Telecable firm adding jobs, investment
By Scott Blake
Luis Rodriguez uses words like nimble, flexible and efficient when describing his company, OpticalTel.
The Coral Gables-based telecable firm has had to be that way to survive in the shadows of much larger competitors such as AT&T and Comcast.
Actually, the company is doing more than surviving. Mr. Rodriguez, OpticalTel's president and chief operating officer, said this week the company plans to add 75 to 100 employees and make $25 million worth of capital investments over the next three years.
That isn't much in the world of the telecom giants. But Mr. Rodriguez doesn't tippy-toe around when talking about the advantages that he says his company has over the industry's big boys.
"Comcast is a cable company trying to become a phone company," he says, "and AT&T is a phone company trying to become a cable company."
Those companies probably would beg to differ, but the business of so-called "bundling" — combining high-speed internet, phone service and other digital services — is a competitive one where smaller players must find an edge or fade away.
OpticalTel's edge, according to Mr. Rodriguez, is staying competitive on price with the big players while trying to outdo them on customer service. Because OpticalTel has a relatively small customer base of about 25,000, he says, the company can respond faster and better to their needs.
"In order for them to make a decision on something, it may take a month," he says about the large corporations. "But for us, it takes a day."
OpticalTel, also known as Optical Telecommunications Inc., started in South Miami in 2004. It now operates out of a suite at 1360 S Dixie Highway in Coral Gables. There's also a field office in the Fort Lauderdale area.
The privately-owned firm has three primary shareholders: Mr. Rodriguez, who supervises the company's day-to-day operations; CEO Mario Bustamante Sr., who provides strategic leadership and works with the company's board of directors; and William Davis, chairman of the board.
OpticalTel's customers span from Greater Miami to Port St. Lucie on the state's East Coast and from Fort Myers to the Tampa area on the West Coast. They are mainly residential customers clustered in condominium and apartment buildings and business customers clustered in office buildings.
The company uses fiber-optic technology to provide what it calls "quad-play bundles," offering internet, phone, video and alarm service.
Currently, the company has about 40 employees, with short-term plans to hire about 10 more this month and long-term plans to add up to 100.
Mr. Rodriguez says many of the positions will pay an average of about $50,000 a year and include network engineers, computer programmers and technicians.
The company is expanding its staff with help from the Beacon Council, Miami-Dade County's public-private economic development agency.
Mr. Rodriguez says the Beacon Council is providing about $450,000 in state and local funds to the company over a six-year period, contingent upon the company adding the jobs it has promised to create in certain intervals.
As part of the deal, OpticalTel plans to take on interns from local universities with the objective of hiring them permanently, which meshes with the Beacon Council's One Community One Goal job creation initiative involving local schools and businesses.
In addition, OpticalTel has pledged to investment $25 million in new equipment and expanded facilities.
The expansion will help the company take on more customers without sacrificing quality of service, Mr. Rodriguez says, adding; "We're in growth mode."
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