When Harold Haugen was young and small, he "ran" wire in small places for his father's company, General Communications. He would squeeze into tight places and thread the wire for the company's sound systems.
Today, Harold is the president of General Communications, 4332S. 500 West, and he employs 43 people, many of whom "run" the wire for the installation of sound systems in a variety of buildings.
Even though the services and products provided by General Communications are rarely seen because they are behind walls or fabric coverings, Haugen isn't dismayed. Once the sound system comes into play in the building, the effort is all worthwhile.
Haugen said the sound and communications industry is continually changing so he must keep his installation technicians trained. He holds periodic seminars to inform customers of the equipment and communications systems available.
An example of the modern communications systems being installed is the company's $1.6 million contract with the Utah Department of Transportation to monitor traffic patterns on I-15 in Davis and Salt Lake counties.
From a control room at 2400 West and 2050 South where a large screen is being installed, technicians can control stoplights, traffic patterns and see where accidents occur so traffic can be routed around the problem. Haugen said this type of project is becoming commonplace.
A sophisticated system like the one being installed to monitor traffic on I-15 is a far cry from the audio systems that Haugen's father, Per, started installing when he formed General Communications in 1957. Per came to the United States from Norway when Harold was a young boy and started his company in a garage with several men whom he later bought out.
General Communications operated at 612 E. 3900 South for many years doing audio sound systems, public address systems in stores and church sound systems and moved to its present 12,000 square-foot location in 1983.
Harold started as a youth working for his father and returned to the business in 1972 after returning from a mission to England for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. For seven years Harold traveled the United States installing sound systems.
He said the company installed sound systems in an average of 600 LDS churches annually in many parts of the country for several years. He said the systems go into the chapels, the cultural halls, some meeting rooms and in 1982 he started installing satellite dishes at the churches.
When Per was sent on a mission to his native Norway in 1978, Harold stopped installing and became general manager and eventually president. His father has been an active member of the National Systems Contractors Association and recently served as president.
The 69-year-old Per drops into General Communications occasionally to see how his son is doing, but it has been Harold who has taken the company to new heights by gaining more business annually.
In the last five years, General Communications has installed sound systems in courtrooms, city council rooms, justice centers, churches and high schools.
The company's largest sound project so far has been installation of the computerized system in the Salt Palace Convention Center, which was recently renovated and expanded.
Although many miles of cables and wires were installed in the Salt Palace, one person can control the sound system in the entire building from a personal computer. Even when the meetings rooms are reconfigured for various events, the sound system can be reconfigured to meet the needs of each room, Haugen said.
Other major projects in recent years that General Communications has completed are the David O. McKay Events Center at Utah Valley State College, the video and audio programs at Pioneer Trails State Park, Eccles Egyptian Theater in Ogden, the software in the Tabernacle on Temple Square that controls the sound on the entire block and the sound system in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building.
In addition there have been the sound systems in the city council rooms in Henderson, Nev., the nurse call system and data network in the Madison Memorial Hospital, Rexburg, Idaho, several high schools, including Jordan High School in Midvale, and the ever-present chapels for the LDS Church.
At any one time, half of General Communications' technicians are on the road installing new systems or solving problems in old systems. Harold said it's a juggling act sending the technicians to the right places so travel costs are minimized.
Harold said his company likes large projects, figuring it's a big challenge to wind up with a state-of-the-art sound system that enhances communications.
A portion of the company's brochure sums up Haugen's business philosophy this way: "Standing atop our industry in terms of personnel and experience, General Communications perpetuates excellence with its choice of equipment. We demand and deliver only those systems of the highest standards for installation in your facility. Our technicians ensure that each installation is aesthetically pleasing and that the equipment specifications and usage meet the demanding requirements of the job."
Helping Haugen deliver on his philosophy is Dan Erickson, vice president, who has been with the company since 1975. Erickson said General Communications has little personnel turnover because Harold is intense and has a good reputation in the business.
Harold said it's fun to delegate authority to his employees and let them perform.
Another key person at the company is Ingolf J.S. deJong, vice president of purchasing. He started as an installer and was involved in sales.