In just 25 years Ridgeland based C Spire Wireless has become one of the top-10 wireless service providers in the country. A ranking which stands a testament to just how far the company has come since its humble beginnings in 1988.
It all started a quarter-century ago when Cellular South president, Hu Meena, watched while Magnolia State royalty Archie Manning made the company's first wireless connection. The Ole Miss and New Orleans Saints football legend dialed-up Representative Trent Lott at his Washington, D.C. office.
The phone Manning used that day in Gulfport was the size of a phonebook and probably heavier. An ode to the pioneer days of simplistic mobile communication, according to C Spire's Jim Richmond.
"Button to send the call, button to end the call," Richmond detailed. "You can imagine how heavy and big the first generations portables were."
Richmond started as a salesman for C Spire 22-years-ago and is now the Vice President of Corporate Communications. He has seen first-hand how the company has evolved over the decades and was a part of the company's re-branding in 2011.
That year they dropped the antiquated name Cellular South to adopt what Richmond describes as a fresher title, C Spire. While the term "corporate re-branding" can strike fear in the heart of any executive, Richmond said that customers have embraced C Spire.
"When you compare the C Spire brand in a year-and-a-half to where Cellular South brand was over a 23 year period, it's very comparable," Richmond said.
Aiding the company's sustained growth is the prevalence of wireless technologies and handheld devices in our society.
"It's almost 40 percent of the population no longer have landline devices, only utilize their wireless device," Richmond said.
Furthering his point, he cites statistics which state the penetration rate of wireless users in the U.S. is 106 percent. In layman's terms: there's more active wireless devices (cell phones, handheld devices, tablet computers, etc.) than people in the United States.
It is that trend which has propelled C Spire to be the ninth largest wireless service provider in the country. What's just as remarkable is that in this age of corporate buyouts and mergers, C Spire has not sold out.
"We're proud of the fact that we have our home based in Mississippi and have not sold out or merged or moved off, and moved all these jobs and these opportunities for people out of the state of Mississippi," Richmond said.
C Spire currently employs 1,200 people with the lion's share of those jobs in Mississippi. In addition to nearly 80 retail locations throughout the southeast, employees are spread out in the Metro area at the corporate headquarters, their operations center and tech center.
That ability for C Spire officials to call their own shots and keep jobs and millions of dollars in investment in their home state is a by-product of not selling out. It also makes C Spire the largest, privately owned wireless carrier in the U.S.
"There's no doubt we've had a lot of growth, a lot of success over our 25 years in business, but we're really excited about the future," Richmond said.
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