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Published: Monday, 12/27/2004

Findlay firm offers computer services for multiple tasks

Lynn Child, John Haughawout, and Sean Burke, from left, reflect on the data center at CentraComm Communications Ltd., a computer networking and security provider. Lynn Child, John Haughawout, and Sean Burke, from left, reflect on the data center at CentraComm Communications Ltd., a computer networking and security provider.

FINDLAY In 2001, when businesses in the Findlay area sought someone to provide the area with computer networking and security services, they were left wanting.

The problem, said Lynn Child, head of a telecommunications infrastructure committee for Findlay s economic development coalition, was the area was the wrong size.

The small guys didn t understand the vision and the big guys said there s not enough business here to justify the investment, said Ms. Child, co-owner of Aardvark Inc., a successful Web services firm in Findlay.

Clearly, if you want something done right, you do it yourself, she thought. So, with the backing of a few key investors, including her husband, Jim, Ms. Child launched CentraComm Communications Ltd. It provides Internet, computer security, and consulting services to businesses in Hancock County and elsewhere.

We now have clients in China, as well as Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, and other states, said Sean Burke, the company s head of marketing.

Ms. Child, chief executive, was both a faculty member and in charge of alternative course work (classes via the Internet, DVDs, and other media) at Rhodes College in Lima, Ohio, before she and her husband purchased Aardvark in 1996. She said it was never her intention to start a telecommunications firm. But the area needed it, she said.

The big communities had a lot of companies providing those services, but a community like Findlay didn t have them. We were afraid we were going to be left behind, she said.

The investors provided startup money to build a data center full of computer network machines that could fill the computing and Internet needs of big or small companies. CentraComm provides services to large firms, like a Fortune 500 manufacturer, and to small ones like the Findlay YMCA.

Starting with one client and a technician, the company has grown in three years to $1.5 million in annual revenues and eight employees, she said. About 20 more investors have put equity into it, and its list of clients has expanded to include hospitals, school systems, and small businesses throughout northwest Ohio.

It has developed high-speed Internet services, managed security to prevent computer attacks, provided consulting, and offered to host networks, email accounts, and data.

Kevin Kempton, marketing director for U.S. Plastic Corp., a Lima, Ohio, maker of plastic tubing, packaging, bottles, and other items, said his firm made a significant investment in a Web site four years ago. When he wanted to enhance it, he first looked at national firms, then at CentraComm.

They are a very impressive company for this area, he said. They have exceeded our expectations at every pass.

Helping CentraComm s financial picture is no large customer turnover. For the industry, such turnover is about 2 percent of customers, but the local company has lost fewer than 10, Mr. Burke said.

Ms. Child conceded she didn t know a lot about the telecommunications industry before starting CentraComm.

However, once you understand the basics of business a marketing plan, a financial plan you can apply those to another industry. As long as you have a clear focus of where you want to go, you can succeed provided you have support and the right people in place. They make all the difference, she said.

Contact Jon Chavez at: jchavez@theblade.com or 419-724-6128.

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