walls. Founded in 2005 by Thomas Foos and Jeff Podracky, ARMADA provides protection solutions for public, private and government organizations.
ARMADA helped Franklin County create a plan to respond if Hoover Dam ever fails. Following the fatal Fort Hood shooting rampage, ARMADA staff trained military personnel to recognize warning signs of unstable individuals. It also prepares businesses for mass casualty events or safe termination of a hostile employee.
"We want to help organizations, no matter who they are, protect their people, their assets, their infrastructure, their reputations," says Foos, president and CEO of the service-disabled veteran-owned small business. Podracky is chief operating officer.
With both military and private security experience, Foos and Podracky devised the ARMADA concept while working at Cardinal Health. Foos says they saw companies focused on security in specific areas - technology, asset protection, emergency preparedness - and wanted to offer a solution.
"Our original business plan was on a napkin. We started with zero clients. Now we have more than 70 people supporting clients across the world," Foos says.
Franklin University became a client nine years ago. ARMADA crafted response plans for the university and conducts customized semi-annual crisis management exercises for 20-50 employees. Marvin Briskey, Franklin's senior vice president and chief financial officer, says ARMADA serves as the university's security quarterback, while university employees execute the plays it calls.
"We're really good at higher ed and they're really good at safety and security. These fields change daily, and we can rely on their knowledge base. It allows us to do what we do best: protect our students," says Briskey.
ARMADA initially built its reputation as a subcontractor on larger contracts, such as working with FEMA on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The company then helped write a regional catastrophic plan for the city of Chicago and surrounding areas, preparing for anything from a nuclear weapon, to Lake Michigan rising, to a snowstorm. The company's 78 full-time staff of former military, law enforcement, emergency management and corporate personnel supports 25-30 contracts, aided by 400 potential contract employees.
"We have a very diverse leadership and staff within different disciplines," says Foos.
"Nobody is a theory person. They come with real-world experience," says Sherry Mercurio, Franklin's director of communication and public relations, noting that her previous position as civilian spokeperson for the Columbus Division of Police taught her the value of that experience.
Whether the client is AEP, the city of Boston or the Marine Corps, Foos says ARMADA starts each contract with a security, threat and vulnerability assessment to identify potential risks and then brings "a multitude of different security-related solutions to bear" to address critical vulnerabilities that the client may have.
"Not every organization is going to be Fort Knox. You can never 100 percent eliminate risk. But you can improve your ability to respond," Foos says.
Foos anticipates ongoing growth in coming years.
"We've gone from the Jeff-and-Tom-show over the last 10 years to 70 people," he says. "Now we have access to more relationships and networks and companies."
On the company's central Ohio location, Foos says, "We have it all here: corporate headquarters, strong local government. The defense industry is represented here. It's a favorable place to run a business." Additionally, the company has a training facility in Fredericktown.
Mary Sterenberg is a freelance writer.