The following company history is not what you might expect. This history is a story of the people that gave (and many still give) their best to Ford Audio-Video. It is their dedicated hard work and drive for excellence that has made the company what it is today. This history is for these people. From Claire and Jim Ford, Thank You!
In February of 1973 the company was founded in Oklahoma City as "Ford Audio & Acoustics, Inc." by Claire and Jim Ford. Initially the company designed and built recording studios and rented sound systems. Based upon Jim Ford's experience as a musician and recording engineer coupled with his degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Oklahoma, the company designed and built recording studios from the ground up including acoustics, noise control, lighting, and audio electronics.
The studio business continued throughout the 70's and included major installations in Southern California and Hollywood. Brian Roth was the company's first engineer. The company designed and manufactured professional audio equipment. The first product was an electronic crossover followed by a 70 volt power amplifier and a powered studio cue system for musicians. The manufacturing portion of the business expanded to include large 32 input recording consoles. During this period Jim and Brian taught classes for Vinny Testa's Recording Institute of America (RIA) and wrote monthly articles for Modern Recording magazine. John Murphy followed Brian and continued designing and manufacturing studio equipment.
In 1974 Claire Ford left her job as a science teacher to help out. Claire focused on the accounting, purchasing, and management aspects while Jim engineered and directed sales. In 1976 the company moved to an 8,000 sq. ft. building that included a cabinet shop. During this year Jack Langston and Steve Simmons joined the company as salespersons.
In 1975, Mark Dotter, one of the students in a Tulsa RIA class approached the company about entering the sound business. Later that year the Tulsa Division began business. Mark was an EE and guided the new Division for four years. Following Mark, Joe Bill Johnson became the manager. He was followed by Tom Ingram and Bryan Burdick. Bryan started with the company in 1978 as a salesperson and became the Division Manager in 1984. Bryan was named Vice President in 1990 and plays a vital role in managing the company today.
In 1974 Ford AV installed its first church system in Tulsa, OK, and now 34 years later we have installed more than 2,000 church systems across the nation. Currently, we average about 60 church installations per year. A great deal of the credit for our success with churches goes to Jack Langston. Jack retired in 2006 after 30 years with our company. Jack got in his car and traveled the roads of Oklahoma and the south stopping at each church. He made many friends and often helped a young minister of music get the system he or she wanted. Many pastors and minister's of music tell me today how thankful they are to have had Jack Langston as a friend. Beyond Jack's ability to sell, he gave all of us at Ford AV much more. He gave us an example to follow; one of integrity, dependability, determination, faithfulness and an uncompromising drive for excellence. We cannot thank him enough.
On the commercial side starting in 1975 Steve Simmons sold equipment to recording studios, clubs, and bands. He was joined by Clay Mangum in 1978. Together Steve and Clay sold large commercial systems and kept everybody laughing. Taking over for Steve in 1981 was Randy Riebe and then later Mike Louthan. Randy and Mike were instrumental in selling large commercial jobs such as the Houston Intercontinental Airport, the Fiesta Texas theme park, and the JC Penny's corporate headquarters project. These first jobs were the foundation for establishing Ford AV as a nationally known contractor. In addition during the early 80's Ford AV installed the Astrodome in Houston, TX and the US Postal Training Center in Norman, OK. These two projects were our first large installations.
Ford AV has always placed a high importance on engineering and service. Our first system design engineer was Fred Schafer. Fred was more than an engineer, he was an artist. In one church auditorium he hand painted the speaker grill cloth to match the gold leaf architectural details. Following Fred was Chuck Becton and then David Weibel. These engineers helped guide the engineering center and today we have 35 degreed engineers including field engineers on staff. We believe that our engineering center is the best in the country.
In 1978 David Carr joined Ford AV as an inventory stock clerk. David took over responsibility for the Oklahoma City rental center and led it for the next 10 years. In 1987 Don Worley joined the rental center in Tulsa; from Presidents to rock and roll, David and Don did it all.
In 1979 two things happened. We changed our name to Ford Audio-Video Systems, Inc. and we moved into a 25,000 square foot building on Interstate 40. We thought it was too big for us, however by 1995 we were busting at the seams.
Our ability to design and install large high-tech jobs safely and with attention to detail improved. Many of the projects that we were capable of installing were not in Oklahoma so we expanded to where the work was. In addition to the Tulsa office which was opened in 1975, our Dallas office opened in 1989; Denver in 1992; Las Vegas in 1998; Austin in 1999 and Houston in 2000. We also have sales and technical support staff in Reston, VA, Kansas City, MO, Wichita, KS, Nashville, TN and Portland, OR.
Update as of May 2007:
Ford AV has continued to grow and in 2002 we built a 50,000 square foot facility next door to our existing facility, which in addition to improved facilities for engineering, project management, and fabrication and testing, includes a large training and product demonstration center. As Ford AV became recognized for the outstanding quality of work, we were fortunate to be invited to work on some of the largest and technically complex A/V systems in the nation. The new headquarters that was built in Oklahoma City is currently operating at full capacity and we are looking to the future. During the past several years, Ford AV moved into a new 15,000 square foot facility in Tulsa and larger facilties in Dallas, Austin, and Las Vegas. The Denver location has expanded and remodeled. All of these locations are fully staffed with engineering, project management, installation and service personnel (Oh! Did I forget sales?).
We are continuing to perfect and improve our customer communications in many areas from the beginning of the sale to the completion of the installation; and are proactive in providing training seminars. We have dedicated our focus to the design, installation, training, and service of professional sound, video, and lighting systems. To this end, we continue to strive to add industry professionals to our work force. Additions to our engineering staff include degreed professionals in broadcast television, lighting systems, acoustics, software development, computer systems, and data networking. Traditionally, we may be thought of as an AV company, but the transition from analog to digital electronics and to the control and transmission of audio/video media over data networks has changed the products and services we sell; today, we are still sound, video, and lighting professionals, but we are also software, computer and data networking professionals.
This history has mostly discussed people that once worked for the company. Although I did not name current employees, I cannot emphasize enough, the value and importance of the people that have continued to work at Ford AV. It is these people that have persevered, solved the problems, created systems, made our procedures better, improved our technology, and continue to push to make Ford AV the best it can be. It is also these people and their families that make me want to come to work each day. Currently there are more than 270 people continuing to strive for excellence and many of these people, who have worked for 10 years and more, have made and are making significant contributions to our success. We thank these people that continue to work today.
The following employees have served Ford AV for more than twenty years.
Jack Langston, 30 years, retired in 2006
Bryan Burdick, 30 years
Mike Gullo, 28 years
Richard Alvarado, 27 years
Greg Bowes, 25 years
Betty Langston, 25 years
David Hoehner, 24 years
Steve Hamilton, 23 years