Centerline Solutions operates as the ultimate enabler of connectivity by delivering services for all things wireless to the telecommunications industry. As a full turnkey provider, the Denver-based company designs, builds, modifies, and maintains wireless network infrastructure nationwide for clients including the major wireless carriers, equipment manufacturers, tower owners, government entities, and other private firms. Centerline’s services are principally performed in-house, affording its staff complete control of all project aspects from start to finish, truly differentiating them within the wireless industry.
Launched in 2011, Centerline has been recognized by Inc. Magazine as one of its Top 5000 Fastest Growing Private Companies for four consecutive years. It is led by CEO, Ben Little, whose business acumen has contributed to the firm’s stunning 560 percent growth in revenue over the last several years. Little says that he and his fellow investors decided to enter into the wireless ecosystem after examining the marketplace and determining that the wireless industry had three characteristics which made it an extremely good bet.
According the Little, the first characteristic was that it was a highly fragmented sector – there were a lot of companies in the industry that did only one thing. “What we found in the wireless marketplace is that you have a lot of very specialized companies,” he explains. “Company A would complete Task A and then hand it off to Company B, who would complete Task B; they in turn would hand it off to Company C to complete the next task, and so forth, down the line.” Centerline’s originators believed there was a better way to do things.
The second characteristic was the lack of a business service technology within or across the different companies in the sector. “We found that software technology had skipped the wireless services space,” Little says. “We often find that highly fragmented businesses, where there are lots of small providers, don’t have the luxury, or the need, to invest in this revolutionizing business technology.” However, he and the company’s founders envisioned the great opportunity residing in this technology hole.
The third thing that Little says was attractive about the wireless industry was its large market cap – there were many big players and a lot of money changing hands. “So, we looked at the state of the industry and said, ‘This is a great opportunity; it has a lot of assets we really like.’ In addition, we looked at the landscape and saw the ability to vertically integrate. With all three of our core industry characteristics accounted for, plus the added bonus of an opportune landscape, we said, ‘Let’s take a go at it.’”
Centerline’s first acquisition was a small construction firm in Golden, Colorado. “When we got into the business, we knew that we wanted to vertically integrate – that’s one of our key things,” Little asserts. “Our goal is to be as high on the food chain as we possibly can, so we started with a construction business and then recognized there are activities that happen above us and activities that happen below us. One of our company’s central tenets is that we want to be all things wireless, so with aims of vertically integrating and controlling our own destiny, we acquired a small engineering firm.” With internal teams for both the construction and professional services aspects of the wireless project cycle, project flow and quality were secured safely in Centerline’s grasp.
From there, through both organic growth and strategic acquisitions, the company worked its way up the value chain. “With our expertise proven, we now have direct contracts with the major players in the industry and we perform what’s called ‘turnkey services’,” says Little. “This means we have the ability, with in-house staff, to complete an entire project from design through site leasing/zoning and into construction and maintenance. In controlling that entire value chain, we are confident in our ability to stay ahead of the curve and control our own destiny.”
For Centerline Solutions that value chain includes: RF Design Engineering, Site Acquisition & Entitlement, Regulatory Compliance, A&E Services, Full Cell Site Construction, Third Party Coordination, Construction & Project Management, Network Optimization & Integration, Troubleshooting, and Network Maintenance. The company delivers solutions for site deployments of all types, including new site builds, tower modifications, in-building wireless networks, Small Cells & Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS).
Today, Centerline has almost 500 employees working out of nine offices in eight states. With headquarters in Denver, its broad geographic reach spans offices in Phoenix, Seattle, Portland, Olympia (WA), Tampa, Atlanta, upstate New York, and Honolulu. In addition to having performed services in almost every state, the company has also delivered on projects in Mexico, Canada, Malaysia, and China.
How does Centerline juggle its myriad of ongoing projects across the country and beyond? “We invested in a custom-built ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system to manage all of our project details and business functions– we call it CenterPath,” Little explains. In September 2016, Centerline actually acquired the development firm that it partnered with to create CenterPath. With the development staff now in-house, the company is well-poised to simultaneously manage many thousands of projects. “Working in wireless is at times analogous to juggling BBs because you have many parts that are happening simultaneously and you can’t let any one of those BBs hit the ground,” describes Little. “This software system has allowed effective scaling of our business in such short time because of the streamlined information access and workflow efficiencies it introduces. In a traditional network deployment, there is a handoff from Company A to Company B, and that handoff may not be as seamless as one would hope. However, when it flows from Department A to Department B within Centerline, there is no inefficiency. We leverage our customized software to work smarter for our clients and ultimately mitigate finger-pointing and communication silos.”
Little says that even with its rapid growth to date, the company is always looking for more opportunities. “Right now, with the scale that Centerline has, we can effectively cover the United States, but we always keep our eyes open. Optimizing our performance can come in many forms: green-fielding another office in a market to help with supply chain logistics and turnaround time, strategic acquisitions of great industry partners in targeted areas of the country, or possibly additional warehousing facilities strategically spread throughout the country. We are a growth company, constantly sniffing out new opportunity and embracing change.”
It is clear that Centerline plans to continue to grow and expand as the market does. With 5G around the corner and Small Cell and DAS networks all the buzz, infrastructure companies must be poised for agility to tackle new technologies as they evolve. “We have a very robust Small Cell and DAS division that is well-prepared to handle that work as it arises,” Little points out. “Centerline is committed to investing in our business and in our people to ensure we can deliver industry-leading solutions for all things wireless.”
“It’s in our DNA to stay ahead of the curve,” Little states emphatically. “One of our core tenets is ‘Being Better than First.’ What that means is we complete every project to the best of our ability, but we know tomorrow we can do one little thing better. And those small, incremental improvements add up to tremendous growth and added abilities. Every project earned is a first place win, but we don’t rest on this and instead work towards tomorrow and the opportunity to better our craft every day.”
AT A GLANCE
WHO: Centerline Solutions
WHAT: A turnkey provider and servicer for the wireless industry
WHERE: Golden, Colorado