Going for the Record Numbers Tell the Story for Data Research: Earnings and Sales Just Keep Going Up

By Robert Steyer Of the Post-Dispatch | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), August 23, 1993 | Go to article overview

Going for the Record Numbers Tell the Story for Data Research: Earnings and Sales Just Keep Going Up


Robert Steyer Of the Post-Dispatch, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


Michael J. Mellinger's computer company has grown with the same impatience that its founder pursued his computer education.

In the last five fiscal years, earnings for Data Research Associates Inc. have quadrupled as sales have nearly doubled.

Data Research went public 14 months ago at $7 a share. On Friday its stock hit an all-time high of $13.50 a share before closing at $13 a share.

And Data Research, which now has 102 employees, is running at a pace for another record year.

For the nine months ended June 30, earnings reached $1.65 million - 23 percent more than the same period last year. Sales have climbed 31 percent to $17.85 million.

That's pretty good growth for anyone's company, let alone for someone who taught himself the fundamentals of computing while working on a high school astronomy project.

Or for someone who won a scholarship for Washington University's computer science program, only to drop out in 1971.

Mellinger said he left after being placed on academic probation for withdrawing several times from a required mathematics course.

Yet he continued to work as a programmer at the university's computer systems laboratory until he founded Data Research in 1975 with two others.

Since then, Data Research has grown fast enough to be noticed by bigger competitors.

"We had a few nibbles before we went public," Mellinger said. "I had a chance to sell out. But I'm not looking for a job."

Mellinger is seeking more clients for an expanding niche in the computer busines - enabling libraries to keep track of their inventories and to better communicate with each other.

Mellinger sees growth not only in new customers but in existing customers that want - or need - to upgrade their services every three to five years.

Just under half his business comes from academic libraries such as university research centers, and about the same amount comes from public libraries.

Data Research also sells to corporate libraries, grade school libraries and special institutions such as libraries for the blind.

The St. Louis County-based company has more than 900 customers. Most are in the United States, but Data Research has reached out as far as Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore and Kong Kong.

Data Research's biggest clients include the Queens (N.Y.) Borough Public Library; the County of Los Angeles Public Library; 60 libraries at 28 community colleges in Florida and the Maricopa Community College District in metropolitan Phoenix.

A Data Research customer can buy several products, including computer software that contains information on each book and periodical.

This software allows libraries belonging to a database network to share cataloging information, thus reducing the costs for each library.

A customer can buy software that handles all circulation activity, including registering borrowers, checking books in and out and placing requests for specific titles.

Even if several customers belong to a consortium, the software is designed to let each library retain its own policies for renewals, fines and and requests for library materials. …

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