facilities. WK&T also worked with the
Graves County EDO and the state of
Kentucky to designate the entire tech
park a Tax Increment Financing (TIF)
district. Having a TIF in place makes
building in or relocating to the park
financially viable for businesses in a
range of sizes.
WK&T is using the park as a relocation
point itself. By June 2018, it plans to have its
warehouse and administration offices at the
park, centralizing workspaces that used to be
scattered around the company’s service terri-
tory. The mixed office/industrial use exempli-
fies the vision WK&T has for the entire project.
“We really see it as being a flexible space, with an incu-
bator space, hotel, executive extended stay, restaurant,
classrooms, fitness center and other entities all housed
within a park-like landscape,” said Jackson-Furman.
“We’ve had a film company lease portions of the park for a
movie they’re filming, and we currently have a local high
The park’s attractiveness will grow when WK&T final-
izes the purchase of 65 acres of adjacent land this year.
That purchase, slated at press time for late spring or early
summer, is the new footprint of the park’s solar farm. The
farm will fuel the park’s electrical demand, and under-
scores the environmentally friendly design plans WK&T
has for the whole park complex.
“We’re the initiator, with our fiber services and relocation, but this project is bigger than just us,” insisted
Jackson-Furman. “It’s about the attraction and retention of
talent, and it’s been a catalyst for bringing together local
schools and local businesses and local government for the
Keeping the Lights On
Sometimes benefiting the local economy means ensuring
a valuable piece of the business community remains in
place, providing jobs and fulfilling the needs of the area it
serves. For CEO Jan Muhl of LNE Communications (Lost
Nation, Iowa), the decision to diversify by purchasing a
contracting business in a neighboring town wasn’t a trend,
it was just a good business decision.
“The previous owner of Lowden Plumbing, Heating and
Electrical wanted to retire, and wanted a buyer for his busi-
ness,” explained LNE CEO Jan Muhl. “His goal was to find a
local buyer who would continue to operate the business
here in our area, and it happened that his type of business
aligned with our diversification goal as well. The business
was already successful and a great part of our local econ-
omy, and we wanted it to keep going.”
LNE’s diversification strategy had been in development
for several years, waiting for an opportunity like Lowden to
come along. LNE was certainly no stranger to contractor
services—in fact, the company had kept a Master
Electrician (M.E.) on staff for several years. But their M.E.
was approaching retirement age and was interested in par-
ing back his hours to a part-time position. The option to
purchase the contracting business seemed like a solid
move, and in late November 2016, LNE completed the pur-
chase, establishing Lowden as a wholly-owned subsidiary
of LNE while retaining ownership with LNE’s stockholders.
The daily management of Lowden is handled by a site
manager who has been with the company for years, with
input as needed from Muhl. All operational functions
(accounting, ordering, etc.) are run through the LNE offices.
Overlapping services like trenching and wiring jobs are billed
out as needed between companies, but the structure allows
the Lowden business to run, in large part, autonomously.
“We’re happy with how the purchase turned out, and how
the business is running. Our stockholders like having Lowden
under our umbrella, and our local communities are happy
to retain a well-known and respected business,” Muhl said.
Computers, Community and Coffee
Nowhere is the idea of telcos successfully navigating the
line between trend and niche service more apparent than
in the cozy confines of the WiFire Coffee Bar in Freeland,
Wash. WiFire sits inside the Whidbey Telecom office, serving
up lattes and Italian sodas as part of what the company calls
the “Whidbey Customer Experience Center” and giving
locals a taste of superfast internet with Whidbey’s Big Gig
Coffee is an essential part of life in the Pacific
Northwest, and Whidbey’s capitalized on its universal
appeal, making WiFire the “welcome mat” to its experience
center. Opened in 2011, the center includes not only WiFire
From concept to
the WK&T Tech
Park is built for
and mixed office/