American Tower Corporation, Crown Castle International, and SBA Communications are acquiring tower sites right and left, begging the question, “will all the towers be owned by these companies in the future?” Small tower companies who own a handful of sites may be approached by these larger companies looking to purchase their towers, but will they be put completely out of business? Not according to Gary Hess, co-founder of American Tower Corporation and current Director of Vertical Real Estate at Clear Channel. “I don’t think that party [small tower companies] will ever be over because there are always locations that still need better service or more channels,” Gary said.
There are many benefits that these Mom and Pop companies have over the large corporations. “These companies are willing to take on the risks and the permitting that requires special attention,” Gary said. “My early guys are still doing it. They will get a tower permit for Palm Beach, Florida or Jupiter Island where everybody wants cell service but nobody wants the tower anywhere near their house.” There are unique opportunities that these smaller companies are able to take advantage of that the major corporations just can’t compete with. When a big company comes into town looking to build a tower, everyone sees them as an evil empire looking to construct hideous cell sites simply to make money. “But a local individual, who can connect with the city managers, do a little rent share, if they have to, and have the time to finesse this process—I think there’s always room for that niche industry,” said Gary. “The smaller companies are the specialists in these areas.”