IT Firms Grow, Create Jobs in Southeast Alabama
Southeast Alabama is attracting new IT firms with the region's fiber optic network and location.
Screaming fast, redundant networks are not just for big cities anymore.
Troy Cablevision Inc. is Southeast Alabama’s fastest-growing communications company. It recently completed a major network upgrade, adding more than 650 miles of fiber to its existing infrastructure, resulting in unprecedented speeds for both urban and rural business as well as residential customers. According to Troy Cable President Dick Freeman, residential customers can opt for Gigabit speed now versus 10-30 Megabits before the upgrade, a very noticeable difference, while business customers can get a direct, nonshared connection of anywhere from 10 Megabits up to 1 Gigabit.
The network upgrade was made possible by a $26 million American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant and matched Troy Cable funds, which financed the Southeast Alabama SmartBand Project. The project didn’t just provide faster connection speeds, although speed is a big selling point to any business or household, the fiber build-out also allowed Troy Cable to build a redundant network. This means that if Troy’s connection to the Atlanta or Dallas hubs goes down, customers won’t notice any disruption in service. The same is true of the company’s internal network, as Troy Cable has redundant head ends for broadband services, one in Troy and the other in Dothan.
“If there’s a major catastrophe in one, the other would continue to operate normally,” Freeman says. “The fiber infrastructure between cities and towns is a redundant network that continues to function. In the event that a cut takes place, it’s simply fed from the opposite direction.”
Businesses in the region are benefiting from the upgraded network. In fact, it is helping drive economic development in the region. Several Troy Cable customers in Southeast Alabama are in expansion mode. These include Southern Classic Foods, which is adding more than 50,000 square feet and hiring an additional 40 to 45 workers in Pike County, and Lockheed Martin, which is expanding its facilities in the region and will hire approximately 200 employees. Schools and other anchor institutions have benefited from the upgrade as well.
“All schools in our network have high-speed data and approximately 700 anchor institutions’ have high-speed network access, including all of the rural fire protection districts. I’m proud that Troy Cable is able to bring low-latency, high-speed services to Southeast Alabama, typically only delivered to much larger communities,” Freeman says. “This is an investment not only in our network, but in the quality of life for people of this region.”
Center of Excellence
Enhancements to the region’s high-speed network also make it more attractive for IT firms. CGI, a global IT company with 68,000 professionals, operates an IT Services Delivery Center in Troy. The center’s 330 employees provide a variety of application development and managed business services for CGI’s industry and government clients.
Most employees are from Alabama, says George Tarbox, the center’s director. Tarbox, who transferred from Birmingham to help open the center, is pleased with the quality of workers in Southeast Alabama.
“Many of those folks are local, so they’re either from Troy or Pike County,” he says. “There is a strong talent pool in this region of Alabama.”
Many of the center’s clients are in the financial services sector.
“For example, we have more than 90 professionals working on application development and maintenance, and production support for a large financial services client in the secondary mortgage market,” Tarbox says.
CGI does a good deal of its human resources support and recruiting through talented professionals based in Troy, says Linda Odorisio, vice president of U.S. communications for CGI.
“There is a rich talent pool in the area, and while the needs of our clients come first, we’re thrilled that CGI can also tap into that local talent for its own internal operations,” she says.
Other tech firms with presence in the region include SAIC, a provider of technical, engineering and enterprise information technology services to government institutions, and General Dynamics Information Technology, which provides IT services to Fort Rucker.