Brookhaven — Riding the wave of success is the easy part. What can be more difficult is battening down the hatches when a downturn in business appears on the horizon.
Southern Diversified Technologies (SDT), a telecommunications infrastructure service provider in Brookhaven with more than 160 employees, weathered the downturn in the industry and is poised to take advantage of the present rebound.
“We saw the bubble coming six months to a year before it burst,” said Charlie Smith, CEO of Southern Diversified Technologies. “We were slashing every which way, and a lot of competitors thought we were nuts. But had we not done that, we would have been among the casualties. We cut way back, tucked our heads in and waited for the turnaround. It is starting to pay huge dividends for us. Our clients are outsourcing work now that they have never outsourced before.”
SDT Inc. has been a provider of specialty contracting services to telecommunications providers throughout the country since 1994. Smith said the company provides a comprehensive range of telecommunications infrastructure services, including engineering and technical services, placement of coaxial, copper and fiber optic cable for either aerial or underground facilities, the installation of integrated voice, data, video and local and wide area networks within buildings, as well as similar services to the wireless communications industry.
The late 1990s saw a boom in companies providing telecommunications infrastructure services. The marketplace was crowded, and some companies were inexperienced and produced inferior work. A downturn loomed.
Connecting that last mile
While there is still a perception on Wall Street that there is an oversupply of fiber optic cable in certain places in the U.S., plenty of work remains. Smith said the fiber capacity was built from city-to-city, but it never went anywhere. In many areas, it didn’t reach people’s homes and offices, what is called “the last-mile build-out” to provide access for high-speed Internet services.
“What is happening now is the last-mile build-out has begun,” Smith said. “The consumer absolutely demands these services. Our clients have to build to them to retain their customers. They have no choice.”
A solid team
Smith said his company is well positioned now to get a share of the work because of its experience and track record for quality work.
“Our entire team goes way back,” Smith said. “The company formed in 1994, but I had two other similar companies that I sold in 1997 and 1998. At one time, we had three companies operating in the same line of business.”
Business is so busy now that SDT’s biggest challenge is finding experienced telecom employees. A lot of telecom workers left the industry during the downturn, and some will never come back.
“We have three recruiters working full time and would like to add another 100 to 150 employees by the year’s end if we can find them,” Smith said. “We need all kinds of employees ranging from construction workers to transport engineers working inside the central offices.”
Meeting customer demand
SDT’s services include providing outside plant construction, physically constructing communications infrastructure that is outside of the central office; outside plant design services; fiber splicing services; inside plant design services; and structured cabling that includes installation or removal of equipment and wiring within the walls of a building.
“With technological changes occurring such as VoIP (voice over Internet protocol) and higher demand for broadband, there is an increasing need for ISP construction services,” Smith said.
The company also provides asset management services. Smith said with technological changes and consolidation among carriers taking place within the industry, an increasing surplus of equipment is beginning to accumulate amongst the major communication providers.
“We provide the resources to manage these assets and sell or properly dispose of them for the carriers,” he said.
Wireless infrastructure services are also in increasing demand. The wireless infrastructure industry includes all work involved with constructing and maintaining wireless networks. SDT also has extensive experience in all aspects of real estate services as related to the communications industry and has major contracts in hand that provide for a continuing and increasing revenue stream for the company. The company also provides staffing assignments.
Contact MBJ contributing writer Becky Gillette at firstname.lastname@example.org.