Biz Buzz: SLO firm bought by British company

Fleet Management Solutions Inc., a San Luis Obispo company that makes mobile tracking devices and software, has been acquired by British-based Trafficmaster for a deal potentially worth $13.25 million.

“This is a very friendly transaction,” said Jeff Wade, FMS’s vice president of marketing. “We are in control of our destiny, but with some bigger pockets behind us.”

Trafficmaster, a public company with about $100 million in revenue and more than 500 employees, said it bought FMS because of its customers in the government and oil and gas markets, all of which are requiring reliable tracking devices in remote parts of the world, according to a British news source, IBTimes.

Cliff Henley, who founded FMS in 2002 and moved the company to San Luis Obispo in 2003, has agreed to stay on as the company’s chief executive officer for at least two years.

“One of my mandates was that the company and people stay in San Luis Obispo,” Henley said. “My goal is to continue to grow a sustainable, profitable business here in San Luis Obispo.”

Henley has also been given a budget that will allow him to add about 10 more employees this year to the current 26, he said.

New jobs will allow FMS to ramp up its development engineering staff, technical support, business development and administration, Henley said.

FMS posted a $1.6 million loss in 2008, and most likely will show a small loss in 2009 with revenue at about $5.7 million, according to Henley and IBT Times.

The Trafficmaster deal is giving FMS $6.9 million upfront, plus $350,000 in stock and up to $6 million based on FMS’s performance over two years.

The company’s largest current contract is to outfit 4,500 vehicles with mobile tracking systems for the Department of Homeland Security.

“With them, we have a contract worth north of $20 million in the next five years,” Henley said. “Looking ahead, I predict we’ll continue to ramp up quicker than we have in the past, especially with the additional working capital and resources, along with a group of 500 plus people.”

— Melanie Cleveland

‘Bachelor’ show set in SLO County

Even if you’re not a fan of “The Bachelor,’’ you might want to watch Monday night when the contestants visit the Oceano Dunes and Madonna Inn.

“When traveling up the coast of California, we’d be crazy to not stop off and play in SLO County,” said Michael Mazzara, a producer for the ABC network reality series.

Now in its 14th season, the show is based on the premise that one man will find a wife among 25 female contestants. In each show, he chooses which women stay until the final episode where he’s to pick between the final two, and potentially asks one of them to marry him.

Monday’s episode will feature the nine remaining women.

The beginning episodes of the series are based at a Southern California mansion, and as the show progresses, contestants travel to other venues.

Snippets of the local venues, including an RV full of women driving on the sand and sitting in the plush pink booths of the Madonna Inn’s steakhouse, were shown Monday in a preview for the next episode.

The season features pilot Jake Pavelka, 31, of Texas.

In early October, the show’s production crews contacted the San Luis Obispo County Film Commission regarding local filming options, film commissioner Dave Kastner said.

“Producers were looking for a beach location and winery,” he added. “They were very interested in the Oceano Dunes since it is a drivable beach and they wanted a place where they could park an RV.”

This type of television coverage gives the county national exposure that can help fuel tourism, said Carrie Head, the film commission’s communications manager.

Once here, Mazzara said the Madonna Inn was a highlight.

“This place is truly one of a kind,” he wrote in an e-mail. “At the end of the night, our crew spent (two) hours checking out one another’s rooms. It was a party in itself.”

The winery featured is in Santa Ynez.

— Tonya Strickland

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