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Sharing secrets Featured

9:41am EDT July 22, 2002

Two months ago, Ken Roberts, owner of KM Quality Management Inc., noticed an interesting trend among the tenants who were leasing office space at Canal Place.

“Unbeknownst to us, we were known as the Internet Hotel of Akron,” says Canal Place marketing director Alice Hall, who counts a whopping 15 telecommunications companies lodging in the downtown sports/retail/office complex.

“One of the reasons (telecommunications companies) do like Canal Place is that we have the ceiling heights and can carry the floor loads,” she explains. “We have several cable lines coming into Canal Place. And, of course, one company attracts another company.”

Hall credits Roberts with starting the Canal Place Technology Group, a fledgling association formed primarily to promote networking among resident telecommunications companies, ranging from the Internet Association Corp., a 20-employee concern that develops private online communities, to long-distance provider Cable & Wireless USA’s regional technical operations center. Such trade groups are still a surprising rarity in this rapidly growing industry, according to Don Philabaum, IAC president and CEO.

The group met for the first time in March, and members toured each others’ facilities in early April. Dan Campese, lead technician at Cable & Wireless’ Canal Place location, says the tour turned out to be a progressive lesson in computer hardware and software solutions.

Many members, for example, were impressed with Cable & Wireless’ raised computer floor, rack systems and power back-up systems. Campese, in turn, was intrigued with how one member company linked two independent computer systems with a third.

And Philabaum says visitors to IAC were taken with a cutting-edge product that allows companies to conduct “interactive tours” of their facilities on the Web.

Contrary to what some may think, the exercise was hardly a matter of letting the fox into the corporate henhouse.

“You don’t see any marketing materials that are going to tip off the competition,” Philabaum quips.

Indeed, he can’t think of a single rival for IAC clients on the current membership roster.

“There’s a diversified set of companies involved in the group,” Campese confirms. “There could be some partnerships.”

He envisions members recommending one another to their respective customers and banding together to become a one-stop shopping source for Internet services.

“By doing that, you’re well prepared to answer potential customers’ questions or service needs, just by being aware of what’s here locally,” he adds. “It’s like that old saying: You scratch my back. I’ll scratch yours.”

Hall says Canal Place and KM Quality Management officials are planing to open the group to nonresident Internet entrepreneurs and new media businesses so they care share their problems and successes with each other, as well as with interested members of the general public.

How to reach: Don Philabaum, IAC, (800) 968-6004

Lynne Thompson is a free-lance writer for SBN.