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Microage/AIS: biting into big industry growth.

In less than five years, this Anchorage computer company has become a provider of service for big-name national clients.

Alaska's high-profile businesses tend to crowd headlines across the state. But on the quiet sidelines, a hard-driving Alaska enterprise is growing exponentially, biting into an increasing market for computer systems integration.

MicroAge Advanced Information Services of Anchorage has combined the speed of today's computer technology with a powerful literacy in the field to build an Alaska company that meets the high expectations of the two men who had the courage to found it.

Jon Peacock and Tim Fargo purchased the MicroAge franchise from TransAlaska Data Systems Inc. in 1989. Their vision was to create a specialized company that would sell more than just computers and support. They foresaw the need for in-depth computer system engineering, especially for micro-processor-based operating systems. The offshoot of their vision and their purchase of the MicroAge franchise became a new company called MicroAge/Advanced Information Services (AIS).

MicroAge/AIS has since emerged as a contender among systems integration businesses across the nation. The company offers clients in-depth, advanced consulting and engineering of large-scale computer projects. It then provides the delivery, training and management of those complex systems.

Dandy Dividends

The firm's efforts have paid off handsomely. Starting with revenues of $9.4 million in 1989, the company boasted over $23 million in revenue for 1992. Peacock and Fargo anticipate that by the end of 1993, MicroAge/AIS will generate over $45 million in revenue.

The company's affiliation with the MicroAge franchise provides access to the computer equipment they sell. Certain computer systems such as IBM can only be purchased through authorized distributors like MicroAge, explains Peacock.

The franchise provides AIS rights to use the MicroAge name and products. AIS then takes the service end of the business a step further by solving information-related problems with advanced consultation, project management, systems engineering, training, design and delivery. Fifty percent of MicroAge/AIS's revenues are derived from service-related products, a measure of the business's growing success in the computer integration arena.

"Integration and engineering are the core of what we do," Fargo says.

MicroAge/AIS is involved in systems integration for oil, banking, education and Native corporations throughout Alaska. The company has also expanded beyond state boundaries into the Lower 48.

"It's one of those industries where it has to grow fast to be effective," says Peacock. "There is a drive for us to achieve scale that forces us to go outside the state for business." That move has spelled success for the Alaska-owned company.

National Clientele

On-time, under-budget delivery of large-scale projects has universal appeal. MicroAge/AIS has developed a national scope, with offices in Bellevue, Wash., Portland, Ore., and more recently in Gaithersburg, Md.

"Our industry is a highly interconnected and digitized world. Once a company has multiple sites, what difference does it make where you're located?" Peacock says. "The borders are more in our minds than in the business."

The company markets to medium and large businesses, as well as to government and educational institutions. Corporate accounts include industry giant Microsoft, where MicroAge/AIS helps programmers' productivity and efficiency through a variety of desktop projects.

MicroAge/AIS's East Coast presence was recently established when it secured an account with Bell Atlantic Mobile Systems to help the company pinpoint holes in its mobile communications system.

"Within four months, we had 30 employees and a great management team driving our image on the East Coast," Fargo says.

Some of the firm's other clients include United Parcel Service, Arco, British Petroleum and The Washington Post.

The Alaska computer company's goal is to enter into long-term relationships with its clients using the concept of virtual corporation. The idea is to diminish the traditionally adversarial role between vendor and client and create a relationship where the core competencies of each company can be maximized.

Virtual corporation is a concept that has driven much of the company's growth. The term "partnership" is used quite literally.

"We've experienced every form of growth you can imagine," Fargo says. That includes buying and selling stock with clients. MicroAge/AIS shares costs and skills in these partnerships, as well as profitability.

MicroAge/AIS is a strong proponent of Total Quality Management, and formalized a company program to promote the concept in 1991. The pursuit of quality is part of the firm's management structure, with every employee a member of a quality team.

The company's quality service is reflected in the numerous awards it has received since opening its doors less than five years ago. For example, in 1992, MicroAge/AIS was recognized by its parent company, MicroAge Computer Center Inc., as the No. 1 MicroAge system integrator in the nation. The company was also one of the top five national finalists for the Enterprise Network Excellent Award at Network '91.

It seems that Peacock and Fargo's 1989 vision for the future was 20/20 foresight. MicroAge/AIS is filling an ever-expanding need for high-end computer services around the country. Company trends are keeping pace with the fast-changing world of technology. If this foresight continues, MicroAge/AIS will see a bright and profitable future.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Alaska Business Publishing Company, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:The new 49ers; MicroAge Advanced Information Services
Author:Johnson, Kaylene
Publication:Alaska Business Monthly
Date:Oct 1, 1993
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