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Economic decline actually helps firm grow rapidly

Company opens new HQ

RIDGELAND — Most companies find it more difficult to thrive during a downturn in the economy. That makes the growth of Prism Pointe Technology (PPT), which just opened new headquarters in Ridgeland, all the more remarkable. In just 10 months the company has been able to expand to provide information technology (IT) services around the globe in 150 countries and in all 50 states.

Clients include both public sector agencies and private entities including Fortune 500 companies and federal, state and local governments. Through strategic partnerships PPT has access to about 1,000 IT professionals throughout the world who can provide on-site assistance to customers.

It is partly because of — instead of in spite of-the economy that PPT is doing well.

“A measurable part of success is impacted by the weak economy,” said Cliff King, CEO of PPT. “Three or four years ago large enterprises or corporate entities were on an 18- to 24-month refresh schedule. They would refresh all computers, networks and server technology on a 24-month schedule. With the current economy and frugalness of Fortune 1000 companies, there are no refresh schedules. Really no one is buying huge roll out quantities of technology today. That means most companies are keeping equipment beyond the original manufacturer’s warranty.”

There are literally hundreds of thousands of pieces of equipment in business and government that are no longer under warranty. PPT’s key niche offering is on-site post warranty, desktop, network, printer and IT infrastructure services.

On July 18 PPT held a ribbon-cutting for its new 15,000-square-foot headquarters on Center Street in Ridgeland. Also during July PPT opened offices in 11 different locations in Germany and in McLean, Va. That McLean office is serving as its sales center and call center for domestic and foreign U.S. government clients. Earlier this year PPT opened offices in Washington D.C., Atlanta, Ga., and Charlotte, N.C.

A large portion of the privately held company’s business is government contracts for the Department of Defense serving U.S. Army locations in all 50 states, Korea, Japan, Germany, Guam, Spain, Italy, Belgium and the United Kingdom. PPT has used strategic alliances to provide IT service personnel in such wide-ranging geographic locations.

“One thing that sets us apart is our ability to put a technician just about anywhere in world,” said Mark Dendinger, CFOCOO of PPT. “With 99% of calls, we physically put a technician on site. We get calls on a weekly basis to service operations in places as far-flung as El Salvador, Egypt, Bosnia and Mali, Africa.”

In addition to the call center in McLean, PPT has a second call center based in London that handles the company’s non-U.S. government customers throughout Europe and Asia.

How has PPT been able to accomplish so much in less than a year?

“Working 36-hour days, seven days a week,” jokes Dendinger. “Seriously, though, we do work a lot of hours. We have made a lot of right decisions and added people in the right places. Our service speaks for itself. Our reputation is sterling.”

Dendinger said the company’s business-pricing model is truly unique and not offered by many of the IT service companies today. The pricing models give customers a number they can use to accurately forecast and budget.

“It is a utility pricing model,” Dendinger said. “You pay as you go just as if you were flipping a light switch. Our customers don’t have to pay anything unless they use our service. We are available to provide that service, depending on how the contract is structured, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. five days a week, or 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

The company is able to provide that breadth of coverage because of some strategic partnerships put in place prior to opening the company.

“That allowed us from day one to truly offer a nationwide coast-to-coast on-site service offering,” King said. “And then we went international. We did that through partnerships and acquisitions.”

Ridgeland was selected as the headquarters because “it is where our roots are,” King said.

“Secondly, there is a huge reservoir of talented, experienced IT professionals in this town,” King said. “One of the biggest pitfalls of any IT company is attrition. There seems to be a high attrition rate with employees in the IT field. They come in with certain skill levels, improve their certifications and knowledge, and then move on. Mid-level to executive-level IT professionals only stay on the job two years or less on average. We find the people who are here in Jackson want to stay in Jackson. So we don’t have that high an attrition rate. When we want to fill a vacancy, we have large pool of candidates to choose from.”

Currently 32 people are employed at the Ridgeland office, with the work force expected to expand to 50 by the end of August. PPT doesn’t foresee difficulty in hiring trained IT professionals to fill the gap.

PPT works on lower profit margin in Mississippi than elsewhere in the world.

“We work on higher profit margin on the East Coast and the West Coast,” King said. “We blend all that back in so we can provide a much better pricing structure for our local clients.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Becky Gillette at bgillette@bellsouth.net.


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