How a nearly century-old Dayton company continues to grow

After nearly 100 years, the company that built Dayton’s first AM radio station still has its hands in some of the biggest surveillance, access control and sound system projects in the region.

Copp Integrated Systems launched nearly a century ago when founder Roy Stanley Copp opened a storefront on Monument Avenue in downtown Dayton. At the time, the 20-year old engineer who was fresh out of the U.S. Navy sold RCA living room radio consoles to prominent Dayton families like the Wrights, Ketterings and Deeds.

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Under the ownership of Tom Frericks Jr. from 1983 to 2012 and current owner Bill DeFries, the company has expanded to fill some major commercial technology needs in the Dayton region, including designing and installing surveillance and access control systems for the security police and TSA at the Dayton International Airport, access control and video surveillance at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and the camera feed system used at bus stops and the main RTA bus depot downtown, Defries said.

The company of 30 employees also installed access control at the University of Dayton, finishing 80 buildings and 1,000 doors in two and a half months. The original sound system at the UD Arena was also the work of Copp employees, and Copp technicians have run the sound for every event at the arena since it opened in 1969, including the 125 NCAA games, Defries said.

“We’re small but mighty. We’re the little engine that could,” he said.

The company is just as busy now with an economic turnaround than it was before the recession. Copp is in the market for new technicians, said Craig Gray, the company’s director of engineering and operations.

“You’re not doing the same thing twice. All of (the projects) are a little different,” Gray said.

Day-to-day, Gray works with the salespeople and checks quotes and provides technology support for the installation technicians. But he also designs all of the major systems except for the fire alarms.

The UD graduate started as a technician 35 years ago and moved into engineering in 1998. Some of his favorite designs were the camera system at the airport and the security systems at the National Air and Space Intelligence Center at Wright-Patt, he said.

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Copp Integrated Systems has a long history with the military. Copp, born and raised in Dayton, spent a couple years in the Navy and designed the first secure wireless communication between Wright-Patt and Washington D.C., Defries said.

Defries spent four years enlisted in the Marine Crops before working sales jobs for technology companies.

“The military kind of straightened me out. I was a troubled kid from the south side of Chicago. I didn’t have any direction in my life and I saw this kind of as a way out of a lower, middle-class neighborhood,” Defries said. “It kind of molded and set a great foundation for the rest of my life.”

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Defries moved to the Dayton area while working for what was once ADT Tyco after four years in the Marines.

“We were buying the best companies around the country. My first phone call was to call up and try to buy the Copp Systems. And (Frericks) said no,” Defries said.

Later Defries left his job when he opened his Beef O’ Brady’s restaurants in Centerville and Beavercreek. Then he joined Stanley Security. Stanley also tried to buy Copp, and Frericks again said no.

But in 2011, Defries left Stanley and Frericks sold Copp to him.

“We’ve got the capability of any of the biggest and best companies out there that I worked for…All those big companies, we do it as well, if not better, than them because we cover all the bases. We do it from A to Z. We design it, we service it, we sell it, we design it, we take care of our customers,” Defries said.


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