For more than 64 years, La Harpe Telephone Company, Inc. has been “the phone company” in La Harpe, Kansas.
As the industry has changed, so has La Harpe Telephone.
In 1990, cellular telephones were introduced to the consumer market, and La Harpe Telephone was one of the owners of Kansas Cellular, which sold in 1999 to Alltel. Today, La Harpe Telephone is one of the 29 owners of Kansas Fiber Network, a communication system that delivers broadband connectivity to rural Kansas.
With La Harpe Telephone’s leadership and foresight La Harpe, Kansas has moved from landlines with a local switchboard, to a fiber optic network and wireless broadband. In addition, La Harpe Telephone has begun expanding wireless broadband throughout its region, through its subsidiary New Wave Broadband. New Wave provides wireless high speed internet access and a range of video options in several locations in surrounding counties.
La Harpe Telephone has been owned by the Lee family since 1950. When La Harpe Telephone recognized that it needed outside help to make its next leadership transition from the second to third generation of ownership they contacted the Kansas SBDC at Pittsburg State University (PSU). The team at the SBDC has been able to help with setting goals and deadlines to guide the company as well as refer the family to outside sources to help ensure a successful transition.
Tom Byler, Kansas SBDC at Pittsburg State University (PSU) regional director, provided a few points to think about when transitioning a business. Tom was then able to connect the Lee family to two family business transition specialists from whom they chose one to work with to help them design the transition to the next generation. La Harpe Telephone
• The Lee family purchased the business in 1950. The business consisted of a switchboard and one operator and miles of rusty ground return party lines.
• Over the next few decades, they upgraded the ground return party lines to aerial metallic lines and ultimately to buried copper cable one party service. Additionally the switchboard and operator was replaced by a mechanical “step switch” and then by successive generations of state of the art digital switches.
• One of the founding owners of Kansas Cellular in 1990
• Kansas Cellular was purchased by Alltel in 1999
• Invested in fiber-to-the-home for La Harpe, KS, and surrounding rural area providing telephone and internet services in 2005.
• One of the founding owners of Kansas Fiber Network in 2009.
• Purchased AT&T microwave tower in Gas, Kansas in 2014 to serve as the beginning of a tower network throughout a 17 county region – providing fast, reliable, fixed wireless internet connections to the service area. Reliability is enhanced because of built in redundancy on backhaul. This is a result of lessons learned by decades of operating a telephone company.
• Contacted Kansas SBDC for assistance in transitioning from second to third generation of family ownership. Transition is ongoing.
More About La Harpe Telephone Company
Kansas SBDC Advisor
Tom Byler, PSU