CHARLESTON — Apparently a can-do attitude works even during a pandemic. Or at least that’s the case for Alpha Technologies.
The locally owned internet technology services company says it’s experienced a “phenomenal year” while other businesses have struggled to merely remain solvent.
Part of that can be attributed to the surge of people now working from home, prompting companies to shop from a wider offering of managed IT services. Also, buildings devoid of employees provide opportunities to upgrade existing systems for whenever cubicles and desks are again occupied by live bodies.
But it all actually aligns with a familiar pattern for a firm with 60 employees that has experienced 68% growth over the past five years. During that time, Alpha Technologies has expanded from being merely an equipment vendor to an IT firm with a broad menu of offerings for residential clients as well as businesses — that includes creating a “fiber-optic ring” that encompasses most of Charleston.
A 40-mile loop of fiber-optic cable starts at the 80,000-square-foot data center in South Charleston the company has occupied since 2012. The cable crosses the Kanawha River and runs to Kanawha City before crossing again, up to part of Corridor G and back to its starting point. It was a seemingly tall task, though one Alpha Technologies president and CEO Doug Tate said had to be tackled in order to increase the viability of outside companies looking to expand in the area. Insufficient infrastructure, he said, has been atop the list of things holding the region back.
“We’re very technically minded and I’m a get-it-done-type guy,” Tate, 52, said. “Our mantra is roll up our sleeves and figure a way to get it done if it makes sense.”
Tate said he and his crew were able to quickly solve the logistical part of the problem when it began pursuing the project in 2016. The tough part, he said, was finding financing. It took the bulk of the next three years in order to convince banks to provide Tate with a $6 million loan to fund the project.
“Technically, that was the easy part,” Tate said. “The challenge was how do you tell a bank to put fiber in the ground and they can’t see that asset? It’s just a different type of animal. But when you put the numbers down and see the projections we’re looking at, it’s a game-changer.”
The fiber-optic ring has slowly gained traction, currently servicing about 50 residential and commercial clients.
“If we have a technical issue, whether it’s upgrades or troubleshooting, they’re right there with us,” said Adam Ferrell, IT director at BridgeValley Community and Technical College. “It’s great to have somebody local to work with and be able to contact if you have an issue.”