The Free Press, Mankato, MN

October 7, 2013

HickoryTech changes name to Enventis

Move consolidates multiple business brands

By Tim Krohn
tkrohn@mankatofreepress.com

---- — MANKATO — For more than 100 years Mankato Citizens Telephone Co. provided telephone service and later — under the HickoryTech name — cable TV, Internet and other services.

Today the company becomes Enventis, the name of one of its subsidiaries that has seen dramatic growth providing broadband and data services to businesses in several states.

The name change will not affect customers' services in any way. People will even be able to keep their current HickoryTech email addresses. Other than working under a different name, employees are unaffected and the headquarters remains in Mankato.

HickoryTech President and CEO John Finke said the time was right for unifying the company under one name.

"We've been running with two brands for the last seven years or so and it's time to position ourselves with the Enventis brand," he said.

“We have transformed from a local telephone company into a regional communications provider. The timing is right. The scope and scale of our capabilities has expanded, and so has the range of customers that will benefit from a partnership with Enventis.”

He said operating with two growing brand names was becoming confusing to customers and said it is not the most efficient way to continue growing the company.

"While we are taking on the new name of Enventis, we are the same company and have the same team of local experts and have the same commitment to the communities we're in."

HickoryTech bought Enventis for $39 million in 2006, greatly expanding its business customer base and fiber networks throughout Minnesota and neighboring states. (Enventis also has residential broadband and TV services.) Enventis was largely focused on Duluth and northern Minnesota when it was purchased by HickoryTech.

Since then, HickoryTech has been on a fast-paced expansion of its fiber network for business and residential customers in Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin and the Dakotas, by building more routes and buying other companies, including Twin Cities-based CP Telecom for $6.6 million and Fargo-based IdeaOne for $28 million.

Revenues more than doubled — from $78 million in 2005 to $185 million last year — as the company expanded and moved into lucrative locations including Duluth, Sioux Falls, the Twin Cities and Des Moines. HickoryTech also continued to expand its reach in southern Minnesota.

The company has more than 100,000 miles of fiber line making up 4,100 "route miles" (the distance between the various markets it serves) — more than four times the route miles it had in 2006.

The fastest growth for the company has come through selling business and broadband services through its Enventis group. Business and broadband has gone from 52 percent of HickoryTech's revenues in 2006 to 77 percent of revenues last year.

Finke said the company will continue to look at acquisition opportunities and lay more fiber, but he said organic growth is the focus.

"We'll focus on growth in residential services ... to enhanced ethernet and hosted- and managed-business services." He said the ongoing demand for bandwidth from the growing use of video, smartphones and other devices means there is a growing demand for things like cloud-based storage of data and management of that data for businesses and individuals.

Mankato Citizens was founded in 1898, when investors purchased shares for $25. By 1949 it was the state's largest independent phone company. In the early 1980s they began laying fiber optic lines and the company was renamed HickoryTech in 1985. (The company's headquarters are on Hickory Street.)

A decade later, HickoryTech began trading on the NASDAQ exchange. Prior to that, shares of Mankato Citizens were closely held by local families with shares often passed down from generation to generation.

The company has 500 employees in five states with nearly 300 in the greater Mankato region.

The name change will need shareholder approval, which will be sought at a shareholder meeting in May 2014.

HickoryTech also announced last week it has increased its quarterly cash dividend to 15 cents, 3 percent higher than the previous dividend. The company has paid dividends each quarter for 65 years.

A new website — enventis.com — is to be launched this morning, offering more tools and information for residential and business customers.