Unlike a lot of companies throughout the state and country, Pine Cove Consulting was perfectly poised to weather the pandemic. Not only had the 23-person information technology consulting team been working remotely for more than a decade from their basements and home offices in rural locations across the state, they also already had a videoconferencing platform in place by which to communicate for daily and weekly meetings.
“Everyone was already virtual in a sense,” Vice President Brandon Vancleeve said, “so we already had a nice footprint in place.”
They also had insight into the specific technologies that would end up helping agencies and businesses function under the new work-from-home model ushered in by the coronavirus.
The company, which was founded in 1993 by Brandon’s father, Rick Vancleeve, a former head football coach and IT director for the Thermopolis school district, provides a suite of IT products and services, from infrastructure, cybersecurity, support services and communication to physical security.
Given Rick’s unique insight into the IT needs of school districts, the company began primarily providing services to schools throughout the state. At one point, Brandon estimated that schools accounted for about three-quarters of their business. But that’s changed dramatically over the past couple years as they diversified their clientele into state and local government agencies, as well as a variety of businesses in rural cities throughout Wyoming.
Currently, they provide services for roughly 60% of the school districts and dozens of other organizations throughout the state.
Though based in Bozeman himself, Brandon considers Pine Cove a Wyoming company, where, along with helping rural businesses compete in the national marketplace, the company also invests in people by providing high-wage jobs. Plus, they’re passionate about supporting aspiring students leaning toward the IT field, Brandon said, offering scholarships and other training opportunities.
The bulk of their staff is sprinkled throughout Wyoming, with employees in Buffalo, Wheatland, Rawlins, Riverton, Lander, Lyman and Kemmerer, as well as his brother and sister-in-law in Sheridan.
In fact, Brandon said, one of their most talented employees, engineer Mike Stroud, lives in Kemmerer, where he chooses to live. He’s been recruited by bigger-named companies, Brandon said, who have attempted to lure him to their urban headquarters with the promise of higher salaries and bigger projects.
Stroud, however, refuses to budge. Much like the other Pine Cove employees, they appreciate being able to support their families while remaining in Wyoming towns. They also recently hired a woman who just graduated with a degree from Central Wyoming College in Riverton.
And though there has been no shortage of out-of-state applicants sending in their resumes, Pine Cove prefers to hire within the state.
Although Pine Cove has since expanded into 10 other Western states, with employees in Utah, Montana and Washington, Brandon emphasizes the company’s Wyoming roots and prioritizes helping underserved communities remain competitive.
Historically, connectivity in rural communities has been slow to come to the state, apart from its school districts, which allotted funding to provide state-of-the-art IT and equipment, as well as a modernized approach to technology that actually saves the districts money.
For example, Brandon said, once the schools dumped a lot of money into costly laptop and desktop PCs and software that quickly became obsolete, with costly upkeep and repairs. Now, most districts have moved to cloud technology, which is both less expensive and easier to manage, with most of the maintenance able to be done remotely from their various locations.
Likewise, Pine Cove has also been able to help small businesses in rural parts of the state remain competitive on a national level.
As value-added resellers, Pine Cove does not create its own technology or products, but rather strategically works with organizations to implement products and services based on that company’s individual needs. That is particularly true during the pandemic, where they’ve been able to provide personalized solutions to keep a business operational under the new guidelines that nobody could have predicted.
As an example, Brandon pointed to Solutions for Life in Douglas, which provides a variety of counseling services in Converse County and neighboring communities. His company helped them build a safe and secure network that both allowed them to protect patient medical records while enabling them to work remotely to provide services while communicating with staff.
A second pandemic-specific solution was helping a Wilson-based bank set up a communication system across four satellite branches to bolster security while enabling staff to interact.
Right now, their company is getting a lot of calls from out-of-state companies and employees interested in relocating to Wyoming, where the new post-pandemic ground rules have altered perceptions about traditional modes of work. If you can work from home without the long commute and with a mountain view, it might make sense to move.
“People are dying to move to Wyoming,” he said. “I’m hearing that a lot.”
Meanwhile, Pine Cove nearly doubled capacity over the past year as it retools its own model for growth across state lines and beyond. In this sense, it’s living up to its own desire to help businesses and other agencies harness their power and grow while investing back in their own communities.
“It’s a new frontier,” he said, “and we didn’t understand our potential.”
Until now, that is, as they step out of their own comfort zone and continue to find new opportunities for growth.