Nex-Tech officials happy with award of excellence
By DAWNE LEIKER
A telecommunications company with six decades of history in western Kansas recently was recognized as a top Kansas business when it received the Governor's Award of Excellence.
Nex-Tech of Lenora, a subsidiary of Rural Telephone, was nominated for the award by both the Ellis County Coalition for Economic Development and the Smith Center Chamber of Commerce and was presented with the award Tuesday at the annual Kansas Calvary Encampment at the Kansas State University Alumni Center, Manhattan.
"We were really thrilled," said Nex-Tech CEO/General Manager Larry Sevier. "You just never know until they make the announcement."
Nex-Tech provides local and long-distance telephone services, cable television and Internet service to 39 exchanges in central and western Kansas.
Although winning the award was a surprise, Sevier said, Nex-Tech staff members had been notified they were among six finalists and had appeared before a panel of judges in Topeka at the end of May.
"We felt really good about the presentation we made to them," Sevier said. "But you just don't know until the announcement is made."
Another Kansas business recognized at the encampment was Pitsco Inc. of Pittsburg, which received the Governor's Exporter of the Year Award.
"Nex-Tech and Pitsco are well deserving of their recognitions," Brownback said in a press release. "These companies are leaders and innovators, in addition to being active partners in their communities."
Nex-Tech's efforts to bring jobs and economic growth to Kansas factored heavily in receiving the award. For the last two years, Nex-Tech has been working to build broadband connections to 9,300 square miles in western Kansas. The project was estimated at its inception to be completed in three years.
Those efforts have affected economic growth throughout the region and are a tool, much like Brownback's Rural Opportunity Zone initiative, to bring people to western Kansas.
Beginning with 26 employees in Lenora, Nex-Tech has grown to 378 employees and a $19 million annual payroll.
"We've done that by either hiring young people locally out of college or bringing young families back that have moved out and have decided they'd like to come back to Kansas," Sevier said. "I'm sure it helps the local economy."
The $101 million broadband project, now 80 percent to 85 percent complete, is in its final stages in Hays, Sevier said. Most areas of rural Ellis County have been finished. After completion, more than 39,000 households and businesses in 60 cities in 17 counties will have high-speed broadband.