Acquisition to be 'rocket fuel' for growth for iTech IT firm
Jan 30, 2013 (Savannah Morning News - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
George Powers is no tech visionary.
Unlike so many 20th-century business leaders, though, he did recognize technology's value when it stared him in the face.
Powers' American Ports Services was among the first logistics providers to incorporate information technology into its warehouse management system back in the 1990s. And as more and more small and medium-sized businesses began utilizing IT -- thereby driving demand for IT services -- Powers spun off his own IT services firm.
He created iTech for Business in 2002 and following his sale of American Ports Service in 2005 built iTech into one of the area's most successful service providers.
Come Thursday, he will sell the company to regional communications giant Hargray for an undisclosed yet significant amount. Hargray announced the deal last week.
"I felt like I'd grown it and nurtured it to a point where I'd done all I could do with it," said Powers. "It was teed up for a bigger company with bigger vision and bigger capital."
Growth spurt ahead
Hargray executives view the acquisition of iTech as a value-added move to benefit its customers.
The company has an internal IT department and won't use iTech's services for its own network. Instead, Hargray will offer iTech's "managed services" as part of the packages it sells to business customers. Hargray bills itself as a "triple-play provider," meaning it sells Internet, cable television and telephone services.
Managed services include everything from network management and wireless infrastructure to system backup and video surveillance.
The reach of iTech fits with Hargray's long-term growth vision. Hargray expanded into Savannah last year, offering fiber optic cable services downtown, and would like to grow its reach on this side of the Savannah River. Many Savannah businesses are iTech customers.
Additionally, iTech serves customers around the region, including the Atlanta, Jacksonville and Columbia areas.
Hargray utilizes fiber optic cables, as well as the more traditional coaxial lines. Fiber optic services are considered a high-growth market because fiber optic cable is smaller, lighter, transmits data faster and is not subject to electrical interference.
"Bringing our network and customer service to bear is rocket fuel for iTech," Hargray Vice President Andrew Rein said. "We have very high hopes that iTech will grow significantly."
Slow and steady wins
Powers took the tortoise approach over the hare in iTech's growth.
He hired the top employees of a failed IT company in starting iTech. The company focused almost all its time and resources on American Ports' business the first few years.
When Powers and his partners -- his brothers Andrew and Joseph -- sold the logistics company in 2005, iTech was excluded from the sale. Powers stayed on with American Ports for a year to ease the transition while plotting iTech's strategy.
Meanwhile, an engineer Powers hired in 2005 as his vice president of business development, Alastair Fisher, was priming the business. The company built its client base significantly beginning in 2006. The recession resulted in "real tough times" but Powers elected to persevere.
Business picked up again in 2010, and Powers named Fisher as iTech's president.
Hargray's expansion into Savannah last year exposed iTech to the telecommunications provider. The companies have similar visions -- to be on the leading edge of technology -- and Hargray's leadership eventually approached Powers about acquiring the company and its 20-person staff.
"We have a group, especially the president, that has a great vision for the future of technology, and Hargray recognized that," Powers said. "We're always looking for the next wave of technology that will be beneficial to customers. Hargray is forward-thinking as well and saw that synergy."
One employee not part of the sale is Powers. He plans a "short hiatus" but already admits he's eyeing a handful of business opportunities that may come to fruition "sooner rather than later."
His next venture won't be another IT company but will have a "technology aspect" to it.
"I'm proof of the benefits of investing significantly in technology," he said. "Those investments allowed me to grow one company (American Port Services) into one of the biggest ones out there. You can't have success these days, no matter how small a business you are, without embracing technology."
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