Peak Vice-President advances swiftly with booming Internet company
~ by Rick Langenberg ~
How do you advance from IT gopher and a basic message guy to a vice-president of a booming local Internet company and key player in the community within a very short time?
By staying attuned to the company mission and getting a kick-start on new technologies, and even occasionally, serving as a government watchdog.
That’s apparently the path pursued by Austin Weatherford, the vice-president of Peak Internet, a growing company that hopes to soon serve 95 percent of Teller County. More importantly, Weatherford, who is only 21, has gained a front-row leadership seat to the region’s technological revolution, even for Teller County.
But for Weatherford, his rise to prestige in the local technology arena is more than just a job.
“We are very attuned to the community,” said Weatherford. “This is our home and our community.” He notes that his family and company owner Jayson Baker are strongly involved in the local area, helping many organizations and nonprofits. More notably, this is part of a family tradition.
Austin Weatherford’s father, Arden Weatherford, is owner of the BierWerks, regarded as one of the premiere local community hangouts and brewpubs in Woodland Park. And Jayson Baker’s father, Jay Baker, founded and developed Teller County Waste, a local company offering alternatives to chain trash outlets like Waste Management.
In many ways, this same spirit of local competition and innovation sparked the development of Peak Internet 16 years ago. The company has already received recognition as a winner of Colorado Companies to Watch. In 2016, Peak Internet was chosen as the Fastest Growing Company in Colorado Springs by the Colorado Springs Business Journal. Jayson Baker also was awarded as Gen XYZ Top Entrepreneur in 2015
The company also has commanded main stage attention for its amazing infrastructure boom and growth locally, a trend that has left a few key community heads spinning.
Weatherford is also on the front-edge of Peak’s pursuit to develop more and better infrastructure, with its optic-fiber development and acceleration of new emerging technologies that make life easier for business folks without relying on traditional networks. “These are game changers,” admits Weatherford, in describing some of the new Internet, radio and phone technologies.
But that said, he maintains their ultimate goal is to provide faster and better, affordable service. They currently serve more than 3,000 customers.
“We want to provide more jobs to the community and connect more people in Teller County,” said Weatherford.
Currently, Peak employs about 20 people and occupies a new spacious office at the professional office center, located the corner of Hwy. 24 and West Street, once occupied by TellerNetcast. Their new office, located at the heart of Woodland Park, has provided Peak Internet with a presence it never had before.
Weatherford has cited a desire to add more employees and technicians. The company is also expanding in the Colorado Springs and Denver markets, and is gaining a larger presence in Cripple Creek. And unlike other large companies, Peak can offer a local connection and service-driven commitment that can’t be offered with other mega chains, where customers may have to grapple with a 30-minute long wait just to get in touch with a customer service representative. “We take pride in the service we offer,” admitted Weatherford.
Keep Government Out of the Picture
Along the way, company leaders have encountered a few skirmishes with county officials. They were strong opponents of a pro-government effort to fund future Broadband expansions and opt out of previous restrictions, dealing government involvement in the telecommunications arena, during the Nov. 2016 elections.
Weatherford, who previously testified before the county commissioners regarding this issue, still stands behind Peak’s anti-government stance, an attitude that raised the ire of some government leaders. “By the time this government funding comes through, the infrastructure will already be built,” said Weatherford.
Like company owner Jayson Baker, he would have preferred a system that works with the current Internet/telecommunications providers in closing the current gaps in the Broadband network.
With the government-sponsored programs, he maintains that government consultants will emerge as the big winners, rather than local residents or businesses. County officials disagree, but have credited Peak Internet for much of their Internet and Broadband-related infrastructure development.
Peak has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars into tower development and optic-fiber cable, and has recently pursued much work between Woodland Park and Divide.
More recently, the company also has explored technology that doesn’t require line-of-sight towers. “We are upgrading all our old towers in order to further optimize our network,” said Weatherford.
Weatherford, who is practically on call on a 24/7 basis, admits he is surprised he advanced this quickly in the Peak Internet ranks. He admits he is an IT junkie, who actually got his feet wet in working with Joe Neal, the former owner of a local computer company. “I learned quite a bit from Joe,” admitted Weatherford.
He sees the future of Peak Internet as quite promising, and also believes the prospects are quite good for Teller County in its rise from what some consultants have called the Dark Ages of Communications. Weatherford believes customers will have more options, and hopes Peak Internet can help fulfill their communication needs.