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Progress: The sun rises for a new Brainerd tech business

Digital Horizons co-owner Chris Schucker details the origins of the custom home automation company and their plans for the new space. Steve Kohls/Brainerd Dispatch1 / 2
Digital Horizons' future home is pictured in the Brainerd Industrial Park. The company plans to be open in the new space by October. Steve Kohls/Brainerd Dispatch2 / 2

A business that used to run out of a man's home is now moving to an industrial park site he hopes will become Brainerd's tech mecca.

Co-owners Chris Schucker and Scott Johannes were working for a tech company in Brainerd when they decided to strike out on their own in 2013. Taking out a "considerable amount of money" from their retirement accounts, the pair began a business that ran out of Schucker's house.

First, Schucker's kitchen table formed the main work space—then that became too small, and they moved down into his basement, which also quickly filled up. Semitrailer trucks were constantly driving down Schucker's street to deliver loads of things, like $10,000 worth of TVs. So the two began hunting for a building of their own to put the business, and found a former bakery in Brainerd's industrial park to remodel.

They specialize in custom-installing and servicing technology, mostly automation and audiovisual, in homes and businesses.

"We put it into a building, and we make it easy to use," Schucker said.

Johannes handles the technical aspects while Schucker does most of the business relations. And their growth has skyrocketed.

"Since we've started, our business has grown 100 percent, year over year," he said.

A year and a half ago, Digital Horizons hired its first full-time employee. There will be five employees by the time they move into their new space. The business turned 4 years old in June. It's a long way from when Schucker was a kid, taking apart remote-controlled cars to see how they worked.

Digital Horizons recently installed the AV system in the Crow Wing County Board of Commissioners boardroom. They set up a touchscreen computer system so that the clerk can record meetings and change who shows up on camera with the movement of a finger. Digital Horizons installed four 1080p high-definition cameras, so residents who can't make the meetings or need to view them later can still have access to their government's doings. And the company installed microphones for each of the commissioners, so their words can be clearly heard by the residents they serve.

You can see it all on a video featured on Digital Horizons' YouTube page, including high-definition interviews with county staff.

Schucker also did a Facebook Live video update on the company's work installing a similar AV system in the Brainerd City Council chambers. Before his company stepped in, the city council was recording audio from their meetings on physical tapes.

Digital Horizons will also have a weekly vlog (video blog) or podcast, as soon as they get an intern, Schucker said.

Their showroom, or "experience center," is designed to replicate a kitchen in a house that's been digitized by their team. For example, a TV can drop down from cabinet space. The entire building is under Digital Horizon's signature lighting control system that eliminates the need for switches in every room, and the exact lighting brightness can be controlled as a percentage.

The company means for the new building to be a place where industry peers, such as construction and architecture firms, can learn about new possibilities when designing a home or business. The center also allows them to experiment and test new systems in a realistic setting, to make sure they're giving the best possible product.

But the company's portfolio isn't limited to entertainment, lighting and government applications. They also offer video surveillance systems, so homeowners and business employees can keep tabs on stuff while they're away. Johannes, Schucker and company also do central vacuum systems, or a network of pipes built into a home that provides suction and filtration, replacing a conventional vacuum cleaner one has to haul around up steps and around corners.

Each job is unique, like an architect's plan for a new house, Schucker said.

"That's what we enjoy about what we do," he said. "When we come in here day to day, we're never doing the same thing twice, it's always something new."

The new facility is planned to be open to the public in October.

• Business: Digital Horizons.

• City: Brainerd.

• Number of employees: Three full-time, one part-time.

• Interesting fact: The biggest install of wire in one house for a Digital Horizons project was 10-15 miles. The price range for the technology can range from $300 to more than $250,000.

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