The past few months have been busy ones for Twin Lakes, as the company opened a new office and expanded its footprint even as it wrapped up the largest year of capital investment in its history.
On April 4, Twin Lakes cut the ribbon on a new customer care office in Cookeville, Tennessee — its seventh customer care office. “We are pleased with it. It’s a good gateway into the business community in Cookeville where we have a CLEC operation,” says Jonathan West, CEO of Twin Lakes.
Like many rural cooperatives, Twin Lakes has a limited number of businesses inside its traditional service area. The launch of its CLEC into Cookeville and Algood provides access to more potential business customers than the rest of the communities it serves combined.
Twin Lakes has operated its CLEC for three years, serving some initial business customers and becoming increasingly involved in activities such as chamber of commerce functions and community events. The company ramped up activity the last six months of 2015, building out its fiber network to increase its footprint by tenfold. The opening of the Cookeville office will give Twin Lakes an even stronger presence in the area, helping the company reach its goal of being the telecommunications provider of choice for businesses in the region.
While competition does exist in these markets, businesses have been quite responsive to Twin Lakes’ customer service philosophy, which is rooted in its foundation as a member-owned cooperative. “They like our local approach to taking care of customers,” says West. “They like being able to get in touch with a local person, and us getting someone to their location in a reasonable time. That’s what our customers are telling us they appreciate.”
The Cookeville location also serves as a headquarters for the company’s growing security business. Over the past two years, Twin Lakes has acquired two established security companies, expanding its security offering into some two dozen Tennessee counties.
Twin Lakes’ growth has been supported by an emphasis on expanding its fiber network. During calendar year 2014, the cooperative invested approximately $15 million in its network. Last year, those capital investments doubled, with a $30 million capital investment program that was the largest in the cooperative’s history. Twin Lakes is on track to invest another $15 million in its network in 2016.
With these continued upgrades will come the ability for Twin Lakes to offer gigabit broadband service to its residential customers, a service currently available only to businesses. If all goes as planned, the ultra-high bandwidth connection will be launched for residential customers in time for Twin Lakes’ annual meeting in the fall.
The number of homes in need of a gigabit connection today may be limited, but the technology that families are bringing into their homes continues to require more bandwidth. “You may not need it today, but one day you will,” West says. “And when you do, we’ll be able to deliver it to you the day you need it, not 10 years later.
“We want our customers to know that we are investing in the future,” he adds. “Our investment is for them, and it’s not short-sighted. We’re in it for the long haul.”
Twin Lakes has also turned its forward focus to partnership opportunities that have the potential to expand the company’s footprint even more dramatically. The cooperative is taking its time to explore these opportunities thoroughly. “We’re looking to build long-term partnerships, 50-year partnerships, and you don’t build those overnight,” West says.
West understands that such a high level of activity is only possible through a team that is focused on progress. “I want to say ‘thank you’ to the entire Twin Lakes team,” he says. “The directors and employees have all worked in concert toward a common goal, and that’s to better serve our customers. I couldn’t be more proud of the progress we have made and the team that makes it all possible.”