Chatham company early adopter during digital revolution

Wally Romanski, general manager at MicroAge in Chatham, speaks about the business before being named the Feature Industry for January by the Municipality of Chatham-Kent and the Chatham-Kent Chamber of Commerce Jan. 11, 2019. Tom Morrison/Chatham This Week

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The Chatham company that took an early interest in computers and helped bring the Internet to the area has been recognized for decades of being on the forefront of new technology.

MicroAge has been named the Feature Industry for January by the Municipality of Chatham-Kent and the Chatham-Kent Chamber of Commerce.

General manager Wally Romansky, who has been with the company since 1975 when it was under a different name, said he enjoys being part of an industry which is always changing.

“That’s what makes it interesting,” he said. “It does make you make a lot of decisions along the way and we’ve been very fortunate that we have a good group of managers here that can all work together to make sure we make the right choices.”

With 15 full-time employees, MicroAge currently provides various information technology services for other businesses. Romansky said they consider themselves the IT department for the majority of their clients.

Their work includes server migrations, which involves designing server and network system architecture to be used by businesses. Romansky said seven or eight years ago they would have to have eight separate boxes for each server, but now they can fit all of those into one machine.

MicroAge also sells companies computer products, which range from Hewlett Packard laptops to WatchGuard firewalls to GPS fleet tracking.

Although digital technology is now at the centre of their operations, MicroAge’s origins go back to the founding of Maple City Typewriter in 1960. It later became Maple City Office Equipment and eventually entered the computer business in 1982, selling Apple computers.

They joined the MicroAge network in 1985 and incorporated as a separate business. That year, they also became an IBM dealership and was once named the IBM dealer of the year in Canada.

MicroAge is now part of the MC Group of Companies, which includes MC Business Solutions.

In 1995, Chatham Internet Access was created under the group of companies to establish the Internet in both Chatham and rural areas.

Romansky said although CIAccess was focused on business clients, 85 per cent of their customers ended up being residential.

He said he decided to work on the project after the owner of another MicroAge store invited him to see how they brought Internet access to their area.

“You had to bring in telephone lines, install modems and learn about all that stuff,” he said. “We already did servers and routers, now we just needed to develop the access portion. It was an easy fit for us.”

Romansky said they had help from the Chatham city manager at the time in getting access to telephone lines and water towers.

The MC Group of Companies sold their Internet company to Xplornet in 2015, but MicroAge still offers installation and service through them.

Knowing when a new idea will take off is “not an exact science,” said Romansky, but it requires a lot of reading, talking with owners of other stores and attending conferences.

“I think we’re in the midst of a big thing and that’s security,” he said. “Everybody needs it. Not everybody knows they need it yet. You need different levels of security in your business.”

He said with MicroAge’s work in firewalls and cloud computing, they are in a good position to provide those services.

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