I am learning that professional social networking can help unlock new opportunities, and the importance of building and fostering rapport with connections allows us to benefit from each other. I found that LinkedIn is a platform that offers a place for me as Community Director for Thin Blue Line USA to share ideas, stories, and showcase our company. Opportunities are endless and every connection you make has the potential to impact your professional life positively. Jeff Felts, the President, and CEO of Center Mass Incorporated (CMI) happened to be one of those connections that I made on LinkedIn that really impressed me as I read through his profile.
I sent Jeff a welcoming message on LinkedIn letting him know that our companies shared similar cultures and that I admired his work in law enforcement. His response was mutual and he expressed an interest in coming to our facility for a visit. Immediately I scheduled a visit and a week later he was at our warehouse. I took an interest in learning about his business and discovered that a lot of our products seemed right for his store, as we offered items he thought his loyal customers would appreciate. We talked about the best way for us to do business and we agreed that becoming a wholesaler with Thin Blue Line USA was a great start. As a wholesaler, Jeff receives perks by buying the products in bulk at a lower price, which helps reduce costs, allowing him to pass along the savings to his customers. Doing business with each other provided complimentary services since we interact with the same type of customers.
Jeff started CMI in 1996. In December 2010, CMI purchased their first commercial property with the intent of eventually expanding into the civilian firearms market. In 2011, Jeff returned to the police profession to finish the final three years that he needed to secure his pension. He proudly served as a police officer for the City of Wayne (a Detroit suburb) and honorably retired on October 24, 2014. In June of 2012, the renovations of the property were completed and the business transitioned into the 9,000-square foot facility. This allowed the company to begin sharing its collective knowledge on shooting, safety, and the use of deadly force with the citizens of Metro-Detroit. His company has continued to grow and thrive after 25 years of doing business.
The company serves a variety of clientele such as law enforcement, security, military, and the general public. He has 37 hardworking people on board who support his vision. His headquarters is located in the heart of Livonia, Michigan. He says his success is directly related to the commitment and dedication to the satisfaction of their loyal customer base from the people who work for him. Over the years Jeff has formed long-lasting partnerships with his suppliers and vendors who help keep his customers happy. Thin Blue Line USA joined the ranks and is proud to announce that we are now one of his suppliers. Jeff has experience in the military and law enforcement which uniquely qualifies him to have a keen eye for creating innovative operational products and training concepts due to his experience. He designed these products and training concepts with the idea to help clients succeed and survive in a variety of environments. His products and training services are battle-tested and credited with reducing multiple deadly threats while saving the lives of his clients or others.
He proudly served our country as a soldier in the U.S. Army from 1984 to 1996 in both active and reserve duty capacities. During his military career, he attained the rank of Sergeant First Class (E-7) and served as an infantryman and a Senior Drill Sergeant in a reserve basic training unit. In 1997, he went on to earn an associate degree from Schoolcraft College in criminal justice. In 1999, he graduated from Northwestern University’s School of Police Staff and Command. In 2003, he earned his bachelor’s degree from Northwood University in business management. Jeff also started his service in civilian law enforcement as an officer and sergeant in the Detroit suburb of Plymouth Township in 1991. He served on a multi-jurisdictional SWAT Team in a part-time capacity, as an operator, sniper, and sniper team leader. In 1992, under the instruction of the legendary Marine Corps Sniper, Carlos Hathcock, Jeff graduated from basic police sniper school. Jeff attributes his desire to become more educated, more dedicated to the profession, and more confident in taking calculated risks to the example set by Carlos Hathcock. He learned firsthand the consequences of flawed training and equipment when he was involved in two separate shootings in the early 1990s. This resulted in an insatiable quest to improve law enforcement firearms training and equipment.
Jeff responded to a hostage rescue operation where the suspects had robbed a bank, fled, shot at pursuing officers, and then took a family hostage in their home. During this operation, and many others, he quickly learned that the police sniper was rarely in a prone shooting position and needed to be able to elevate the rifle on a stable platform to observe and shoot accurately. When researching the commercial industry, he learned a product that accommodates this situation did not exist yet. It inspired him to create his first product in 1995 called the Sharpshooters Rifle Rest. CMI was among the very first commercial rifle rest manufacturers in the market. A Rifle Rest that mounts to a tripod is now a common item in tactical shooting sports or in the sniping profession. Jeff is very proud to have played a role in starting this trend.
From the beginning, Jeff had the idea in mind to create equipment and training that would forever improve the police profession. Today, the CMI brand is known by law enforcement officers nationwide. CMI created equipment and training which has been used with great success by our nation’s most elite military units, federal, state, county, and municipal law enforcement agencies. As a soldier and police officer with no business experience or education, Jeff found his fledgling company quickly failing due to cash flow issues. In 1997, he sought to correct that by becoming the first dealer of the SWAT Operator Insignia. Jeff put the insignia on his website and CMI’s cash flow problems were solved almost immediately. CMI bought all rights to this insignia and designed many other insignias currently worn by law enforcement officers worldwide. Eventually, the Sharpshooters Rifle Rest was sold into the military and used for military purposes as well.
Over the years Jeff has worked very hard at setting the standard of training for active shooter response school and a basic police sniper school. He is proud to be a leader in the industry who helped change the paradigm of how law enforcement responds to active shooters.
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