Winning Formula

low-profile networking firm grows, buys former college

Tom Giffey, photos by Andrea Paulseth

BUILDING A WIN. Eau Claire-based networking firm WIN recently bought the former Globe University building.
BUILDING A WIN. Eau Claire-based networking firm WIN recently bought the former Globe University building.

In a region sometimes dubbed “Wisconsin’s Silicon Valley,” WIN has been inconspicuous for most of its nearly 20-year history. Tucked away inside Banbury Place, the networking and IT services firm has been busy extending its fiber optic network across the Upper Midwest, serving a growing roster of clients, and steadily expanding its workforce from five to 110 employees since 2004. 

WIN’s profile is likely to change soon now that the firm has purchased a highly visible new home overlooking Interstate 94 on the city’s south side. In February, WIN plans to move into the former Globe University, 4955 Bullis Farm Road. The private college closed in September, leaving the 30,000-square-foot, two-story building vacant.

CEO Scott Hoffman is excited about the opportunities provided by WIN’s new home. “To a certain extent, we’ve outgrown Banbury Place,” he said. While WIN is largely located on the second floor of Banbury’s Building 2, it also sprawls onto parts of the first, third, and fourth floors of the former tire factory. While WIN will retain much of its technical infrastructure in Banbury, having a dedicated facility for its employees will create a more collaborative environment as well as allow the company to remodel the space as needed, Hoffman said.

During a recent tour of the former Globe building, Hoffman pointed out conference rooms, classrooms, and workspaces that employees will soon occupy. Many of the spaces are virtually ready to go, while others – such as rooms occupied by Globe’s veterinary technician program, which still include exam tables and kennels – will have to be remodeled.

WIN is privately owned by 31 independent Wisconsin telephone companies, many of them based in the northwestern corner of the state. In fact, “WIN” was originally an acronym for “Wisconsin Independent Network.” Over the years, it gradually acquired a fiber optic network that now stretches more than 9,000 miles across Wisconsin, Minnesota, Upper Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, and beyond. WIN serves both wholesale customers and businesses that need big bandwidth, including more than 500 cell phone sites (WIN’s network carries calls coming to and from cell towers) and clients as notable as the new U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, home of this year’s Super Bowl. WIN also has a growing business providing IT services to clients. 

“We’re becoming more of an IT firm that has a fiber network, a data center, and Internet service,” Hoffman said.

With its new headquarters, a fiber network approaching 10,000 miles that now reaches as far as Denver, and a growing roster of clients, WIN likely won’t be low-profile for much longer.

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