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Telkore Gains Altitude in Cell Tower Industry With Turnkey Approach

Telkore

Ric Wilson, a 22-year Marine veteran, founded Telkore as a turnkey cell phone tower operation that acquires the land, develops the construction plans, erects the tower, adapts it to the current technology and even manages the site.

Before you ask people to spend their workday dangling 300 feet in the air from a cell phone tower, there are two basic requirements. First, you have to earn their trust. Second, you have to treat them right.

That’s the philosophy that Telkore founder Ric Wilson brings to his 4-year-old business, which is gaining, er, new heights as it climbs the ranks in a very specialized field. Wilson, a 22-year Marine veteran, started the Mechanicsburg business after he left a previous employer who, he believed, was not meeting those basic requirements.

“My time as a Marine taught me to be part of the solution, not the problem. I quit my old job, developed a business plan, put it in my back pocket and started going from bank to bank to get started,” Wilson says.

A Turnkey Operation

Telkore differs from many competitors in that it is a full-service cell tower firm–a turnkey operation that acquires the land, erects the tower, adapts it to the current technology and even manages the site. His efforts led him to the Capitol Region Economic Development Corporation, which introduced him to the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Central/Northern Pennsylvania (BFTP).

Wilson said BFTP’s $250,000 investment was critical to his efforts to get his operation off the ground. “It was very important. We were in our second year, a time when most companies don’t get a glance by investors because they haven’t proven themselves yet,” he says. Telkore used the funds to hire the employees needed to take on a growing workload.

Telkore has expanded to 18 employees. All but two actually work in the field, including Kate Procopio, originally hired as the company lawyer, who is one of only 13 certified women climbers in the nation. Wilson said Procopio originally came on board to handle legal and site acquisition work, but in those early days, he realized there just wasn’t enough work to sustain her as a full-time lawyer.

“BFTP’s investment was critical. We were in our second year, a time when most companies don’t even get a glance by investors.” —RIC WILSON, FOUNDER, TELKORE

“I told Kate we had to find more for her to do, and she said ‘I want to climb.’ I did not want it to be a gimmick, so I told her she had to become one of the best in the business. We went out and got her certified to climb as well as all the first aid classes and other skills she needed,” Wilson says.

Moving into New Markets

The wireless industry and technology have changed so much in the past decade–and continue to change–that Telkore has no shortage of business. But Telkore is also moving into new arenas created by industry demand. The company now works with other contractors to teach them the AT&T national standards for cell tower construction and maintenance. Telkore focuses on quality and currently works for several companies inspecting cellular installations.

The company is well positioned to adapt to changing needs as well as changing technology. The advent of WiFi, iPods and other devices that have broadened the wireless spectrum also keep demand high.

“Technology is changing almost faster than we can keep up with,” says Wilson. “For instance, we are upgrading systems we installed just last year because the technology has changed.”

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This article was featured in
Keynotes October, 2008
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