Little I/T with Huge Reach
This high-growth small business in Wetumpka provides a window on the powerful information technology hub surrounding Montgomery. Most recently, Information Transport Solutions landed a contract for network services for the Airbus aircraft assembly plant in Mobile.
Competing against global players, ITS won the contract to network the new Airbus plant in Mobile, which delivered its first plane into commercial service earlier this year.
Photo courtesy of Airbus
Sure, Wetumpka is home to the glitzy Wind Creek Casino and Hotel that attracts gamblers and dreamers, the lucky and the not-so-lucky every year. But this city of nearly 8,000 residents is also the headquarters of a home-grown I/T company that is succeeding in the competitive, high-stakes global telecommunications arena.
Information Transport Solutions Inc. (ITS) specializes in providing technology solutions such as voice over internet (VoIP), wireless network and managed network services, video conferencing, internet access and world wide networks for clients in industries ranging from financial institutions and state and local government to manufacturing and education.
“We can provide a managed, hosted service to customers, whether it’s for telecom and WAN (Wide Area Networks) or infrastructure solutions,” says ITS CEO Steve Meany, “or a firewall, or disaster recovery solutions or just a simple wiring solution in a building.”
Named as one of Inc. Magazine’ 5000 fastest growing private companies in the United States from 2007 through 2011, today ITS serves customers in not only Alabama, but also in Georgia, Mississippi and Florida. Its biggest market has been the K-12 schools, says Meany, who joined the company in 2013.
Two years ago, for example, ITS won a three-year Telecommunications & Internet Access Services contract to work with the Alabama Department of Education’s K-12 Joint Purchasing Information Technology Program. The agreement allows public schools, as well as public libraries throughout the state, to use ITS telecom and internet access services directly rather than having to seek out separate agreements.
ITS won a contract this year to install high-speed fiber internet in every school and the central office in the Liberty County public school system in Florida.
“To this day,” says Meany, “K-12 schools are the underpinning of this company. Our second biggest market is higher education and state and local governments. Our commercial business is moving along at a pretty good rate as well.”
ITS has about 100 employees. They include trained technicians, as well as I/T and customer support professionals, Meany says.
The company has a satellite office in Mobile, says Meany, and in February, ITS held a ribbon cutting for its new network operation center inside the RSA Datacenter in Montgomery to be closer to many of its government and commercial clients. It was just one of ITS’ latest moves to help grow the company.
Over the last several years, ITS executives have made trips to Europe for the Paris and Farnborough International air shows to network with companies connected with the aerospace industry.
“We’re trying to make sure our presence is known among the many aerospace companies and manufacturers,” he says.
A major payoff came after the aircraft manufacturer Airbus announced that it would build a $600 million assembly plant in Mobile in 2014. Airbus picked ITS the following year for a lucrative Cisco contract to provide network components and integration for the Airbus A320 aircraft assembly plant with the equipment needed for wireless and fixed port video teleconferencing and IP telephony, as well as services such as project management and logistics.
“It was very significant,” says Meany. “We were competing against global companies that were vying for that business, as well as national and even regional companies.”
ITS serviced Airbus through its satellite office in Mobile and put backup redundancy in place at its headquarters in Wetumpka, he says.
More recently, ITS has played a supporting role in the development of the new Montgomery Internet Exchange (MIX) that opened in January.
Montgomery County, along with the city of Montgomery, several research universities, Maxwell Gunter Air Force Base and the Air Force’s new Cyber War College, led the effort to develop the data hub that promises faster internet service to the region. The data hub is the first in Alabama and just the fourth one located in the Southeast. Its servers are located inside the Retirement Systems of Alabama (RSA) Datacenter in Montgomery. Service providers like CenturyLink, Troy Cablevision Inc. and Camellia Communications are among the exchange members.
“We helped provide technical support for the exchange,” says Meany. “We’ll continue making sure the service providers and other stakeholders that want to connect will have the ability to connect to it, and we’ll provide the support and services for the exchange itself.”
Wetumpka native Tomi Selby founded ITS in 1993 to offer technology services to small businesses. Five years later, in 1998, she incorporated the company.
Prior to establishing ITS, Selby had worked several years with the U.S. Department of Defense on projects to connect military troops with mainframe computers in the United States during Operation Desert Storm.
“She delivers,” Meany says. “I saw her do that when she was a civil servant, and I’ve seen her do it as she built this company, and it’s truly amazing. She is an engineer at heart and by training.”
Early in his career, Meany, a graduate of Auburn University at Montgomery, worked as an analyst, provider relations specialist and engineer at Electronic Data Systems (EDS) for six years, focusing on Medicaid contracts in Georgia and Connecticut. He later landed a job on a U.S. Air Force Unified Local Area Network Architecture (ULANA) contract as an analyst and engineer. He also worked nearly two decades with Cisco Systems as a regional manager, account manager and operation director.
When Meany joined ITS in 2013, the company transitioned from an owner-operator model to an executive model. Quincy Minor, who had worked at ITS since 2003, became the company’s COO. Today he is also the company’s president. Jeff Drury is the CFO.
“We’ve had several straight years of profitable growth,” says Meany. “Our projections support more years of that profitable growth and so we’ve been very fortunate and we’ve had customers that we have worked with for years.”
Selby has continued to provide leadership to the company since ITS switched to the executive model, Meany says.
“Our vision is to continue growing and in a profitable growth manner and to continue investing in the markets and the solutions that are enabling the technology that we all enjoy in our everyday lives,” he says.
But even with the growth, the company has no plans to move its headquarters out of Wetumpka.
“Wetumpka many times isn’t thought of as a technology leader,” says Meany, “but it really is. When you think about the development going on in Montgomery and about the technology community in Montgomery — and a lot of those people live in the River Region area and many of them in Elmore County — we’re very fortunate. We have an incredible quality of life here and a great cost of living in Elmore County. So there’s no reason for us to move.”
Gail Short is a freelance contributor to Business Alabama. She is based in Birmingham.