When Jackie Horvath began working in the tower industry over two decades ago, she had no idea how explosive the industry would soon become or how much she would fall in love with her new career.
But 23 years later she finds herself the owner of a tower company that has developed sites for the largest carriers from coast to coast.
“I still love what I do—I have a passion for what I do, as much as I ever have,” Horvath said.
When she began working in the industry, the concept of an independent tower owner was very new. Horvath accepted a job in 1994, with a gentleman who owned radio towers in northern Indiana and southern Michigan, but was refocusing the company to leasing space to wireless carriers.
After helping develop the company’s portfolio in these markets, Horvath founded her own tower company in 1996, which she did with support and encouragement from her employer. The two firms worked in tandem for six years before she would leave to focus exclusively on her own company.
She talks glowingly about her early years in the industry, where she learned not only about the burgeoning tower industry but essential business skills.
“It was a great experience,” she said. “The most important thing I learned was the willingness to take a risk—develop a high risk tolerance, and I think successful businesses are generally lead by people with high risk tolerance.”
Horvath showcased this risk tolerance in 2002, when she left to focus solely on Horvath Communications after a major carrier offered her a 100-tower deal to develop sites across the Midwest.
“It was a huge jump for me. I was building two or three towers per year in Indiana and I go into this meeting and they said we have a 100-tower project for your—“are you interested?” Horvath recalls. “I immediately said yes even though I had absolutely no idea how I was going to do it.”
Horvath secured financing from a tower development company and successfully delivered for the carrier on the relatively massive project. She learned how to use her company’s footholds with carriers in one region to expand to others.
“There are only four or five customers, so if you do a good job for a carrier in one market, it’s not difficult to use that relationship to expand to other markets,” Horvath said.
The business steadily expanded and began to sprawl outside the Midwest to other parts of the country. In 2007, she secured funding from Peppertree Capital out of Cleveland, Ohio, a successful relationship that has helped her develop over 500 towers in the past 10 years.
Horvath has developed over 1,000 towers in its 21 years of business, but has done so with a relatively small operations team. The company consists of roughly a dozen employees and is based in a small office in downtown South Bend.
“We’re not one of the larger publicly traded companies so we have more flexibility,” Horvath said. “We’re able to work more with carriers and be more responsive with them and provide better deals. We can be more flexible than larger companies and get the tower built much more quickly than a larger company.”
Horvath Communications is located at 312 W. Colfax Ave., South Bend IN 46601 Phone: (574) 237-0464
February 2, 2017