CHARLOTTE — Jim Stikeleather, chief executive officer of SANDirect, stands out in a crowd these days because of the big smile he’s wearing.

Network storage is a hot market segment these days, and SANDirect’s staff members “eat, sleep and live storage” as the acronym SAN (storage area networks) clearly implies.

If there was ever a corporate name that described a company’s mission and products, it’s the firm launched by Stikeleather and partner Thomas Schiffers. “The name says it all,” Stikeleather tells Local Tech Wire.

In fact, many of the firms’ customers across the United States find the company by Googling or launching other searches using SAN.

“We have hit our numbers every month this year,” Stikeleather says. “April, May and June were killers.” (A web site devoted to storage services notes than business in that space is up 67 percent over the past year.)

SANDirect is a division of Providence Technologies, the firm Stikeleather and Schiffers launched 10 years ago. They launched SANDirect 2 ½ years ago and now count more than 200 customers. Of course, the company wouldn’t be growing if it also wasn’t delivering a good service and satisfying customers. SANDirect works with many high-profile technology firms in the SAN (fibre based) and competing NAS (network attached storage) spaces as well as fields a team of certified engineers.

As for the future in storage, look at what happened on Sunday. The terror warnings for key financial buildings in New York, New Jersey and Washington, DC, should have executives thinking even more about protecting crucial data.

SANDirect offers a variety of hardware and services, from SAN design and solutions to disaster recovery and business continuance.

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Networking at TechExec

Stikeleather was one of more than 200 executives who turned out for LTW’s second TechExec networking event last Tuesday in Charlotte. The Business Innovation and Growth Council and The Tower Club of Charlotte, which acted as host, partnered with LTW for the event.

Among those in the crowd was Steven Manz, CEO of Optinfo, who had as much good news to talk about as Stikeleather. Manz and his wife drove in from Richmond, VA, where Optinfo is helping Wachovia Securities integrate with Prudential Securities. “The cool thing is, this is a Charlotte company working with a Charlotte company,” Manz says.

Brent Keating, group executive for the Knowledge Based Industries group within RBC Centura, was in town from Atlanta. Is the economy picking up? Yes, he says. “The deal flow the past six months has been tremendous.”

If you are an entrepreneur looking for financing, Keating says you had best assemble a strong management team. “It’s the biggest tick box,” he says, referring to due diligence.

Food Lion’s new concept “Bloom” market in Charlotte includes some high-tech tools from Treo Systems. Robert Johnson, president of Treo, says the company has set up eight product locator displays and is pitching other major retailers about its location management tools. These aren’t just for customers, either. Johnson points out many employees need help finding goods.

In fact, he notes one company, “lost” a good bit of inventory and thus became more open to the idea of Treo’s solution.

“Bloom” has eight of the locator displays in the first store, and Johnson says Treo will be part of the other four markets Food Lion is launching.

Teresa Bridwell of Cost Recovery Group has a good story to tell. A former employee of Alltel, Bridwell works with firms on a contingency basis to audit communications expenses for firms. She works on a contingency basis, her percentage being half of the cost savings.

Bridwell ( is one of several specialists at Cost Recovery Group. Kevin Leonard ( deals with medical reviews plus sales and use tax issues; James Moore ( handles workers’ compensation insurance; Steve Thomas ( helps firms deal with waste removal and recycling; Rex Greer ( works specifically on wireless costs.

Getting back to PR work is Chuck Robbins of ARO, a consulting, research and public relations firm in Matthews. Robbins’ most recent job was to handle marketing for Charlotte-based InfoVision.

News? Tips? Feedback? Drop a line to Managing Editor Rick Smith,