Audio Visual Company Has It Wired

Linda Dela Cruz
Wednesday - November 05, 2008
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Thomas Lee of the Audio Visual Company

Audio Visual Company president Thomas Lee says any year with an eight in it is a good luck year for him.

Back in 1978 he bought Hoffman’s TV, a consumer store, which he sold, and then bought Audio Visual Company in August 1988. The year 2008 marks 30 years for Lee as an entrepreneur, and 20 years as owner of the Audio Visual Company.

The sound system at Blaisdell Concert Hall, digital signs at Royal Hawaiian Center and video screens at the University of Hawaii’s Stan Sheriff Center are just a handful of the types of projects contracted by the firm.

Lee says the business does only commercial jobs, which range from simple to complex. The simplest is what the industry calls the “hang and bang,” which is putting up a projector and a screen. More complicated jobs include designing a control center, where cameras and computers are linked together.


“We integrate a multiple amount of electronic equipment so they can all communicate to each other,” Lee notes. “The simplest way to explain it is, if you bought a stereo system for your home, you have a TV, stereo, VCR, DVD player and multiple remotes.

You can wire it up many different ways, and this can be designed to be wired up the way you like it. In the commercial world, we go so far as putting in 10 times more equipment.

You can connect to people around the world. You press certain buttons, flat panels turn on, the sound system turns on, you connect to Japan or Oregon or wherever. You can see four, six or eight sites at the same time. You can see each other as a checkerboard square or you can see the person who is talking. This is very complicated because it goes through a bridge, which costs $10,000 to $100,000.”

The firm was named Technology Company of the Year at the Technology Industry Awards held at the Hawaii Prince Hotel in October. With 45 employees who work in research, sales, engineering and as technicians, the business has interconnected hospitals, hotels, schools, business board rooms and shopping centers, as well as command centers for the military and the police.

Keeping current with technology is something this entrepreneur promotes.

“The biggest challenge is technology grows so fast and changes so fast,” explains Lee. “You learn one thing today, there’s two more things to learn tomorrow. When you finally think you have the right amount of employees, and you train them, there’s more for them to learn.”

Lee, who attended St. Joseph School and Saint Louis High School, says one of the biggest jobs recently is 10 courtrooms in Hilo, where everything is being recorded at the same time.

“The judge, the witness, the defense and the prosecutor all have cameras on them,” says Lee. “A voice-activated switcher focuses the camera on the voice that is recorded on a hard drive server.”

Another feature of the courtroom job is an interactive panel system that records where a drawing, done by a witness, shows up on all the monitors for the judge and the jurors. The system has a recall feature so if the judge wants to go back to what the witness said, it can play back electronically.

Lee says he especially appreciates the support of his family, friends and all his employees. His parents, Lorraine and Alfred, helped him buy his first business 30 years ago. He thanks his wife, Christine, and their children Kaleo and Jennifer, for their encouragement. Lee’s brother Patrick serves as the vice president of sales. Vice president Rena Gormley, who has been with the firm more than 20 years, handles operations.

Future goals for the business include rebuilding so the showroom and sales office are in the same place.

Audio Visual Company is located at 98-820 Moanalua Road. The hours of operation are from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For more information, call 485-3200, or log onto

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