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They forged ahead during a rough economy

By MEGAN GOLDSCHMIDT

John Purcell and Frank Chiaino had just started Fibertech, a metro area fiber-optics company, when the stock market crashed in 2001 and the Internet bubble burst.
 
"We no sooner got funded and under way when the technology meltdown occurred, so at that point you kind of scratch your head and say, ‘What great timing,’" says Chiaino, Fibertech president.
 
They opted to pour their energy into education and enterprise. Now in their 12th year guiding Fibertech, both men see only growth for their company.
 
Purcell, CEO, says the two met years ago when Purcell worked for Frontier Communications and Chiaino for Time Warner Cable. When he retired in 1996, Chiaino saw an opportunity to supply fiber technology to second-tier markets, where demand for bandwidth was increasing. He approached Purcell, who had retired from Frontier, to consult on his business plan and ended up asking him to be CEO.
 
"Frank was mature enough to basically hire his boss, and for 12 years that’s how we’ve done it," Purcell says. "He does all the operation, design and construction. The financial people and marketing and sales report to me. The interesting and fun thing is we have a great partnership."
 
The firm provides fiber-optic infrastructure and has grown from five employees to 250, bringing in revenue of $140 million a year in 23 midsize markets in the eastern and central U.S. Customers are hundreds of major wireline and wireless telecom carriers; national and regional competitive local exchange carriers, or CLECs; interexchange carriers, and health care, government and financial services organizations.
 
In 2010, Fibertech’s original investors sold the company. Purcell and Chiaino were part of the process and chose Court Square Capital Partners, a private equity firm in New York City. Court Square’s location in New York City and employee base in Connecticut could have reduced FiberTech’s Rochester presence, but Purcell says that wasn’t the case.
 
"It’s a good story on how a company could reach outside Rochester for money from a private equity firm and bring that money and payroll to Rochester," he says.
 
All along, Chiaino and Purcell have maintained a strong benefit and salary program for employees, along with bonuses like a company fun day at Seabreeze Amusement Park. Chiaino says Fibertech has a big impact on the Rochester area in terms of employment.
 
"It’s the number of people we’ve been able to hire in the severe down economy," he says. "Fibertech continues to hire. Keep in mind that in the Upstate New York area we use contractors too. We think we’ve had a positive impact on the economy."
 
Chiaino and Purcell stay deeply involved in the community. Purcell is a board member for the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra and the University of Rochester’s Memorial Art Gallery, and Chiaino has served on the boards of the Rochester Business Alliance and the Monroe Community College Foundation. Purcell says he enjoys his involvement and believes it is important to maintain the institutions’ benefit for the community.
 
Purcell and Chiaino hope to increase customers and revenue, and, if the market swings up, perhaps go public.
 
"In my mind the future is very bright," Chiaino says. "Overall the Internet through 2013 is projected at 40 percent growth of bandwidth, and that’s through significant downturn in the economy. Our expectation is to grow the company organically over the next five years."                            

9/21/12 (c) 2012 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email [email protected].

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