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PDS sees Madison facility as launchpad for growth

Madison, Wis. -- Paragon Development Systems is poised for significant growth with the opening of its new Madison office to house the company's 24/7 service desk, the company's founder said Monday.

The Oconomowoc, Wis.-based company, which is an IT infrastructure services provider, officially unveiled its new Madison facility on Monday after moving into the space at 361 Blettner Blvd. in June.

The 22,000-square-foot Madison facility, at the juncture of highways 30 and 51 in Madison, was built in 1998 for Heroes Health & Fitness Center. PDS acquired the building in April as a replacement for its leased space on Ganser Way on Madison's west side. (People still show up on occasion seeking health club memberships, said PDS vice president of infrastructure services Austin Park.)

While they won't be working out on the treadmill at the new facility, they will be working hard to further expand the 19-year-old company, said PDS founder and CEO Craig Schiefelbein.

"PDS currently employs 74 people in Madison, and we have enough room to eventually double the size of our workforce here," Schiefelbein noted. "Madison is positioned to become a kind of Silicon Valley of the Midwest, and our expanded facility is a reflection of that exciting growth in technology development in Wisconsin."
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The Madison office "could eventually be bigger than our whole company is now," Schiefelbein said, pointing to a move by companies away from inhouse IT handling to outsourcing. The company has a total of 210 employees in offices in Oconomowoc, Brookfield and Madison.

Its Madison presence is important both locally and nationally, Schiefelbein said. While it serves as the help desk for the 12 states the company does business in, it also provides a connection for PDS's Madison client base, which includes Alliant Energy, Dean Health Systems, the State of Wisconsin and the UW System.

Along with housing its service desk, which the company personalizes as "Artie," PDS will use the Madison facility as a full demonstration and testing center to allow clients and vendors to get a feel for the new technologies PDS is developing, said Gareth Harwood, executive director of marketing for the company.

Its testing and configuration center, which is just now being completed, lets PDS more fully prepare products inhouse, alleviating disruptions at client sites, Harwood said. "What we used to do onsite, 95 to 97 percent of that can be done here before we deploy, so there are fewer interruptions at a client's site," he said.

The Madison building, now dubbed the "PDS Technology Center," was nationally recognized for its unique architectural style when it originally opened as a fitness club in 1998.

"This is an exciting process - taking this visually striking facility, which sat unused for more than a year, and giving it new life in a way that reflects its cutting-edge design," Park said.

The building was in virtually move-in condition, said PDS CFO Tom Mount. But the company did spend about $350,000 to build a climate-controlled data center. Otherwise, visitors to the facility would recognize many of the features built for the athletic club, including a waterfall and an aquarium - which now holds small tropical fish and not a shark as it previously did.

Other than the glass-walled data center and the conference room, which used to be a basketball court, the office retains much of the open-space concept developed for the fitness center.

PDS has seen strong growth this year, moving from $82.5 million in sales in 2004 to $110 million this year, Schiefelbein said. He's seen significant increases in IT spending as companies move away from the post-9/11 spending slow-down, and as more companies decide to focus on their core competencies rather than on areas like IT.

"We're growing because companies want to shed their IT departments," Schiefelbein said. "We are trying to get our clients out of IT and more into the businesses they are in," he added.

Schiefelbein will address that topic at the company's Sept. 28-29 Technology Conference in Madison. His keynote address is entitled "Get Out of IT While You Can" - which will also be the name of a book he's working on.

The Technology Conference will include presentations, more than 20 breakout sessions, and exhibition space. It will take place at the Marriott Madison West in Middleton.

David Niles is senior contributing editor for WTN. He can be reached at dniles@wistechnology.com.

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