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Business Monthly - Ben Lomand Connect grows
Ben Lomand - building.jpg
Thanks in part to $17.9 million in grants, Ben Lomand Connect is growing in its efforts to expand broadband coverage in rural Tennessee.

Ben Lomand Connect has its corporate headquarters at 311 N. Chancery Street in McMinnville. The company is enjoying a period of prosperity due in part to its success with state and federal grants to expand broadband coverage in rural Tennessee.   

BLC has earned a total of $17.9 million in 16 grants to date with another $45 million being applied for. The expansion has largely been in Coffee and Cumberland counties.

BLC employees have only missed on one grant so far. They do an excellent job with target market research and polling prior to submitting a grant. They have experienced grant writers on staff.  

The state of Tennessee awards grants to companies like BLC to provide broadband to unserved and underserved customers in rural areas. BLC is active with lobbying efforts in Nashville (3-4 times a month) and Washington, D.C. (1-2 times a year).  

BLC CEO Greg Smartt is directly involved as well as third parties (trade association + Levoy Knowles). This is an important aspect of BLC’s business strategy.  

The current headcount at BLC is 148, plus 11 temps (mostly TCAT/ Motlow students).  That is up 19 from one year ago. The ideal headcount is 150 which will be stable for the foreseeable future.  BLC advertises openings on their website, the Southern Standard, and the Indeed website. Interested candidates can apply through the BLC website or in person at the address above.  

BLC has five operating branches – McMinnville (HQ) with Greg Smartt as CEO, Sparta (Ben Clark – manager), Tracy City (Tania Curtis – manager), Crossville (Tommy Brown – manager), and Manchester.  

BLC has over 30,000 customers that range from taking one service to multiple services.  They have 27,000 broadband connections (76% fiber) to the internet, 23,000 landlines, 9,500 BLTV customers, and over 1,100 security customers.  They now have close to 70 managed IT customers with over 1,000 desktop users, over 2,500 phone seats (phone extensions), over 6,500 Wi-Fi 6, dual-band GigaSpire Blast routers, and over 2,500 Ben Lomand Home apps downloaded. For IT customers (mostly industrial) a full-service package includes installation of computers, networks, software and 24/7 service thereafter.  

Ben Lomand Connect offers a competitive benefits and compensation plan to its employees. This is coupled with advancement opportunities and higher education reimbursement while employed.  

BLC typically donates close to $100,000 per year to local charities and events. This comprehensive plan covers all five branches and includes county fairs, schools, sports community clubs, scholarships, BLTV Channel 6 special coverage, Meals on Wheels, Habitat for Humanity, Warren County Animal Shelter, NHC Angel Tree, Caring Hearts United, Family Resource Center (several counties), Rotary River Clean-up, Read Across America, and local food banks.   

Ben Lomand Connect expects to have all of Warren County serviced by fiber within two years. In the next year, they expect to have Dibrell and Viola covered. 

New customer services include BLTV streaming for homes with fiber, APP-driven security systems where remote control of your system can be done with a smartphone, higher broadband speeds, and a residential IT service package. 

Greg Smartt has been the BLC general manager/ CEO since March 1, 2021 and has been with the company for 38 years. His management staff is as follows:

Gena Barry:  Business Development & Customer Relations Manager – 28 years

Tommy Brown: District Manager – Crossville office – 22 years

Chris Centracchio: Information Systems & Managed IT Manager – 21 years

Ben Clark: District Manager – Sparta office – 23 years

Tammy Crouch: Human Resources Manager – 23 years

Tania Curtis: District Manager – Tracy City office – 20 years

Chad Dees: Director of Operations – 12 years

Jennifer Gilliam: Government & Regulatory Affairs Manager – 28 years

Shannon Hamilton: Essential Services Manager – 23 years

Bryan Kell: Marketing & Public Relations Manager – 7 years

Sherri McGinnis: Executive Assistant – 18 years

Jared Sain: Chief Financial Officer – 13 years

The current Board of Directors of the company are:

Roger Bynum – President – Coffee County

Cain Rogers – Vice President – White & Putnam counties

Gerald Sitz – Grundy & Marion Counties

Jeff Flatt – Secretary/Treasurer – Warren County

Dr. Ray Troop – Warren County

Donald Hillis – Van Buren County

Bobby Thompson – Grundy County

Randall Day – White & DeKalb counties

Joe Roper – Coffee, Bedford, Franklin, & Rutherford counties

BLC has added service personnel at each branch over the past year. Its Customer Support Center provides 24/7 customer service. The Customer Support Center has added four new companies to its after-hours/ overflow call duties. That includes an electric company, a public works entity, and two communications businesses. A new software and ticketing system is set to be rolled out later this year. BLC enjoys a 99% uptime performance position. 

Greg Smartt and his staff have made great progress toward growth in Middle Tennessee.  BRAC congratulates Ben Lomand Connect as a true pillar of our community.