Itron Inc. buys SmartSynch for $100 million

February 16, 2012

Business

SmartSynch, a Jackson-based energy technology firm, has been acquired by Itron Inc.

The $100 million deal was announced yesterday and is expected to close by the second quarter of 2012.

Itron, Inc. (NASDAQ:ITRI) is a leader in the global energy and water resource management market with headquarters in Liberty Lake, Wash. They work with 8,000 utilities worldwide and employ more than 9,000.

“SmartSynch is a compelling strategic acquisition that strengthens our position in the industry and with our energy and water utility customers,” Itron president and CEO LeRoy Nosbaum said in a statement. “SmartSynch brings a highly complementary technology to our existing communication network offering, broadens our portfolio and enhances Itron’s ability to support our customers with their smart grid projects.”

SmartSynch CEO Stephen Johnston spoke with MBJ on Thursday and said the marriage was the right fit to support future growth at his company.

“(Itron is) one of the largest metering manufacturers in the world,” Johnston said. “We have been working with them since 2001 and are very familiar with each other’s companies.”

Founded in Jackson in 1998, SmartSynch began as a niche technology firm based in a small Southeast market. By designing and selling “smart grid” technology, the company found business as far off as California where that state’s energy crisis in 2001 signaled the need for a new generation of systems that could help utilities pinpoint and maximize efficiencies in energy consumption.

As SmartSynch grew, its two flagship products, the SmartMeter and GridRouter, won numerous awards and praise from the green tech industry. Johnston said recent utility contracts in Texas and Michigan only further assured their potential.

“We had reached a point where we were growing so rapidly that we needed additional growth capital,” he said. Johnston said Itron will continue to support the contracts already won by SmartSynch.

Itron currently operates in 120 countries but Johnston said he doesn’t anticipate any layoffs at the Jackson office. “They don’t want to disrupt the innovation of this group,” he said. “They are very comfortable with the model of having a Jackson, Mississippi office and leveraging their brand and resources.” SmartSynch currently employs 85 with an additional 10 staffers at their new California office which opened in Silicon Valley last month.

“The smart grid market is going through an amazing transformation and more utilities are wanting to deploy the technology,” Johnston said. “(They want to) communicate with their customers more about consumption.”

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About Stephen McDill

Stephen McDill joined the Mississippi Business Journal in 2008 after working in radio and television. He is a graduate of Belhaven University and has won awards for his writing and photojournalism from the Associated Press and Mississippi Press Association.

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