Written by Alan Morrell
Democrat & Chronicle
Published on May 17, 2015
VICTOR, N.Y., —Hovey Griswold purchased the Ontario Telephone Company in 1920, and followed that up seven years later when he bought the Trumansburg Telephone Company. Griswold’s great-grandson, Paul Griswold, founded Finger Lakes Technologies Group, or FLTG, in 1995 to offer deregulated services such as telephone systems, network engineering and Internet services.
The Griswold family still owns the Ontario & Trumansburg telephone companies, and the companies and their subsidiaries serve some 15,000 customers. FLTG competes with deep-pocketed firms whose omnipresent advertisements are hard to avoid — but there’s a David-and-Goliath difference, company officials said.
“We’re very much like Frontier or Time Warner, but we’re fiber-based and we do it on our own network,” said Kim Stewart, FLTG’s director of marketing and corporate communications. Said Paul Nikitas, the company’s vice president of sales, “Most importantly, we’re a fifth-generation, community-based grass-roots organization.”
FLTG’s call center is at its Victor headquarters, which means much quicker response time when customers need assistance, Stewart said. After normal business hours, the calls are handled by workers at an in-state center. That means less on-hold time and fewer of those annoying and repetitive “Your call is important to us” messages.
FLTG’s 2,000-plus mile fiber-optic network provides service to about 30 communities in New York and Pennsylvania. As Stewart and Nikitas note, fiber-optic delivers the service faster than copper or cable systems. For now, at least, FLTG offers its services only to industrial and institutional customers, a vast array that includes fields like education, government, hotels and restaurants and health care.
As technology has evolved, of course, so has FLTG in its 20 years. The firm was founded as a dial-up Internet service provider back in those woebegone days when users heard a series of beeps and boops and prayed that they would eventually get online. By 1999, FLTG became a “premiere partner” with CISCO Systems, a Silicon Valley-based tech firm known for quality products.
“We can sell their portfolio to customers,” Nikitas said. “It’s not like everybody and their brother can sell CISCO.”
In 2007, FLTG became a competitive local exchange carrier, or CLEC, allowing the firm to compete with other, already-established carriers. That opened the door to vast expansion; before obtaining a CLEC certification, companies can offer services only in designated areas.
“We literally can sell anywhere,” Nikitas said. “We felt being a fiber-based CLEC would be the biggest differentiation in our marketing.”
FLTG started by going after smaller, “untapped” markets like Ithaca and Geneva, Stewart said. Employee growth has doubled since 2009, Nikitas added.
The company owns 700 acres of property at the old Seneca Army Depot between Cayuga and Seneca lakes, where FLTG stores customers’ backup data on its fiber network. Former nuclear silos and ammunition bunkers are now being used for that function, which Nikitas called “co-location disaster recovery centers.”
The fifth generation of Griswolds involved in the family business is represented by Paul’s son, Brenden, who works at FLTG. Paul Griswold’s father, John, and uncle, Robert, are members of the company board of directors.
FLTG was listed among this year’s Democrat and Chronicle’s “Top Workplaces.” Nikitas said that recognition attests to the company culture.
“It’s a work-hard, play-hard environment,” he said. “A lot of times, it’s just a simple ‘thank you’ that people are looking for.”
Morrell is a Rochester-based freelance writer.
Finger Lakes Technologies Group
Location: Headquarters is at 7890 Lehigh Crossing, Victor. The company also has offices in North Tonawanda, Phelps, Trumansburg, Binghamton and Romulus.
Executives: Paul Griswold, president and CEO; Paul Nikitas, vice president of sales; Jeremy Hotchkiss, chief operating officer; Sean Socha, chief financial officer; Phil Yawman, senior vice president of business development.
Employees: 84 at Victor headquarters, 135 company-wide.
Top Workplaces 2015
Finger Lakes Technologies Group ranked 18th among small companies in the 2015 list of Rochester’s Top Workplaces. To read more about the companies on the list, go to DemocratandChronicle.com/topworkplaces.