PROGRESS 2019: Securing spinoff success
Data company starts as IT department, becomes full-fledged business
ALPENA — It can be easier said than done for start-up companies to open, become successful, and expand in rural communities like Northeast Michigan, but one tech company in Alpena is doing just that.
Over the last several years, 1010 Technology Center Inc. has grown from a business spinoff of Panel Processing, designed to handle that company’s data needs, to working with other businesses and municipalities around the region.
President of Panel Processing Inc. Eric Smith said 1010 Technology, which takes its name from its address on U.S.-23, was incorporated in 2013. From there, however, it began attracting new customers for data services and system design, installation, and maintenance.
“Panel operates 12 plants in six different states, and we ended up building a very robust IT department to service that,” Smith said. “What we had was a department that was sitting there waiting between projects, so we decided to provide services out in the local community to keep it busy all the time. We also needed a data center because we were operating out of an old office closet that we outgrew, so we built a data center and we take care of the entire company from right here. We also made it big enough to where we can service many other companies the size of Panel Processing.”
Vice President of Technology and CEO Doug Chroninger said the company handles more than just data storage and security. He said it fabricates complete phone and computer networks. Chroninger said customers like 1010 because it offers multiple services individually or as a package.
“We are basically one-stop shopping and same-day service, and it was driven by our customers’ requests,” Chroninger said. “We were continually referring them elsewhere, and they were getting frustrated. We decided to bring everything they need in-house, and now we can serve them correctly.”
So far, the staff consists of seven employees, including six network administrators and an office administrator.
Smith said 1010 Technology has an advantage over other tech companies because, not only does it provide a more well-rounded portfolio of products and services, but it also has a wider range of staff.
“The best way to describe managed services in northern Michigan is that there are a lot of one-man shops that provide service,” Smith said. “Some of them are very talented individuals, but they are one-man shops, so, when they are busy with a project, they can’t get to another. That is our competition, primarily.”
Chroninger said 1010 works with municipalities, school systems, and businesses of all sizes and type.
He said the company is looking at ways to expand out of the region and draw and service customers from other parts of the state. The goal, he said, is to service all of northern Michigan.
Smith said there could be opportunities to open more data and service centers, as well.
“Panel Processing has purchased a lot of businesses over the years, and we could acquire businesses that fold into this one, with new brick-and-mortar locations,” he said. “Right now, we aren’t really close on anything, but we are having ongoing discussions and bidding on some projects outside of our current market that would require us to take that step if we are awarded them.”