KINGSPORT - A small business started out in 1999 with two employees installing cable modems in Kingsport.
In eight years, it has grown to employ more than 400 employees, working in 16 offices in four states.
That exponential growth came to a company that Dobyns-Bennett High School graduate Kenny Glass, a self-described blue collar worker, helped start in his basement with lots of practical experience and a vision.
K&S Communications LLC, an honorable mention in the 2000 Small Business Start-Up Contest, has its corporate headquarters at 1109 E. Sevier Ave., where operations in Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina report. K&S also has a call-center building in Morristown. The business does work for Charter Communications, Comcast, Time-Warner and Media Comm, as well as other businesses.
Locally, it also is a technology provider for the city of Kingsport school system, installing cabling, networking and surveillance systems.
Glass said the business does everything from installing cable modems to running fiber optic cable, underground cable, aerial cable, as well as cable-based telephones.
K&S employs about 35 in Kingsport, including 20 installation technicians. Full-time employees receive benefits including health care, paid vacation, 401(k) retirement funds and disability insurance.
Glass, despite being president and chief executive officer of the business, called himself blue collar and said he got his start installing cable modems under contract to a former employer.
"I was the data comm guy. I was the person who went out and installed cable modems when they (Intermedia officials) first launched (Internet service) in Kingsport," Glass said. "I'm the blue collar guy in the business."
Today, however, that blue collar guy spends three or four days a week on the road to K&S operations in other states.
Before going out on his own, Glass worked for Time Warner and Intermedia, predecessors in the area to Charter Communications. In 1991 he left, going to work for TCM Construction.
There, he worked eight years doing contract work for what became Charter and other cable companies. He left TCM to start his own company.
"I told them (officials at TCM) that I was going to work for anybody who would hire me," Glass said of his livelihood.
With the takeoff of cable Internet service, the business also took off, so fast that he sometimes had trouble hiring and training technicians quick enough.
Eventually, Polk Chandler, the original second employee of K&S, started his own company called Reliable Data Solutions. The two companies often work together, with K&S providing the networking and Reliable providing software support.
Glass used to work in the field most weekdays and then do paper work, invoices and supply orders at night in the basement.
Glass moved the business to 1109 E. Sevier in December of 2001. But the operations side of the business eventually outgrew that building.
So the Operations Center of K&S, a new building on the site of an old Marathon gas station, opened last year at 1000 N. Wilcox Drive, at the corner of Wilcox and Sevier.
In between, literally and in the timeline, he built the Clean Stop Car Wash at 1113 E. Sevier in 2003.
No, the car wash does not have fiber-optic cable or wireless Internet.
"It was just a life-long dream I had. I thought it would be a perfect fit to be able to keep an eye on it from here," Glass said.
Miles Burdine, executive vice president and chief executive officer of the Kingsport Area Chamber of Commerce, said Glass has been instrumental in improving the appearance of that area of town.
But the K&S growth also continued elsewhere. In 2005, Glass grew K&S into Charter territory in the Maryville, Alcoa and Knoxville market, and afterward went into other Charter markets.
However, Glass predicted that in the next 10 years, wireless technology would drive his business much as early cable modems did in the beginning.
Glass said another trend in cable is the video, voice and data packages, also offered by competing telephone companies.
Glass, 37 and single, was born in Maryland but has lived in Kingsport since he was 6. He graduated from Dobyns-Bennett High School.
In the next few years it is possible his son, another DB graduate, will take part more in the business. The elder Glass' mother also works there.
Matthew Glass, 18, is a freshman at Northeast State Technical Community College with plans to study business.
Glass said his son has expressed interest in the business and for now helps run the car wash year-round and during the summers pulls wire for K&S.
Asked for advice on starting a successful business, Glass said it helped to know it from the ground up as he did.
"Stay within your means. service what you sell, provide the upmost professionalism to your customers that you can and go with what you believe in," Glass said.
He also said a sense of humor helps, too. His corporate headquarters is next to the TV & Radio Clinic, 1101 E. Sevier.
Greg Darnell, owner of the television repair business, and Glass said prospective customers and employees sometimes show up at the wrong door but are simply sent next door.
For more information, go to K&S Communications on the Internet at www.kandscom.com or call K&S at (423) 245-2407.