- Real Estate
- Food & Drink
May 31, 2018
By Brenda Wade Schmidt, for SiouxFalls.Business
It’s a rare type of employee who feels comfortable working up to 2,000 feet off the ground.
The rest of us just want to watch.
That’s proven by the viral social media attention created by videos of the bird’s-eye views seen by Sioux Falls Tower & Communications workers. Fortunately, some prospective employees have viewed them, too.
Sioux Falls Tower crews work on all types of towers, including wireless, broadcast, microwave, wind energy, public utilities and others, from building to installing antennas, doing maintenance and testing equipment.
The growth of wireless service and other business lines has caused the company to project it will double in size in five years.
That means Sioux Falls Tower will need more workers rugged enough to climb towers in all kinds of weather and technically savvy enough to understand how the job needs to get done. In addition, employees have to be comfortable working at 300 to 600 feet on average and up to 2,000 feet on occasion.
“That’s a unique crowd,” said Mike Fowler, marketing and business development director.
Videos shot with a drone have brought worldwide attention to the company’s work. A 2014 video triggered interest in Sioux Falls Tower in Germany, Japan and other countries.
It has been viewed 10 million times on YouTube.
“Social media has helped us tremendously get that traction,” Fowler said. “You can talk about it, but until you see one of our guys that took a photo at the top of a tower, you don’t get it.”
Sioux Falls Tower, founded 29 years ago, will show other businesses in the community the work it does at a Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce ribbon-cutting beginning at 11:30 a.m. Friday with tours of the company at 4300 N. Northview Ave. through 2 p.m.
In January, the company moved into new corporate headquarters with 25,000 square feet of space, including a training facility. The expansion on 6 acres at Northview Avenue and 54th Street North cost about $4 million, Fowler said.
The training facility, which includes three 20-foot towers indoors and a 40-foot tower outside, includes all of the equipment employees would find working in the field, said Craig Snyder, CEO and co-owner. The company prides itself on being a leader in safety and training, and the new facility will enhance that.
“One of the big things is it’s indoors. In South Dakota, you only get about six months of good weather,” Snyder said. “Indoors makes the process more meaningful and better.”
On Thursday, Commissioner Brendan Carr with the Federal Communications Commission will visit the company and use the training facility to climb towers himself. The day will include some experiential learning while seeing what the crews on the towers are doing and how they’re trained, Fowler said.
Occasionally, other companies in the industry will use the training facility, as will Sioux Falls firefighters. But training won’t become a profit center for the company, Snyder said. The main focus will continue to be training for the company’s 90 employees in its business territory, with roughly half in Sioux Falls. The company’s core footprint includes 12 states: South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Nevada and Idaho.
With offices in Sioux Falls, Rapid City, Denver and Orem, Utah, the company plans to expand with additional locations within its territory in the next five years, Snyder said.
“We’re planning to more than double in the next five years in size, in sales and in numbers of employees,” he said.
The company recently increased the number of customers it serves by 26 percent in an industry where it serves household names such as AT&T, Verizon and MidAmerican Energy, Fowler said.
Demand is being fueled by the tremendous buildout of wireless, from personal uses to business applications, and the emerging 5G network.
“If you’re following the wireless changes in the industry, this is all being driven by that, to have a forward approach of our business,” Snyder said.
It’s a pace that the company didn’t see when it started in the business, but it has witnessed a boom in recent years, he said. “The real growth has come in the last five years.”
Social media also has helped grow business. “I think it’s been huge,” Fowler said. “Social media has just kind of changed for every company across the nation and how we communicate with companies.”
In the growth phase, the industry also faces new national standards. The National Wireless Safety Alliance has begun to offer tests and certify tower technicians, for example.
“In the tower industry, that’s never been the case,” Snyder said. The company has had to set those standards for itself and will continue to do so.
“We’ve always been on the cutting edge of writing the standards and developing the standards.”
With workers reaching 2,000 feet, this Sioux Falls company is achieving equally impressive heights. Here’s why it plans to double in the next five years.