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Idaho company ready to expand

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MERIDIAN, Idaho — A regional firm that already has interests in four states is launching a major expansion that could make it one of the nation's largest real estate investment companies.

"If all goes according to plan, we will be the top, second or third real estate investment firm in the United States by the end of 2005," principal partner Walt Mott says.

DBSI Group of Companies is gearing up to buy $1 billion in commercial, residential and industrial property this year and another $1.5 billion next year.

It already owns Western Electronics, a computer equipment manufacturer in Meridian, and several smaller companies through subsidiary Stellar Technologies. They include EmergeCore in Boise, Bio Reaction in Oregon, iTerra Communications in California and Wavetronix in Utah.

The acquisitions planned over the next two years could add another 400 jobs, doubling DBSI's payroll. The firm is already planning to hire more than 100 employees in the next few months, mostly from the Boise area.

The company offers each subsidiary resources to lower the costs traditionally holding back startup firms. Boise's EmergeCore was able to quickly grow into a 12,000-square-foot building owned and managed by DBSI. EmergeCore makes an all-in-one system that provides computer users with everything from a wireless access point to an e-mail server to a firewall.

Started in 1979 as Diversified Business Securities and Investments, the company managed real estate. Then in the late 1990s the executive team began diversifying into high technology. DBSI purchased contract manufacturer Western Electronics five years ago and moved on from there.

But the collapse of high tech and the slow recovery of that volatile sector refocused DBSI's attention on its roots in real estate and the more than 4,000 high-net-worth individuals it works with around the world.

The firm has up to 25 percent of its real estate holdings in southern Idaho, with the rest in six other states. It has targeted an additional six states for future acquisitions.

"Real estate is a tangible asset, and that seems to be back in vogue," Mott said. "If the stock market goes bad, you're left with a piece of paper. With real estate, you still end up with a building."