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Demand for Security Products Skyrockets After Terror Attacks - 2001-10-24

Many U.S. industries are suffering from weakened demand for their goods in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks. But business has multiplied for firms that make security products.

Tetracore is a small company that makes a plastic device that quickly detects anthrax and other toxins. Demand for Tetracore's product has skyrocketed. So has demand for other products linked to biological defense, be they antibiotics or new drugs to strengthen the immune system.

The president of the Biotechnology Industry Association, Carl Feldbaum, says while stock prices in general have fallen, shares of companies that develop products linked to biological defense are climbing.

"The threat to bioterrorism was abstract until the recent anthrax episode," he said. "And now people are paying attention to the further development of the U.S. vaccine industry, so it's a whole new era with regard to the centrality of the U.S. biotech industry to national security," he said.

Airline travel has fallen off dramatically, but the factory at Temco, a North Carolina company that builds airplane parts, is working around the clock these days. That's because Temco has designed a reinforced steel bar that can be mounted on the cockpit side of an airplane to prevent anyone from entering the flight deck where the pilots work.

In the aftermath of the terrorists attacks, Temco engineer Rick Salanitri says the bar is in great demand.

"There is truly a very focussed effort among all airlines to secure their flight decks," he says. "We have been building the kits around the clock and providing them to airlines. A project like this certainly has positive impact in hiring new people and providing additional sources of revenue for the company," he says.

Business is also booming for companies that have developed computer technology that identifies human beings by unique characteristics, like fingerprints.

Joseph Atick, whose firm, Visionics, makes software that can identify criminals or terrorists from a distance by the configuration of their faces, says business has multiplied since the terrorist attacks.

"Half an hour after the event occurred on September 11, our phones started ringing off the hook with inquiries, so much so, we have had to upgrade our lines and hire more people to handle responses. We have been getting calls from around the world," he says.

As pressure has mounted for improving security at airports and businesses, Mr. Atick says, business has mounted for companies that can do the job.