On the Cutting Edge

Tallahassee’s Syn-Tech Systems serves clients worldwide with its fuel management technology



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When you go to the gas station, chances are you pull up to the pump, push a few buttons and wait for the fuel to flow. You likely take that whole process for granted. Unless you’re Douglas Dunlap.

The 67-year-old Tallahassee native and Florida State University alumnus heads a multimillion-dollar company called Syn-Tech Systems that provides the software that makes the pumps work at thousands of fueling stations worldwide, mostly for government agencies, the military and some private-sector businesses.

“We don’t make the gas pump itself,” said Dunlap, president and CEO of the Tallahassee engineering and manufacturing company. “We design and build specialized computers that control the gas pump.”

Michael Boccio
Bruce Palmer
 

And those computers are “very sophisticated,” he added.

Dunlap grabs a small green computer board loaded with gizmos.

“It takes 25,000 lines of computer code for this small piece of hardware,” he said. “In every line of computer code that’s written, there is an opportunity for error. There are 25,000 potential problems. Every line has to be right.”

Syn-Tech, with a yearly revenue of about $36 million, has been getting it right for more than three decades. The company produces a fuel management system serving nearly 6,000 clients worldwide, operating 2.6 million vehicles on a daily basis.

The firm’s clients include the City of Tallahassee, Leon County and the Leon County Sheriff’s Office; private-sector companies such as The Boeing Company, Ford Motor Company and McLane Trucking; and 29 state departments of transportation, including Florida’s.

Syn-Tech also provides fueling services to the entire U.S. Department of Defense at 650 locations around the globe for ground fuels and aircraft fueling operations at all Air Force bases. And the firm is a contractor with the Department of Homeland Security, along the nation’s southern border.

While its reach is worldwide, Syn-Tech is not a household name in Tallahassee — except to business insiders and government officials who know the importance of having a major engineering and manufacturing firm in the region.

In February, Syn-Tech was the second company featured in the new monthly “Made in Tally” campaign created by the Economic Development Council of Tallahassee/Leon County. The award was designed to highlight local companies selling products globally.

“Syn-Tech is a hidden gem on the south side of Tallahassee,” said Ben Pingree, the council’s executive vice president, who also noted the firm’s “diverse talent ranges from production assembly all the way to design and engineering.”

Added Dunlap, “We have a much greater local impact than you would expect from a 185-person company.”

Syn-Tech has a multimillion-dollar contract with TeligentEMS, a Havana, Florida, circuit board supplier, for instance. And the firm has a sizeable payroll. The average wage at Syn-Tech is about $67,000, compared to $41,111, the annual average wage in 2014 for all industries in Leon County (including the private sector and government), according to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. The 2014 average annual wage for private-sector industries in Leon County was $38,175.