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WADE DANIELS Staff Reporter High-tech systems that transmit data between phone systems and computers are fueling new growth among business telephone system vendors. Aside from the familiar switchboards and voice-mail systems, so-called computer telephony integration systems and data networks are becoming the bread and butter of these businesses. At ACI Communication Systems Inc., for example, three-fourths of the firm’s business consists of designing, installing and managing computer systems that communicate with one another and with telephone systems. In contrast, a decade ago standard telephone system hook-ups accounted for all but a small percent of the company’s business, said Gary Bengler, systems sales manager for the Calabasas-based company. “Wiring for computer systems is an area of strong growth in this industry,” Bengler said. The company, which has 175 employees in Los Angeles County, sometimes sends its technicians to a site to perform a single job. In other cases, technicians may be permanently located at the offices of a client that is using the company’s systems. For example, Bengler said, the company recently won a contract from Seagram Co. Ltd. to put seven technicians on-site at Universal Studios Inc., which is owned by Seagram. The increasing complexity of computer technology is leading a number of these companies to get advanced training and certification for their technicians, so they can work with specialized companies and brands. One example is Network Information Systems Inc., which is sending its technicians for training on Microsoft networking systems and router hardware manufactured by Cisco Systems Inc., according to Jeff Reynolds, a principal with the Burbank-based telephone supplier. Some of the companies on the list saw significant growth over last year. The No. 2 company, Siemens Business Communications Inc., saw the largest growth, with 144 employees compared to the 95 it reported last year. Accurate Telecom Inc. went from 46 employees last year to 60 in 1998. Of the other companies on the list, Corporate Telecomm’s roster grew to 21 from 17 in 1997; Network Information Systems Inc. increased its staff from 16 to 19; and Desertcom added one employee, for a total of 44. While many business telephone system vendors specialize in providing new telephone system technology, Van Nuys-based Extenda Communications Inc. tries to help customers who don’t necessarily want the latest and greatest available. “We don’t push clients to upgrade if they’re comfortable with what they have,” said Steven Schmidt, vice president of Extenda, which has 72 L.A. County employees. “We still service everything we’ve sold for the last 20 years.” Extenda, whose clients include Panavision Inc. and the University of La Verne, also differs from some of its competitors in that its technicians do not remain stationed at client sites. Schmidt said the company used to do this, but it is now able to do things like remotely monitor clients’ systems from its own offices. Some of these companies have benefited from a trend to outsource the services they offer by the major telephone companies like GTE and Pacific Bell.

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