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CHARLOTTE … A.T. Distribution (ATD), which sells software, hardware, consulting and video security systems, has announced a string of new clients and new hires in recent months.

“Business is up 30 percent this year and we expect to continue hiring to meet project needs,” Randall Fullerton, vice president of operations tells Local Tech Wire.

Garth Buchanan, who joins the company in retail IT product sales, is the latest hire, announced Monday.

“We’ve got clients spending tens of thousands on projects and talking about phasing in projects they want to bring on this year,” Fullerton says.

The eight-year old company is “the fourth largest IT company in Charlotte you’ve never heard of,” says Fullerton. He points out that the company has become more visible lately after hiring Patricia Pollock’s My Team of Experts PR firm to create some buzz. Pollack, formerly head of the Mecklenburg Entrepreneurial Council (now the Business, Innovation and Growth Council or BIG) before Terry Thorson took the reins, has put out a steady stream of new client and new hire announcements for ATD this year.

“We’ve always had these types of clients, but Patricia has been instrumental in getting us in the public eye,” Fullerton says.

A Microsoft Gold channel partner, ATD is the largest independent distributor in the Carolinas and one of the largest in the southeast, Fullerton says. It touts itself as “the only Charlotte-based IT company that is vertically integrated to include wholesale and retail equipment sales, consulting, design, implementation and after sales service.”

Hong Kong brothers Ricky and Michael Leung founded ATD in 1995. The 35-employee company has a walk-in store with a 30,000 square foot warehouse in the University area. The company is a direct distributor for numerous hardware and software vendors, does cabling and even manufactures its own computer cases and power supplies. The company also provides remote access video security to small businesses and home owners.

Fullerton notes that ATD has developed a specialty serving real estate agents and firms. “We have a good grasp of what they need,” he says. ATD clients include McGuire Properties, Keller Williams Real Estate, and the 6,000 strong Charlotte Realtor Association. Others include the Charlotte Paint Company and Charlotte branch of Habitat for Humanity.

Not the cheapest

Fullerton says that ATD even works with individual agents. “We don’t believe in a cookie-cutter approach. One size does not fit all businesses. We partner with clients to figure out their needs. We treat the individual as if they’re a corporation,” he says. Fullerton notes that the company is not always the least expensive IT option.

“We don’t sell on price,” Fullerton says. “There’s always going to be someone less expensive. Closing the sale isn’t the objective, finding a solution for the customer is the objective. We bring good value to the table. About 80 percent of our business comes from referrals.”

The company also participates in a significant amount of charity and community involvement in the Charlotte area. Fullerton says, “We support the Charlotte Mecklenburg schools Tech Connect programs. We work with Computer Access in Neighborhoods (CAN). We bring in interns who work in our service department.”

Fullerton says ATD’s security division, which installs multi-video camera systems for businesses, homeowners, and homeowner associations, is doing very well. A typical two or three camera system that can be monitored remotely even from a home PC costs between $3,000 and $4,000.

“We’ve done several projects for homeowner associations, putting cameras in clubhouses, tennis and basketball courts, and pools so they can document incidents and prevent vandalism. One client in Charlotte saw a 100 percent decrease in vandalism and plans to add two more cameras to their system,” Fullerton says.

Women in Tech

A new women in technology group is forming in Charlotte to replace the Women in Technology International group that disbanded a year ago, Francis Queen of Queen Associates Inc. tells LTW.

The new group’s board includes about 15 women executives chaired by Theresa Payton, a senior vice president at Wackovia. “A lot of Charlotte IT companies are represented,” says Queen.

The group is exploring a possible alliance with another existing group for monthly meetings. “It’s not always a good thing to reinvent the wheel if you can find a good existing group to align with,” says Queen.

Tech in schools

Queen, who is also coordinator between the National Association of Women Business Owners and BIG, stresses that no other Charlotte organization focuses particularly on women in technology. She sees a need for such an organization to help educate young women in schools to consider tech careers. “We’re losing women in our field,” she says.

Organizaions such as Tech Connect, the Charlotte Chamber, and Central Piedmont Community College, are collaborating to form tech clubs with computer work stations in all Charlotte high schools. The problem is that while the clubs are received well, “the women were not coming,” says Queen. As a side effort, Queen says she has been trying to get women executives involved to go into the high schools and get young women into the clubs.

The new women in technology group hopes to announce a new alliance with an existing group by the first of October. “We’re doing due diligence with one organization now,” she says.

Queen’s own company, a business and technology services firm, provides consulting and staffing services at the “higher end of large companies.” Queen Associates works with First Union, Wachovia, TransAmerica, and CSX Industries, among other clients.

Queen and her company have won a number of awards in the last few years, including the Business Journal’s “Women in Business” achievement award, the NAWBO Rising Star award, and a Charlotte Chamber Blue Diamond award she says “put us on the map.”

ATD: atd.inc.com

Queen Associates Inc.: www.qai3.com