The Interview: Tim Mitchell, CEO of FrontierMedex
Head of global assistance company talks about firm's recent merger
Tim Mitchell, CEO of FrontierMedex. (Baltimore Sun photo by Jed Kirschbaum / July 12, 2011)
The company also has helped rescue ships from pirates in the waters off Somalia and provides medical assistance for travelers in areas with poor health care systems.
As protesters in Egypt rose up against President Hosni Mubarak, FrontierMedex Group evacuated 600 travelers, employees from multinational firms and others in the country.
The British firm was formed in March through the merger of Exploration Logistics Group of the United Kingdom and Medex Global Solutions of Towson. The merger allowed the new company to significantly expand its services, company executives said. The firm's American operations are based in Towson.
CEO Tim Mitchell, who came from the British company and is still based in the United Kingdom, was in town recently and talked to The Baltimore Sun about the new company.
For people who don't know you, tell them a little bit about the company.
The company provides an integrated set of medical, safety and security solutions. The [solutions] focus on enabling our clients — whether they are individuals who are traveling or corporations who want to send business travelers around the world — to set up major operations in difficult places around the world. It enables them to go about their travel without worrying about their health, safety or well-being.
I see you negotiate ransoms. Are there many kidnappings?
Kidnapping tends to primarily be in Mexico and Latin America, although it can occur anywhere in the world. We will handle the negotiations to [recover] the person. We have negotiated the release of some of the ships taken by the pirates off the Somali coast.
What kinds of people are kidnapped?
It can be anybody. Kidnapping in Central and South America is a big industry.
What are the most active areas you are in right now?
From the Medex side, we are evacuating from all over the world at any given time. … We are training the medical corps for the world's newest country — the country of South Sudan, which was achieved [July 8]. We have medics in the field with oil companies in Iraq. We're very active in North Sudan and … Uganda.
Have natural disasters become a bigger part of the business?
Interestingly, natural disasters … tend to require such a large response that it is taken over immediately by [governments]. … The biggest change for us has been … the increasing need for companies to operate globally and beyond their comfort zones. The reality is that, in our economy today in the U.S., if our major companies don't grow internationally we can't grow our economy. The Fortune 500 companies have 20 to 50 percent of their revenues come from outside of the U.S. … Companies are operating on a more global basis and owe a strong duty of care to the people who work for them.
Could you give an example of one of the more interesting jobs?
We ... provided the medical support for the African Union peacekeeping troops in Darfur. It was very challenging because it was a very hostile situation. The African troops were in camps that regularly came under attack by rebels.
Whom do you hire? Spies, former CIA or FBI, doctors?
It's a very wide variety of people. In the U.K. … we have quite a few ex-military and ex-special forces.
Here in the U.S. we have group of talented people who work in the emergency response system in Towson. They go through a very rigorous process. We speak up to 30 languages in the emergency response system. It takes a strong person who can deal with the emotion when the person on the other end of the telephone line is dealing with a tragic situation.
How do you decide if an area is risky?
We have a team of intelligence … analysts based in Houston who monitor open-source news feeds and other information sources, which they have access to on a 24-hour basis. They constantly monitor the events going on around the world and make judgments on whether it's practical or safe for our clients to stay in those places and what precautions they should be taking.
How has the business evolved over time? What is most different now?
There are obviously a lot more ongoing conflicts in the world. These businesses were both started in the mid-'80s. But it's not just about wars or conflict. It's about countries opening up and developing themselves. … We are not all about places of high risk. We are about places that are remote and difficult. We cover mining operations in the Arctic and have a medical facility there.