The company first operated under the founder’s name Steven R. Meinhardt. He started writing computer code in C and dB4 language and applied this by doing projects for customers of his father’s accounting and tax services company. He later started installing twisted pair cabling that would later become known as CAT3 spec. Steve did this while he worked full time at Greenville Tool and Die, a co-op job that he started while in grade school. He worked under the late Stan Ash and was given the opportunity to advance his knowledge as the Computer System Administrator where Steve designed, set up, programmed and networked computers. This experience gave him insight on how to operate and manage a well-run business. This opportunity also included advancing his education through college, along with thousands of hours of on-the-job training to obtain a Journeyman Die Design Certificate. His early use and views of the internet system landed him in a book “Doing Business on the Internet” and a flurry of public media interviews that followed.
Steve began designing and building what would become his first SmartHome. This would also become the second of four homes he has architected including electrical plans. The company now typically completes at least one SmartHome project per year. He also designed and built the office building we currently occupy.
With his wife finishing college at Central Michigan University and obtaining a teaching position, he was able to take the risk of becoming self-employed. His wife’s teaching position gave him the opportunity to observe the needs in the education vertical market which would help shape the company's future. Starting in his father’s garage, Steve began to design, build and mass produce computer systems with the help of long-time family friend and current salesman, Mike “Mac” McDaniel. The original machine that was sold to a neighbor was in use for ten years, with only one upgrade before retiring it. This computer, that was traded back in, now sits as an image of our design and quality that continues today. This is also the year that Steve began on-site technical work for his original employer and school districts.
With the ongoing demand for his services and working very long hours, it became clear that it was time to start hiring. Steve hired young guys fresh out of school and gave them the same opportunity of on-the-job training that he was given. The first employees hired were two brothers, one went on to become an engineer for NASA and the other worked for many years and later created a successful technical service company called SafetyNet located in Traverse City Michigan. In 1997, the company adopted the DBA, “Crystal Automation Systems” which was known as CAS
The Montcalm Area Intermediate School District (MAISD) was awarded a grant to connect 58 buildings throughout Montcalm County. The funding amount was much too low to accomplish the task with traditional leased lines. Steve worked hard on the bid and engineered a cost effective solution. The solution was to cross the LATA line that cost $40,000 per year for a 1.5Mb leased line and replace it with a one time cost of $22,000 system of a 10Mb wireless radio on both ends. The MAISD then built two towers which also served many other needs.
Steve’s additional plan was to utilize dry copper leased from the phone companies to run early hardware based DSL which would later become a standard in homes and businesses. The result of this not only lowered the initial cost but lowered the monthly cost to $64 a month and increased the bandwidth up to 7Mb in some links. This was to become not only the first interconnection that these schools had, but also the first internet connection most had. The MAISD owned the network and CAS was the ISP and was hired to operate it. This system would later be replaced with high-speed wireless.
The company became incorporated under the name, “Crystal Automation Systems, Inc.” as we automated computer systems, machine shops, home automation and other services.
As the family grew so did the need to move out of the house. CAS purchased the former Tom’s Archery building that includes a half block on M-66 in Stanton, MI.
The company participates in the Student School to Work program.. This gives students the opportunity to learn and advance their knowledge in the real world work environment. This program continues to this day and we welcome interns on a regular basis from nearby technical colleges
Many big changes came to the company in 2001, starting with the addition of BICSI trained and certified cabling installers because many of the local buildings needed cabling infrastructure and we had the expertise. We also handled designing, configuring, and installing video distribution systems and television studios. We became well known at the time for all low-voltage cabling needs.
Universal Service Fund (USF) or E-Rate, became available and many schools were having difficulty obtaining the funding. Seeing the need to help other schools, Steve approached a retiring school official, George Winchell, who is an expert with USF. He proposed a vendor neutral plan to help other schools on an hourly basis to process the extremely difficult and constantly changing USF paperwork. This proved extremely successful in bringing millions of dollars of USF funding into our area, helping local rural schools. In 2002, the USF department was spun off into a separate company called Elite Fund, Inc. and was eventually sold in 2006.
With the need to replace leased lines to the original CAS office and the internet demands of the local municipalities, the company leased space on one of the MAISD towers. This tower also serves as the ISD bus communications tower, county road commission repeater tower, and Central Montcalm Public School’s bus communication tower. The same tower is utilized by Casair to provide residential broadband to the local area and provides High Speed Internet to our local 911 center, County Behavioral Health, County Courthouse, County Police, County Admin Building, Health Department, and County Road Commision. CAS then installed its own fiber directly to the school, ISD, and adjacent tower to improve priced services. The fiber would be the first of many miles to come.
After an extensive beta test period of various equipment, and having to create the pieces that could not yet be purchased, CAS installed its first residential wireless customer to the home.
CAS was then awarded a three year contract to provide high speed internet and all related services to Clare-Gladwin Regional Education School District (CGRESD) in Clare and Gladwin counties. The design is to utilize existing fiber to provide high-speed access to each district. We provided all services such as email, email filtering, web hosting, content filtering, firewalls, and DNS services. This contract will become renewed again and CAS also provided the same services to Mid Michigan Community College for both its Harris and Mount Pleasant campuses.
This is the year that CAS added tower climbers to its employment. We have certified tower climbers and maintain all of our own rescue equipment.
The local ISD needed more capacity for its overloaded school system and then posted an RFP. Steve created the concept of utilizing cell tower and newly available 72Mb point to point wireless radio to create a very high speed network that could replace the overloaded network of the slower leased lines. CAS easily won the contract being under the next bidder by nearly $400,000 per year over, for three years.
CAS chose Astaro for its firewall and content filter solution. CAS works closely with Astaro over the following years to mold the product and provide its direction. Astaro will later become the number two firewall sold. CAS will later also become one of the nation’s largest reseller of the Astro product line.
CAS begins its building expansion that is the current building of today. Steve designed the expansion and Greg Ray Construction built it. This includes a state of the art Network Operation Center (NOC) with a heat recovery system. CAS installed SmartHome technology to handle automated events and remote control.
Due to several factors, including some name confusion with another company, we obtained the DBA ‘Casair, Inc.’, adding ‘AIR,’ representing wireless, to the previous name ‘CAS’ to create a unique name we proudly display.
The name change also came with a new project. Casair was awarded the video surveillance project for Central Montcalm Public Schools of 24 cameras. This system has a computer-based motion sensor recording and web-based remote access. Before the project was completed, it was used to determine a particular person interested. Since then, Casair has completed many large scale systems, including one that was used to apprehend an armed robber by putting the picture on WOODTV News. We have since worked with Municipal Police, County Police, State Police and FBI to obtain video of their interest. We have installed this same system in one courthouse as well.
Expanding from the original USF-funded system, Casair was awarded a competitive USDA/RUS Broadband Connectivity grant for $449,000 to bring High Speed Internet to the Village of Walkerville located in Oceana County. This system would later be upgraded, and then expanded into Bitely. This system experienced a take rate beyond what the Grant called for, making it wildly successful, and we are proud to make a difference in the communities. This area will be expanded upon with our 2010 USDA/RUS grant into the Elbridge Township and Hart Township area.
Casair began selling wholesale, even to our competitors. We view everyone as a customer and/or partner, and we are always willing to help. We are careful not to hurt our customer's installation base. This arrangement continues today for tower climbing, internet, transport, and all services we provide.
Casair was awarded the project for a large-scale DBA Bi-Directional Cell Phone Amp system for CEI’s four-floor building in Lansing. This provided cell phone coverage throughout the building.
After installing GPS units in ambulances and fixing police car issues, Montcalm County approached Casair about outfitting the entire police car. Having our resident in-house vehicle expert, Aaron Evans, we accepted and have since built every police car in our county, plus several other municipalities. We do things differently, utilizing our industrial background. Steve engineers the electrical schematic and power distribution according to the equipment using IeC standards. We install the roll cages, computers/MDT’s, GPS, Antennas, two-way radios, power distribution, surge suppression, timers, lights, wig-wags, customer printer brackets, gun mounts, and locks. We custom machine and weld anything we cannot purchase.
Also in this year, Casair adds consulting power systems for network operation centers with our Liebert partnership coupled with our knowledge and testing equipment for grounding systems.
Our wireless footprint expanded in 2007, now with 37 broadcast tower locations.
Casair purchased fiber from Sidney to Greenville which enabled it to greatly improve services to MAISD and tower transmitter sites.
We also created a broadcast group that takes on teaching students from the local school independent study program to do audio and video production. We do many events including a live FM broadcast of a baseball game at 5/3 Ballpark in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
The company also retired its main Cisco Layer3 switch. It had an actual uptime of 4 years, 51 weeks, 1 day, 14 hours, and 29 minutes. This certainly shows that the reliability of our UPS power system and generator system is very solid.
Casair began to heavily invest and beta test 4G WiMAX technologies which would later become a catalyst for providing High Speed Internet on a large-scale.
Casair began to install customers on WiMAX with semi-licensed band from its Dickerson Lake Rd. tower location. We have continued to rollout WiMAX on towers since, providing greater speed and services.
Fitting into our technology background and utilizing RML's SAC system, we added professionally installed audio systems to our offering. This becomes part of the broadcast group.
Casair installed fiber from Central Montcalm Schools in Stanton to Montcalm Community College in Sidney. This completed the link from Stanton to Greenville.
Casair also installed its first Fiber To The Home (FTTH) customer.
2010 was another catalyst year for Casair, starting with being awarded $26.4 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding through USDA/BIP program. Our plan was to rollout a hybrid wireless and fiber system. The fiber path connects towers, however it is routed to pass as many anchor institutions as possible, giving them access to extremely fast broadband speeds. We were listed on the Whitehouse.gov website as one of two examples in the nation. A flurry of news media requests followed shortly after the award announcement. We are very proud to bring this amount of money into the area. Being highly competitive with thousands of applications, competing for $4.3 billion in funding makes us proud. Since the majority of the awardees are Telecommunications, we feel this makes us one of the nation's top Wireless Internet Service Providers. Today we have approximately 40 employees and are a proud member of our community sponsoring many local events.
Also headlining in this year, we doubled our backbone upstream capacities, became certified with offering Ruckus wireless gear, and began to outfit ambulances and emergency trucks to our services.
We also designed, from the ground up, our own hardened MDT computer system for emergency vehicles. Our system utilizes military spec keyboard and touch screens, while using standard motherboards, processors, and memory in our custom shock mounted cases in the rear of the vehicles. This enables future technology upgrades for only a few hundred dollars versus thousands for the hardened ones.
Casair broadcasted the first 2.5GHz base station in Montcalm County and is currently the only 2.5GHz broadcaster of 4G wireless in the county.
The company officially became a Competitive Local Exchange Carrier (CLEC) paving the way for modern fiber optic and voice services as part of its expansion.
Casair also upgrades its fleet with new vans, trucks, hydraulic lift and bucket truck.
The first of 400+ miles of build outs for fiber begin.
Casair also continues to add customers and employees to the company.
The City of Stanton is the first community to have fiber to the home available and have connecting houses and businesses.
Approximately 240 miles of fiber is now in place.
Construction on the second tower nears completion and construction on the third, fourth, and fifth towers begins.
Casair completes the construction on the $26.4 million Government ARRA Project. The result is that over 6,000 subscribers have access to High Speed Broadband internet service.
Approximately 270 miles of fiber is now in place.
The construction on the fifth tower is complete and construction on the sixth through twelfth towers has begun.
Casair also starts providing cell phone companies with fiber backhaul.
With how fast the company is growing Casair needed more room for inventory and company vehicles. During the spring of 2016 we completed construction of the 12,000 sq/ft warehouse.
Montcalm County receives the Connected Community award due in large part to Casair.
Approximately 393 miles of fiber is now in place. Casair also completed five build outs to the Fiber Optic Network and by the end of 2016 Casair had installed 505 customers with fiber. We also added equipment to the majority of our towers to double the capacity.
In April 2016, Casair included the area of Perrinton in the engineering for the fiber Internet construction project. This made both Wireless and Fiber internet available to residents and business in the local Perrinton community.
Casair now offers VoIP phone service. This allows calls to be placed over the internet versus a traditional copper wire.
September 8 in 2016 the director of the USDA flew out with others from Washington to view why our project with the grant was so successful.
The completion of Stanwood tower that is currently under construction will bring Casair’s transmission sites to 95 and a total of 17 towers that Casair built and owns.
Casair added more installation equipment and upgraded 27 tower sites. Casair completes extensive testing with LTE base stations, and begins to upgrade base stations to all tower sites.
In 2017 Casair introduced SuiteFi so that our internet can be tailored to apartments.
In July of this year Casair installed our 1,000th fiber to the home internet customer. Casair also completes 13 fiber buildouts with fiber to the new switch data center in Grand Rapids. .
Casair also continues to grow and we now have 62 employees.
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