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Alakai Defense Systems' Mission Fuels Growth, Creates Jobs

"We were soldiers. Our children are soldiers. Our mission is to protect the soldier."

That’s the motto of Alakai Defense Systems. It drives who they are and what they do. It’s that kind of determination that helped them achieve compounded annual growth of 60 percent since the company’s restructure in 2009, bringing them to a current sales revenue on order of $8 million.

The Largo-based company provides explosive detection systems using laser and electro-optic sensing technology to ensure the utmost accuracy and reliability. Products include sensors that detect explosives in excess of 100 meters away, as well as vehicle-mounted systems for use at checkpoint gates.

Its flagship product is the Standoff Covert Eyesafe Explosives Detection System (SCEEDS). About the size of a large footlocker, the SCEEDS is mounted on vehicles.

With explosives being the number one killer of soldiers on the battlefield, Alakai’s mission cannot be underemphasized. With key staff having served in the military, many of whom have children who are currently serving, the company is intimately familiar with end user needs. "We want to make a contribution and protect the solders, bring our kids home," says Ed Dottery, president of Alakai Defense Systems.

Dottery has a background in special operations and Special Forces. After doing army reserve tours at MacDill, he decided to make Tampa Bay his home.

The company is a graduate of the Tampa Bay Innovation Center, which nurtures early stage ventures to help them grow and launch products. "It’s a great incubator," says Ed Dottery. "It helped me both as a small business and a second stage growth company."

Dottery attributes the company’s growth to a combination of factors, including the programs at the Innovation Center and other local economic development efforts, state tax incentives and its proximity to MacDill Airforce Base.

Alakai partners with universities such as University of South Florida and Florida A&M University on research and grant opportunities. Graduate students are able to obtain real-world experience and contribute their knowledge and research through industry practicum experiences. They also teamed up with USF recently to seek matching funds from the I-4 Corridor.

The company has 25 employees worldwide and is currently expanding its workforce to include 10 additional hires including a Senior Scientist, Electrical and Mechanical Engineers and Software Developers.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Ed Dottery, Alakai Defense Systems

Read more articles by Megan Hendricks.

Megan Hendricks is a feature writer at 83 Degrees Media in the Tampa Bay region of Florida.
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