Loan spurs growth for Bay View firm

Telcom & Data Inc., located in Milwaukee’s Bay View neighborhood, has been successful because it has continued to adapt to new technology over the 16 years it has been selling and installing telecommunications equipment.

While it sells traditional phone systems in an age of mobile technology, Telcom & Data is growing.

The company received a $42,000 loan from the Milwaukee Economic Development Corp. (MEDC) last year, and company president Ricardo Trinidad plans to more than double the number of employees over the next several years.

Trinidad started Telcom & Data in Chicago in 1996 after 10 years of experience working in the telecommunications world. The company focuses on business communication solutions.

When he moved from Chicago to Milwaukee’s Bay View neighborhood in 2007, Trinidad commuted back and forth to Telcom.
But in 2010, the unemployment rate was rising in Milwaukee and Mayor Tom Barrett was calling for businesses to create jobs.
“I wanted to create that opportunity. People weren’t working,” Trinidad said. “I really want to make a difference, especially here in Bay View.”

So he decided to open a Milwaukee branch of Telcom & Data. He was approved for a MEDC loan to fund the growing business.
Telcom officially opened in January 2011 at 2625 S. Greeley St. and made Milwaukee its new headquarters. The Chicago office, which previously had seven employees, is now a two-person satellite location, Trinidad.

Telcom now has 11 employees in Milwaukee. The $42,000 MEDC loan is forgivable if the company hires 10 more employees each year for the next three years.

“It’s the incentive from their part to help us get going and hire people,” he said.

The company has plenty of space for new employees at its Bay View office, which doubles as a gallery for local artists.

The ever-changing face of technology has meant Trinidad and his employees are always training and learning.

A few years ago, 70 percent of businesses used TDM, or time-division multiplexing, a type of digital phone technology. Now, about 80 percent of businesses use Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology, he said.

“The cool thing about this industry is it’s always on the fly here,” Trinidad said.

When landline phone technology shifted to VoIP systems, Telcom & Data embraced the trend.

Telcom manages phone systems nationwide. Before VoIP, the company would have hired a contractor to go to a customer’s business and fix a problem with a phone system. That could get expensive and time consuming.

Since VoIP allows phone calls to be made over an Internet connection, Telcom can now solve phone system problems almost instantly from Milwaukee for customers across the country.

IP technology can also be applied to other products, like key fob remote entry systems and facial recognition security systems. That has allowed Telcom to expand its offerings for customers.

“The companies that really want to do better and grow their businesses—those are the ones that are investing in new technology,” Trinidad said. “It’s all IP related, so once you have that IP format down, what else can you put in.”

Customers can also buy Telcom’s wide range of telecommunications equipment on its website from around the world.

“Our business is global and it’s all over. It’s not as much important where we’re at,” Trinidad said.

In addition to standard office phones and support, Telcom offers conference phones and bridges, video conferencing, hosted voice services, headsets, call recording, voicemail, paging, emergency phones, modems and other technology for businesses.
Telcom has thousands of products available and is always adding more to meet customer demand, Trinidad said.

The company’s newest product is an explosion-proof phone that can be used at nuclear power plants, mines and other high-risk sites in case of emergency.

Trinidad said he has been able to keep Telcom’s prices lower than competitors by working directly with manufacturers instead of through a secondary distributor. Its personalized customer service also makes Telcom unique, he said.

“There’s a lot of competition I think in any business but it’s what sets you apart,” Trinidad said. “If you have a problem with your phone system and you have to push ‘1’ (instead of speaking to a human) you know you have an even bigger problem.”

Telcom & Data experienced 30 percent revenue growth from 2010 to 2011 and is on target to do the same this year, Trinidad said.
“I think it’s due to companies looking to reinvest,” he said. “More companies are hiring now.”

New employees mean companies need additional phone lines, and many businesses are investing in upgraded technology for the whole phone system.

Video conferencing has also become more popular as an alternative to business travel, Trinidad said.

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