2020: A Renewed Sense of Our Mission Building America’s Information Infrastructure

By Joshua Broder

COVID-19 has affected directly or indirectly every aspect of how we live. Ten months ago, we could not predict how the pandemic would fully impact our industry, one that has been in demand before and still is during the pandemic. And while the past year has brought unprecedented challenges, it has not slowed down our ambition or growth goals. 2020 reinforced an increased need for reliable, high-speed broadband, and we have gained an emboldened confidence and urgency in the importance of our mission to build America’s information infrastructure.

Over the past year, I have seen our team dig deep, take care of each other, and figure out how to get our work done through all kinds of roadblocks. As 2020 comes to an end, we reflect on how we continue to drive success and ride the pandemic wave together on our mission.

Stay Calm and Stream On

We have built a high performing, high culture company that places its values at the forefront of what we do. In March, Tilson leaders went into action responding to the pandemic by implementing a three-tiered response plan. Our nationwide teams were well-positioned to make an abrupt move to remote work. Tilson is completely cloud-based and leveraging the Microsoft power platforms, like Teams, to replace face-to-face interviews, meetings, and conduct onboarding. Deemed essential, our field teams practiced social distancing while working harder than ever to build and maintain connectivity during the state of emergency.

We hired several key senior positions this year including Greg Edmoundson, Vice President of Network Development, and Andy Spurgeon, Vice President of Strategy and Business Development, to drive Tilson’s network development business strategy.

“2020 has been such a challenging year for most Americans,” said Andy. “The Tilson team’s determination and skill has created something positive amidst this horrible pandemic by continuing to grow our business while delivering fiber and wireless broadband access to families working from home and attending school remotely. I’m excited to build on those efforts next year and support our economic recovery by building the networks and information systems that power business, support rural agriculture, connect our communities, and drive the 21st century economy.”

Tilson promoted Kelly Brewer to Chief Operating Officer, now overseeing more than 550 telecom and consulting professionals and leading Tilson’s ongoing operational growth. Tilson named Mike Dow as Tilson’s first Chief Innovation Officer in addition to his current role as Chief Information Officer. In this new position, Mike leads Tilson’s growing Innovation efforts to better serve our customers, which include research, development, and commercialization of the next generation of AI/ML enabled tools to improve the timelines, cost, and quality of the work we do.

Tilson shareholders appointed two visionary leaders to our Board of Directors including Sheryl Tullis and Catherine Smith to help shape future strategy and operations for Tilson. Their expertise has been instrumental as Tilson continues to pursue its strategy for long-term sustainable growth.

Reaching a Wider Group of Diverse and Skilled Candidates

Tilson celebrated our first year participating in the DOD SkillBridge Program with presentations from five of our SkillBridge interns, who shared their experience transitioning from their military careers to the civilian workforce. SkillBridge is a year-round Department of Defense internship program for Active-Duty service members who are within six months of separating from service.

We continue to look to expand in different ways and take advantage of the opportunities that will allow us to grow and meet our mission of building America’s information infrastructure. Earlier this year, Tilson implemented a new Human Resources Information System, Workday. The new, comprehensive, employee centric human resource information system (HRIS) allows us to reliably track and analyze candidate and employee demographic information. With a more efficient, streamlined system that enables us to track better data and more transparency, we are in an even better position to scale and grow.

New Normal is Not Normal

Like so many others, the pandemic took its toll on Tilson and though we are resilient, it’s important to acknowledge our challenges. Everything about this year and the COVID-19 safety precautions we now take were not part of our normal. Though we were fortunate to have the tools for remote work, we struggled to balance childcare at home and integrate homeschooling with a demanding work schedule. We had team members, family, and friends get sick with COVID. 

For our Tilson employees who wrestle with the grief of not being able to say goodbye to a loved one this year, your Tilson family grieves with you and appreciates the unbearable pain you have suffered this year. Our clients suffered and we had to make some difficult business decisions, furlough employees, and close a few office locations. Tilson continued to hire a lot of incredible people this year but unfortunately, there are many who work together daily and have never met face-to-face. 

Looking Ahead at 2021

Our team is committed to building a stronger and more reliable infrastructure to help Americans stay online during and after the pandemic. Over the past year, Tilson executed several ambitious technology projects funded by the CARES Act to expand broadband access across the country. In more than five states, we went to work to make connectivity better for communities, students, and businesses to help address the challenges of remote education, support remote work and provide access to telemedicine.

More recently, Tilson, members from the New Hampshire Electric Cooperative (NHEC), and local business partners came together on December 15th for an outdoor gathering to commemorate the completion of the project which provided nearly 900 unserved NHEC members with broadband internet access. This more than 100-mile fiber broadband project was designed, built, lit, and integrated in just a bit more than 100 days, which is the fastest I have ever seen a network of this scale deployed.

Going forward our teams will continue to be flexible. We know there will be changes, and we know we will have to further adapt our plan to continue our mission to build America’s information infrastructure moving into 2021. I learned in the Army that we should never let a good crisis go to waste. More than just an expression, this philosophy is core to my own resilience, commitment to Tilson’s safety, our Team’s composure value and vision for tomorrow.

HIGHLIGHTS FROM 2020:

Tilson Named to Inc. 5000 For 10th Consecutive Year with a Growth Rate of 203.47%

In the 38-year history of Inc. 5000, there have only been 113 companies that have made the list ten times, according to Inc. Media.

Tilson Recognized as ENR Top 600 Specialty Contractor for Fifth Consecutive Year; Rises 85 Spots from last year

Tilson’s rise on the list in 2020 reflects the company’s sustainable year-over-year growth as it continues to meet increasing customer demands for 5G, fiber, and other networks across the country. 

Tilson Recommits to the NATE (National Association of Tower Erectors) Star Initiative Participant for the Seventh Year in a Row

"Tilson is proud to be a NATE STAR Initiative member for seven years. This program aligns well with our goal of safe tower work and training/preparing our many apprentices for a professional and safe career in the industry." says Chuck Webster, Tilson's Director of Safety.

Tilson Partners with US Ignite, JMA Wireless, and Federated Wireless to Bring Cutting Edge 5G To Fort Carson

The dedicated 4G/5G network is part of the Fort Carson Smart Transportation Testbed, a project run by US Ignite, with funding and management from the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC).

Tilson Awarded More than $3.7M to Deliver Broadband to Homes in Rural Vermont

As part of the Vermont Department of Public Service (PSD) COVID-19 Emergency Connectivity Initiative and Get Vermonters Connected Now Initiative (GVCNI), Tilson is deploying new fiber network to deliver high-speed broadband to over 500 unserved residences in the towns of Danville, West Danville, Lunenburg, and St. Johnsbury, Vermont.

Tilson Designs 100+ Miles of Broadband for NHEC in 100 Days

Despite tight timelines, Tilson and the NHEC were able to build 100+ miles of fully operational network across 4 towns in New Hampshire in less than 100 days.

Tilson Delivers Successful Virtual Internship Program

“Internships have become an integral part of our pipeline, where interns have the opportunity to contribute to meaningful work, immediately,” said Adria Horn, VP of Workforce. “By their very nature, interns bring new, fresh ideas, incredible skills and are a delight to work with. With a full remote posture, there was no difference in a new employee starting compared to an intern. For a fully functional remote working company, it didn’t make sense to let COVID impact this experience as well.”

Joshua Broder

Joshua Broder serves as CEO of Tilson, which under his leadership, has grown from less than 10 employees to over 550, earning a top spot on the Inc. 5000 list for the past ten years. He is also the founder of Tilson’s public utility affiliate, which develops, owns, and leases back 5G infrastructure including poles, towers, dark fiber and neutral host indoor and outdoor wireless networks nationwide. Josh cut his teeth in leadership as an Army Signal Officer on missions in Europe, the Middle East, and Central Asia, where he was awarded the Bronze Star for service in Afghanistan designing, building and operating the communications network for US forces. Josh holds a bachelor’s degree from Middlebury College and is a graduate of AT&T’s Operation Hand Salute at JFK University with a certificate in entrepreneurial studies. Josh is currently serving a gubernatorial appointment as the co-chair of Maine’s economic recovery committee, is on the board of Versant Power, VETRO Fibermap, Kleinschmidt associates, and Skowhegan Savings Bank.

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