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Arvig advances north: Perham-based telecom provider sets up shop in Bemidji

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BEMIDJI — Arvig is extending its reach from Walker and Cass Lake into Bemidji.

David Schornack, a business development executive with Perham-based Arvig, said the telecom company has been offering data and voice services to businesses in the Bemidji area since Oct. 1.

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“Bemidji’s a natural for us,” Schornack said. “Bemidji’s a great business town … we’ve seen lots of opportunity up here, good density. There appears to a lot of growth up here, so we’re excited about that.”

Schornack said Arvig only offers communications services to businesses in Bemidji, not individual residences, but that may change in the future.

“I think we’ll look at that opportunity down the road,” he said.

He was unsure of how Arvig’s entry into the market would affect the price consumers pay for Internet but said it would provide a new alternative for them.

“I think we can offer a competitive price for business customers, we give them another option to choose from,” he said. “I think all business customers like to have options.”

Schornack said the relationship between Arvig and competing telecom companies in Bemidji would not be adversarial. Arvig actually helps other telecom companies through its construction division, he said.

“We’re friendly competitors,” he said. “I think it’ll work out fine.”

Brian Bissonette, marketing supervisor with Paul Bunyan Communications, said competition among telecommunications providers in Bemidji has existed since the 1990s. Arvig is the fifth provider to come to Bemidji, the first since 1999, he said.

“Certainly we were aware that they’re going to be coming into town,” he said. “From our perspective, obviously we face competition today, so it’s nothing new for us.”

Schornack said Arvig is leasing its telecom lines from Century Link initially with plans to start constructing their own lines in the future.

The offering of telecom services to Bemidji businesses is only the latest inroad Arvig has made in the area. In August, Arvig announced it had bought local alarm company Security Plus on Bemidji Avenue North. Company founder Gary Allen said several companies were interested in buying Security Plus.

 “I think probably the biggest turning point was … they’re family owned,” he said. “Meeting with the people, talking with the people, (I) realized that they had values where service mattered. That’s what our … whole business was built on; service after the sale. Anybody can sell the plastic, but it’s a matter of going in after the sale and making sure the customer’s happy.”

Allen founded Security Plus almost 40 years ago in 1975, but he said now he’s ready to slow down.

“I’d like to travel, I’d like to do something different,” he said. “I enjoy work, I enjoy the people around me, but still it’s time to move on.”

In addition to operating Allen’s former business, telecom service will also be sold out of the Security Plus building, Schornack said. The alarm company’s six employees will all stay on, and Arvig will likely add an additional salesperson next year, he said.

There are no plans for Arvig to obtain its own building or expand the existing Security Plus building at this time, he said.

Arvig already owns two security companies, Arvig Security and Allstate Communications in St. Cloud, Schornack said. 

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