IT businesses join Valley’s economic recovery

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IT business
BILL KIMBLE/CVBJ
Sam El Alami and Jon Bucknell of ITSolutions/Currie work on a customer’s computer.

MODESTO – The Central Valley’s technology and information system sector has seen an upswing this year as more businesses are investing in their computer systems.

“We are definitely on the grow,” said Melissa Barry, junior partner and sales associate at ITSolutions/Currie, an IT firm that has served Modesto since 1979. “We have three open positions: two techs and a sales/dispatcher.”

Barry said that she saw the upswing begin in earnest in November. It was a welcome sight for Barry, who has worked in the IT field for the last eight years.

“We definitely saw a dip,” said Barry. “That is a little bit different for our industry. It’s usually a little more recession resistant than some others.”

She said that one of the key reasons for the increase is that businesses have reached the limit on how long they can put off replacing equipment, and now they’re spending money.

Barry’s anecdotal experience coincides with CSU Stanislaus’s 2013 San Joaquin Valley Business forecast. While the sector saw employment drop from a high of nearly 17,000 workers in 2001 to a low of fewer than 12,000 in 2011, employment is now approaching the 13,000 mark.

One of the biggest challenges area firms have is finding qualified applicants.

“When I put out an ad, I’ll get 50 resumes,” said Adtech-IT President Jim Lawson. “Five might be qualified and one might be suitable.”

Finding workers with the correct certification is a major issue for IT firms in the Central Valley. Firms like the Ceres-based Adtech-IT services companies and government agencies in locations stretching from Sacramento to Fresno and into the Bay Area.

Servicing such a diverse group of clients requires a workforce certified in Microsoft and Cisco systems.

“The certifications needed can take anywhere from a couple weeks to a couple years with experience to get,” said Lawson. “A lot of it is studying materials and then taking the tests.”

The fastest growing area for Adtech-It has been its managed solutions area. Managed solutions involves servicing a client’s phones or computer networks from remote locations.

“We might have a client that has 120 stations and if there is a problem with one of their stations, we’ll know immediately and can fix it right away,” Lawson said. “It has really picked up where some of our computer sales have slipped.”

Another area of growth is in “cloud-based” services. Largely focusing on email, they allow a business to host email on an IT company’s server, and then access it from anywhere it needs.

“We’re seeing more and more people moving in that direction,” said Verve Vice President Chad Sublet. “It’s moving toward a pure cloud environment.”

Verve, like many Central Valley IT firms, is growing. It is currently looking to expand its 13-employee workforce by two additional techs. This came after adding one technician in early August.

The company, which started in 2006 with two men in a garage, has seen recovery from the lows of the Great Recession. Sublet said that the growing need for technology services has made for a competitive environment.

“There are certainly more players popping up,” said Sublet. “I would say the need is growing and the need is changing. There are more providers coming to the table.”

Servicing between 60 and 70 long-term clients, the Stockton-based Verve has seen the largest growth in its consulting business.

“We have seen a lot of people with business challenges and we help them build solutions to those challenges,” said Sublet.

The biggest challenge for area firms is catching up with demand. As economic conditions continue to improve, companies are moving forward with long-delayed improvements.

“There has been a lot of pent-up demand,” said Lawson. “A lot of businesses have put on hold upgrading equipment. Now newer software is requiring them to replace their computers. We expect that to continue.”

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