Burlington based MS Gold Partner says business is really looking up

As mentioned by Dave Burke, the local paper, Burlington Free Press has this story in their Business Monday section about Competitive Computing. This is where SQL guru Roman Rehak works. The Free Press does not persist its articles for over a week so I am copying and pasting it into my blog. All copyrights etc  Burlington Free Press. Interestingly, what C2 says kept it afloat after the dot com bubble burst was to focus on local (i.e. vermont state area) businesses.

Boom to bust and back again

 By Shawn Turner
Free Press Staff Writer

COLCHESTER — Competitive Computing Inc. is hoping the days of scrimping and saving are over.

The Web-site builder was forced back into its shell following the tech collapse in 2001. Forty percent of the 75-person staff was laid off. Salaries had to be cut. A paid internship program with the University of Vermont was halted. The company refrained from buying new equipment.

Now business appears to be picking up. This fall, the company — known as C2 — completed Web-site redesigns for Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc. and glassware and pottery seller Simon Pearce Inc.

C2 had not worked with either company before, said Steve Thurlow, C2’s vice president of business development. Green Mountain Coffee in Waterbury and Simon Pearce in Windsor wanted to work with a Vermont company, and each initiated contacted with C2. The companies also liked the technical knowledge of C2’s workers.

Half of the 54-person staff at C2 is Microsoft-certified, Thurlow said, “which puts them at the top of the Microsoft skill set.”

C2 President Carolyn Edwards said she has noticed a change in how companies are implementing technology. During the tech-boom years, companies knew they needed to be up to date tech-wise, but didn’t always know how to integrate technology into the business, she said. Today, companies take more time in planning how to integrate business plans with technology.

“There is pent-up demand for technology,” Edwards said.

She might be right. Former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich said in October that Vermont’s technology sector is likely to see a reawakening during the next 10 years.

“Tech is here to stay,” Edwards said.

The work C2 did in cementing its reputation in the local business community helped the company outlast the slowdown, Thurlow said.

“It’s a way of fueling growth,” Thurlow said. “There are a lot of opportunities in Vermont.
Surviving


C2 had its start in 1993 and began doing Web development in 1996. Since 2000, C2 has occupied 15,000 square feet of office space on Mountain View Drive, which provides stunning views of Burlington and Lake Champlain. It’s a far cry from Edwards’ South Burlington condo that the four founders — Melissa Dever, Todd Kelley and Martin Thieret and Edwards, executives at Digital Equipment Corp., which closed its Vermont manufacturing plant in 1993 — used in the first months following C2’s launch.

The company comprises four parts: Web-hosting; building infrastructure services for clients, including e-mail systems; building Web sites; and consulting with clients on how to use technology to support a business strategy.

 

The company survived the lean years, in part, by relying on its Vermont customers, Edwards said.

“Stay focused on the future and manage your expenses very carefully,” she said, when asked how best to get through rough economic times. “Focus on good quality.”

Community connections, like Edwards’ membership on the boards of the Greater Burlington Industrial Corp. and Vermont Business Roundtable, also helped.

Involvement with the local business community has helped the company’s visibility, Thurlow said. Most of C2’s 30 to 40 clients are in Vermont. The close-to-home clients aided in sustaining C2 during the slow economic years. C2’s reputation in Vermont helped it compete with out-of-state businesses that were looking at adding Vermont customers.

“You need to own your local market,” Thurlow said.

One of the local clients C2 has worked with is the University of Vermont’s College of Medicine. The company helped UVM develop a template that allowed groups within the university to build Web pages that would have a consistent look with UVM’s homepage, said Ted Winfield, who was senior associate dean for finance with the College of Medicine when the template was built.

C2 also helped develop the college’s COMET program that was put in place in 2003. COMET — which stands for College of Medicine Educational Tools — is an online system that provides medical students access to educational resources, said Michael Caputo, director of information systems at the College of Medicine.

“It’s been an effective partnership and Competitive Computing has been very helpful,” said Winfield, associate vice president for budget and resource management at UVM.
The future


Edwards, who declined to reveal company revenues, is “absolutely” optimistic about the company’s future.

C2, which began doing such work as helping bank branch offices network with a home office, will continue to adapt to whichever way the fast-changing world of technology goes next.

“We live in a world where our knowledge base turns over every nine to 12 months,” she said.

With the tech sector recovering, Thurlow said C2 is setting its sights beyond Vermont’s borders. The company has done business with out-of-state companies — including Hershey Foods Corp.’s Hershey Gifts — but would like to add to its list of non-Vermont clients.

Helping C2 expand nationally is Microsoft, of which C2 is a “Gold Partner.” This means the software giant helps C2 with marketing and filters referrals to C2. Hershey Gifts was referred to C2 through Microsoft.

The company doesn’t want to forget about its home state. Thurlow said C2 plans to host a series of business seminars that would advise businesses on how to intertwine technology with operations.

The company is beginning to hire again after employment dropped to 45 from a high-water employment mark of 75 in 2000.

“We could be hiring in the springtime,” Edwards said. “That could be a point for us. Our plan is to grow.”
Contact Shawn Turner at 660-1852 or
[email protected]rlingtonfreepress.com 

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