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image descriptionBryant Company Becomes Largest Arkansas IT Firm

An electrical contractor based in Bryant this year surpassed Science Applications International Corp. as the IT consulting firm with the largest number of employees in Arkansas.

Last year, Fleming Network Services had 170 employees and was just five behind Science Applications. This year, it flew past all competition with 250 workers, 65 more than Science Applications and 148 more than Clearpointe, the third largest.

“We opened a new office,” said Chris Wallace, senior key account manager at the company’s Bentonville branch. “It’s the northwest office, and it’s been growing over the last year and a half to two years.”

He said between 20 and 25 people, 14 of whom are technicians, work in the 20,000-SF (including warehouse space) building.

The company performs mostly hardware service, such as voice and data cabling, fiber optics and phone system maintenance, often working on data centers. Fleming is also the American Power Conversion Corp. reseller for the state of Arkansas.

Wallace said the company was still growing.

“Fleming Network will continue to grow because of the need for network cabling to be installed,” he said, adding that most new technology needs to have a network. “It has to be networked, and it can be networked – everything from monitoring power to turning on and off the lights to HVAC controls, data networks and phone system. Everything has copper.”

He said the company would continue to expand throughout Arkansas and currently has its eyes on the southern part of the state.

Fleming handles highly visible clients like Sisters of Mercy Health System, a health care system based in Chesterfield, Mo., with numerous locations in Arkansas; Verizon Wireless; Entergy; Arkansas Nuclear One; Little Rock National Airport; and Southwest Power Pool. The company has built data centers for both Verizon and Entergy.

And the company has changed since its beginnings. In 1995, Fleming Electric became Fleming Network Services.

“Those customers that we had been taking care of on the electric side were needing someone they could trust to start doing their IT as far as network cabling,” Wallace said. “We were asked to do that for them, so we started Fleming Network Systems, and have grown since then.”

After a few years performing various services, the company decided to focus mainly on cabling.

And technology keeps changing.

“With technology advancing now, access-control systems and cameras are all Internet Protocol based,” Wallace said. “Before, we would do an analogue system, but now everything is much more of an IP appliance with an IP address. That includes telephone systems, Voice over IP, everything. As it advances, people have to get Cat 5 or Cat 6 fiber to make it work. Before, when you wanted to hook up a computer, you just pull up a cable. Now you have to have everything networked.”

Last year, Fleming was just ahead of Optus Inc. of Jonesboro in the number of employees. This year, Optus fell to fourth place, dropping from 110 to 90 employees. Clearpointe of Little Rock took its place with 102 workers, a gain of 26 compared with last year.

Luke Jones-Arkansas Business Originally published Sept 12, 2011