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Equipped for growth: Telecommunications firm expands Grand Junction operation

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Not yet a year after moving into a three-story warehouse along East Main Street in Grand Junction, Teltech Communications has nearly packed the place full of telecommunications equipment in various stages of assembly and disassembly.

Large metal cabinets housing the electronics that make cellular telephones work line up in row and after row. Components stack high on shelving that reaches to the ceilings. Wiring and circuit boards sorted for recycling stuff cardboard boxes. About 60 percent of the equipment processed here is taken apart, sorted into various material categories and recycled. The remaining 40 percent is refurbished, tested and shipped out for installation in wireless networks.

As wireless carriers upgrade their networks, business increases by nearly every metric for the 14-year-old Colorado company, says John McIlveen, senior vice president of operations. “It’s been an extremely high growth rate the last couple of years.”

Teltech moved into the 154,000 square foot warehouse in September, bringing the company’s combined warehouse capacity in Grand Junction to nearly 200,000 square feet,

: John McIlveen, senior vice president of operations for Teltech Communications, oversees a growing operation in Grand Junction recycling and refurbishing telecommunications equipment. Teltech is a year into a four-project processing equipment for Sprint as that company upgrades 33,000 cellular telephone sites nationwide. (Business Times photo by Phil Castle)

a 10-fold increase over just four four years ago.

The Teltech payroll has ballooned almost four fold over the past 18 months to 127, the majority of that staffing in Grand Junction, McIlveen says.

The primary impetus behind the rapid growth has been a contract to process equipment for Sprint as that company installs 4G equipment in its network of 33,000 cellular telephone sites across the United States. Shorthand for the

fourth-generation in the evolution of mobile communication standards, 4G offers faster Internet service on mobile devices.

“Sprint is a long-term and priority customer,” says Kelley Church-Bontempo, a founding owner of Teltech. “Our relationship with Sprint is a true partnership that allows both companies to receive mutual benefits and value.”

A year into what’s expected to be a four-year project, the bulk of the old equipment at the Sprint cell sites now comes through Grand Junction for recycling or refurbishing and reallocation, McIlveen says. He estimates a 100,000 cabinets from those sites will be processed. While Teltech initially was supposed to handle only about 20 percent of the project, Sprint subsequently contracted with the company to take on all of the work, he says.

It’s a reflection of the track record Teltech has established since it was founded in 1999, he says.

Church-Bontempo and Lisa Hanlon founded Teltech, which operates administrative offices in Eagle. Church-Bontempo and Hanlon worked at a privately held telecommunications company before launching their own venture together.

What started out as a small operation selling equipment out of a garage has grown substantially since then, says McIlveen, who joined the operation at the suggestion of Hanlon, his sister.

Teltech now offers a range of products and services to the telecommunications industry, including a variety of new and refurbished equipment as well as various engineering, management and field services. Teltech also offers distribution and logistics services to still other customers, McIlveen says.

Teltech evaluates used equipment to determine if it should be refurbished and installed elsewhere or scrapped and recycled. Refurbished equipment is sometimes sold to other clients who realize a savings in purchasing used equipment.

Teltech has earned a number of important designations that have contributed to growth, McIlveen says, including TL 9000-ISO 9001 certification for quality management systems and controls for the telecommunications industry. Teltech also is certified as a Native American and woman-owned business and recently earned the R2/RIOS certification for electronics recycling. The recycling designation was important for the Sprint project, McIlveen says, because of Sprint corporate policies and its commitment that no equipment be disposed of in landfills or shipped overseas.

While Teltech quickly increased staffing to handle the Sprint project, McIlveen says he expects current payrolls to remain steady. But the company could experience additional growth in contracting for similar work with other wireless carriers, he adds.

In the meantime, Teltech has further diversified its operation by launching a venture to provide wireless cellular field services supported by a formal training program focusing on military veterans and Native Americans. Based in Dallas, GrayWolves Telecom has scheduled its initial training session for August, Hanlon says.

Hanlon says she expects rapid growth in the venture given the contracts and relationships Teltech has developed with wireless carriers and original equipment manufacturers.

And given efforts under way to upgrade wireless networks, it’s estimated the industry faces a shortfall of 10,000 field workers, she adds.

Because of the potentially hazardous work, travel and specialized training involved, the jobs represent a good fit for veterans who’ve completed military service, she says. “Teltech and GrayWolves are committed to strong business growth with a bias towards supporting our returning service members who have given so much to allow our American dream to come true.”

Phil Castle is editor of the Grand Valley Business Times, a twice-monthly business journal published in Grand Junction. Castle brings to his duties nearly 30 years of experience in editorial management positions with Western Colorado newspapers. In addition, his free-lance work has appeared in a variety of publications, including the Washington Post. He holds a bachelor's degree in technical journalism from Colorado State University.
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