Communication and technology
Communication and technology
Spotlight on Wilkes County technology and communications businesses
Wilkes County features a thriving communications and technology industry with major players who offer an array of services to customers with personal and professional needs. Here is a look at some of the successful organizations:
Wilkes Communications Inc. | RiverStreet Networks
Wilkes Communications Inc. is a telecommunications company dedicated to providing Wilkes County with the latest technological advancements and services related to phones, security services and fiber internet. Its mission is to make broadband services accessible to residents of unserved and underserved communities.
“Today, at home, at work, at school, and in government, we all depend on the internet to power our lives. But we are more than just internet,” Wilkes Communications CEO and President Eric Cramer said.
“At Wilkes Communications, we believe that being a part of the community is more than just providing service to the people who live there. We are committed to supporting the people and organizations that make Wilkes County a strong place to live and work.”
Wilkes Communications has more than 70 years of experience in the telecommunications industry with roots dating back to 1949. It currently has 191 employees.
The company began as Wilkes Telephone Company, after a group of Wilkes County residents petitioned Central Telephone Company for phone service.
Wilkes Communications began to offer Wilkes County customers speeds up to one Gigabit and earned National Gig Certification in 2013. RiverStreet Networks, a subsidiary of Wilkes Communications, was established in 2014 to cater to customers outside of the Wilkes County service area.
The company was named a Smart Rural Community Provider in 2019 by the NTCA, an association representing nearly 850 independent, family-owned and community-based broadband companies that build and deliver connectivity and essential services to rural and small-town communities.
The Smart Rural initiative promotes rural broadband and its role in supporting innovative economic development, effective education, efficient energy distribution, state-of-the-art healthcare, and other important issues for rural America.
The company’s continuous goal is to improve the community and invest in its future through initiatives such as a scholarship program, community service drives, donations to local organizations and grant funding, Cramer said.
NC Tech Paths / The Masthead
NC Tech Paths is a non-profit dedicated to helping residents of Wilkes, Ashe and Alleghany counties get technology training and be connected with tech career options in the area. The company, which has five full-time employees and an array of consultants, launched in February 2022, said Kate Vermilyea, chief of staff.
NC Tech Paths offers tuition-free programs in IT and software engineering in partnership with Wilkes Community College and Per Scholas.
“When they finish, people are fully trained, are certified (and credentialed if applicable), and ready to work,” Vermilyea said. “It’s an intensive, rigorous program.”
The organization also connects learners to self-directed courses in IT support, cybersecurity, and network management, as well as local pathways to two-year degrees via Wilkes Community College (WCC), and in some cases beyond that, thanks to agreements with four-year educational institutions.
Once workforce-ready, learners are connected to employer partners, such as Lowes Company Inc., Infusion Points, LLC, and Inmar intelligence.
“Our partners really believe in the mission,” Vermilyea said.
More than 40 job seekers aged 18 to 61 have graduated from NC Tech Path programs, and 95% of them are employed, Vermilyea said. They come from a variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds, and nearly half are women.
“We have taken specific time to be sure that we are including women in tech recruitment because there is such a need,” she said. “We have as much interest from women as we do from men.” NC Tech Paths and Per Scholas also pay special attention to the inclusion of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) residents, who traditionally are underrepresented in professional tech careers.
NC Tech Paths purchased the Wilkes Journal-Patriot newspaper building in downtown North Wilkesboro, where it opened The Masthead, an 11,000-square-foot regional tech outpost, or RTO, in March. The Masthead provides coworking space for independent workers and entrepreneurs, and company office pods for remote employees of partner companies.
The facility has attracted interest from clients in a variety of industries, Vermilyea said. “It’s just been really cool to see who comes in and who’s starting to grow roots there.”
In partnership with the Herring Foundation, NC Tech Paths also purchased the former American Drew Furniture site, known as “Block 46,” in North Wilkesboro. NC Tech Paths President Craig DeLucia serves as CEO of the Herring Foundation.
NC Tech Paths plans to build another RTO offering hybrid workspace, a “maker space” and a place for adults and children to learn and share in the fields of science, technology, education and math, or STEM, in Block 46.
For more information, contact info@NCTechPaths.org.
Carolina West Wireless
Carolina West Wireless provides customers with innovative technology, including data and mobile services, and the latest wireless equipment and competitive wireless plans with nationwide coverage.
The Wilkesboro-based company was founded in 1991 and is owned by a partnership between Skyline Telephone and Surry Telephone. It provides service to customers in 11 counties. It currently has 33 stores and about 130 employees, and its mission is to provide an exceptional experience to customers so they can stay connected to all things essential to them.
The company continues to expand its 5G network, which it launched more than a year ago, and is growing its Clearstream high-speed fixed wireless internet services. It also provides a suite of solutions and business-to-business services, as well as wireless solutions to help small businesses manage their operations more efficiently, said Jackie Mallory, chief marketing and sales officer.
The company provides national roaming services at no additional cost to customers. “That experience is seamless,” Mallory said.
The company also offers prepaid services without a contract or credit check through its Bark Mobile brand. Customers can donate 3% of their monthly bill to their school of choice (at no cost to them) through Carolina West Wireless’ Communication4Education program.
“It’s definitely a community and people-centric company,” Mallory said. “We do a lot to support the local community that you won’t see large companies do,” such as sponsorships and partnerships with local nonprofits, schools, colleges, and chambers of commerce.
In the competitive technology landscape, the company distinguishes itself for having served the western, more rural part of the state, with many long-term customers who have personal relationships with company employees.
“How much we do for the community really resonates well in a rural area,” she said. “A lot of customers go into the store to pay their bills because they may know the store manager or just simply appreciate the personal customer service they receive.”
US Cellular-ProCom Services Inc.
ProCom Services Inc., an official USCellular agent, is a full-service wireless provider with a store in Wilkesboro. Customers can find smartphones and basic phone solutions from well-known brands; the latest smart home devices, phone systems, hotspots and wireless modems; and tablets to watch movies, read books, play games and stay connected on the go.
ProCom was established in 2003 with a focus on treating all customers like family.
Consisting of a diverse team with unique perspectives, ProCom prides itself in making decisions in the best interest of its customers, associates, and company. Its leadership team's focus is to knock down barriers for employees so they can better serve their customers.
Interconnect Products & Services, Inc.
Interconnect Products and Services, Inc. has corporate offices and manufacturing facilities in Wilkesboro, and branch service offices in Morrisville and Wilmington.
It was founded in 1985 by Chuck Snider and has been a pioneer in the fields of computer and telephone structured cabling, and the production of custom computer and electrical wiring harnesses and connector assemblies.
As the company grew, it expanded into telephony, broadband networking and client-server network systems. Today, Interconnect is firmly established as a highly reputable provider of converged technologies.
Along with being a Tyco Electronics/AMP cooperative electronic subcontractor, Interconnect specializes in the design and installation of copper and fiber optic data cabling systems, voice and data communication networks, and the implementation of building technologies such as controls, security, video/media, and voice/paging communications systems for businesses and governmental agencies throughout North and South Carolina.
Wilkes Connections, Inc.
Wilkes Connections, Inc. was founded in 1996 by owner and President H. Gwyn Cleary as a company specializing in high-quality installation of all forms of cabling, including certified, structured, fiber optic, buried and aerial.
Additional services such as voice, security and access control were added around 1998 and have since become a large part of its business.
The mission of Wilkes Connections is to help customers of all sizes ensure they have the appropriate cabling and equipment installed, in order to support a seamless operation. Its specialties include networks for wireless access points, workstations, NEC phone systems, security camera surveillance and access control.
The business operates out of a warehouse in Mulberry and has seven full-time employees with about 65 years of combined experience in the communications networking technology field.
“We pride ourselves in our ability to provide an individualized personal customer service experience with state-of-the-art technology at affordable competitive prices,” office manager Melissa King said.
Wilkes Connections Inc. currently holds a low-voltage electrical contractor license and a North Carolina alarm systems license. Its service area includes North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia, as well as other states for specialized projects.
InfusionPoints, based in North Wilkesboro, is a cybersecurity strategy and technology consulting firm that assists clients in building secure and compliant business solutions to protect their consumer, employee and partner information.
The company helps its clients simplify their security environments by providing a comprehensive, strategic vision to surpass stakeholder requirements and achieve cost efficiency, while improving effectiveness and agility.