Philly Creative Guide

Here's the Thing

Bill Haley

Innovation Starts at the Top
by Bill Haley, 1 Nov 2009

Bill Haley is one of the founders of He is also President, Interactive of Allied Pixel (, an integrated media production firm specializing in the convergence of HD video, web and interactive media. He can be reached at [email protected].

Every once in a while I get to work on a project that really stands out. That happened recently while we were in north Jersey, producing a short film for a company called Crestron Electronics. Crestron is the world leader of advanced control and automation solutions. They make very cool devices that control everything from the components in a home theater to the lighting and AV systems in entire buildings, including the Comcast Center here in Philly.

I was a fan of Crestron before I ever worked with them. At our office, we have a Crestron touchpanel in the conference room. Press one button and the shades close, the screen comes down from the ceiling, the lights dim, and the projector and sound system spring into action. Very cool.

While we were shooting at their corporate headquarters, we got a behind-the-scenes view of what makes the company tick. A few things stand out about Crestron. The first is that they actually manufacture the stuff they sell. Their gear isn't made in China. It's made in Rockleigh, New Jersey on actual assembly lines manned by real live American workers. They design and prototype everything themselves, a practice almost unheard of in U.S. industry. They even manufacture their own circuit boards. Amazing.

You might wonder if this makes Crestron uncompetitive. Well, consider this: Crestron has earned double-digit sales growth for twenty consecutive years, and Crestron holds 80 percent of the home automation market and 60 percent of the commercial AV market. If anything, keeping it all local has made Crestron much more competitive.

Crestron has a culture of innovation. They developed the world's first touchpanel, the first color-wireless touchpanel, the first IP-based control system, the first Windows-embedded touchpanel... and the list goes on. In the past ten years, they have introduced more than 1,000 new products, including 200 in the past year alone. Think of that! The company rolled out nearly a new product a day last year. An army of more than 350 engineers working in Crestron's 100,000 square foot Research Center pushes out a steady stream of award-winning, next-generation products.

And at the heart of it all is one man. Back in 1969, working in the basement of his New Jersey home, George Feldstein's innovative spirit compelled him to develop a remote control for slide projectors. He could hardly have foreseen the beginning of a genuine American success story.

At age 69, Feldstein still comes into work every day. We came across a couple experimental devices he had built by hand and was testing on the R&D floor. He oversees a global operation with 2,500 employees. This is a guy who is not resting on his laurels.

Innovation Starts at the Top

It seems to me that the culture of innovation so thoroughly embedded in Crestron must ultimately flow from his own passion and vision. Apple's Steve Jobs and RED's Jim Jannard are two other guys who live and breathe the innovation thing.

Innovation Starts at the Top

And it makes me wonder: What if guys like George Feldstein and Steve Jobs and Jim Jannard were running the car companies? How much better might American cars be? How much healthier might the American car industry be?

Innovation Starts at the Top

And what if they were in education? How much better might our schools be? How much smarter might our kids be?

And what if they were in government? How much better might America be?

Makes you wonder.

Print Article Brought to you by: Bill Haley | President, Interactive of Allied Pixel