LR Group acquires computer technology company

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Little Rock’s Circumference Group announced on Tuesday that it is investing to take a majority stake in Conway-based The Computer Works to support the broadband provider’s growth in Arkansas.

Financial details were not disclosed. Circumference founder and CEO Jeff Fox said Tuesday that efforts will focus on supporting The Computer Works’ broadband expansion in Arkansas communities.

“The business is already growing and our goal is to help them continue to grow it and make it a service provider for many more customers,” Fox said. “Broadband is strategically important in rural communities and we want to make a difference.”

Circumference is an investment company that also provides expertise to improve operational efforts in companies that attract its investments. The company will strive to improve The Computer Works’ operations and upgrade its automation and technology services to enable continued expansion.

“They’ve done a great job with the company and there are only certain areas that we can help address carefully,” Fox said. “We want to help them continue to grow efficiently and provide great service to Arkansas customers.”

The Computer Works was founded in 1989 to provide networking and computer services to businesses and eventually expanded into offering digital subscriber lines (DSL) to customers. In 2016, the company began installing fiber and focusing on expanding high-speed internet in rural communities.

Today, it offers broadband to residential and business customers in Arkansas, Conway, Cleburn, Faulkner, Searcy, Stone and Van Buren counties. “Our primary focus has been rural areas and we want to continue to grow with fiber in those communities,” President Pat Wilson said Tuesday.

“Circumference will help us grow and bring us experience in all areas of broadband,” added Wilson. “Circumference was the perfect partner for us – they are very committed to Arkansas.”

Circumference’s investment comes at a critical time in the broadband industry.

Expanding broadband became a key economic development and education initiative during the pandemic as more stay-at-home workers needed high-speed internet service and broadband was also essential to help students. attend classes as schools closed at the height of the spread of covid-19.

Last year, Congress approved spending $65 billion to expand broadband across the country as part of President Biden’s infrastructure investment bill. Another $25 billion has been allocated under the US bailout. “Affordable high-speed Internet connects Americans to essential services and expands economic opportunity for every community,” the administration said in announcing the funding, which is provided to Arkansas and other states on the basis of need.

In Arkansas, the state’s Rural Connect program has invested $368 million to extend broadband to more than 109,000 homes.

The Computer Works received $11 million under the state program, including grants to spur expansion in Cleburne, Conway and Faulkner counties. Arkansas Rural Connect provided The Computer Works about $2.25 million to expand fixed wireless and another $8.7 million to accelerate fiber deployments, according to state records.

“This funding has been very helpful in expanding broadband around Conway and other areas,” Wilson said.

The companies announced on Tuesday that Wilson would continue as president of The Computer Works and that the company’s headquarters would remain in Conway.

In April, a Broadband Development Group report estimated that the cost of extending broadband access to approximately 110,000 homes in Arkansas without high-speed internet would cost $550 million and reduce the number of remaining underserved households. to about 10,000 in three years. The group was hired by the state to assess broadband needs and better target service delivery.

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