The company first operated under the founder's name Steven R. Meinhardt. He started writing computer code in C and dB4 language 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. He did this while working full time at Greenville Tool & Die. Working under the late Stanley Ash, Steve was given the opportunity to advance his knowledge as a Computer System Administrator where he designed and programmed network computers. This experience gave Steve insight on how to operate and manage a well-run business.
This opportunity also included advancing his education through college as well as 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 followed shortly thereafter.
Steve began to build and design his home that would become his first smart home. The company now typically completes at least one smart home project per year. This would also become the second of four homes he has architected including electrical plans. He also designed and build our office building that we currently occupy today.
With his wife finishing college at Central Michigan University and obtaining a teaching position, Steve 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 educational vertical market which would help shape the company's future. Starting in his father's garage he began to design and mass produce computer systems. The original machine that was sold to a neighbor was in use for 10 years with only one upgrade performed. This computer that was traded in now sits as an image of our design and quality that continues today.
The company begins to gain new clients through Greenville Tool & Die and local school districts.
With the on-going demand for his services, Steve expands the company by hiring more staff. Two of the new employees were his brothers with one moving on to become an engineer for NASA and the other later on worked for many years at SafetyNet in Traverse City, Michigan. This is also the year when the company adopted the DBA, "Crystal Automation Systems" which was known in the area as CAS.
Montcalm Area Intermediate School District (MAISD) was awarded a grant to connect 58 buildings throughout Montcalm County. The funding amount was too low to accomplish the task with traditional leased lines. Steve worked hard on the bid engineering 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. 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 switch lowered the monthly cost of lines 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 was also the first Internet connection that most had. MAISD owned the network and CAS was the ISP and hired to operate it. This system would later be replaced with high-speed wireless.
The company becomes incorporated under the name, "Crystal Automation Systems, Inc." as we automated computer systems, machine shops, home automation and other services.
We also expanded our location by pushing the former Tom's Archery building that includes a 1/2 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. The 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. We also handled designing, configuring, and installing video distribution systems and TV studios. We became well-known at the time for all low-voltage cabling needs.
USF (Universal Service Fund) became available and many schools were having difficulty in obtaining the funding. Seeing the need to help other schools, Steve approached a retiring school official George Winchell that 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 in funding into our are 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 expensive leased lines to the original CAS office and the Internet demands of the local municipalities, the company leases 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 Behavior Health, County Courthouse, County Police, County Admin building, Health Department, and County Road Commission. CAS then installed its own fiber directly to the school, ISD, and adjacent tower to improve provided services. The fiber would be the first of many miles to come.
It was also during this year that we installed our first residential wireless customer to the home after a lengthy beta test period of various equipment.
CAS was then awarded a 3 year contract to provide High Speed Internet and all related services to CGRESD (Clare-Gladwin Regional Education School District) schools in Clare and Gladwin Counties. The design it 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 we also provided the same services to Mid Michigan Community College for both its Harris and Mount pleasant campuses that continues today.
CAS begins to add tower climbers to its employment. The climbers work in the cabling department when not on tower projects providing them constant work. With this addition we now have certified tower climbers and maintain all of our own rescue equipment. Annual training events are conducted by the company to ensure safety protocols.
The local ISD was in need of more capacity for its overloaded school system and then posted an RFP. Steve created a concept of utilizing cell towers and newly available 72Mb point-to-point wireless radios to create a high-speed network that would easily replace the ISD's existing overloaded network of slower leased lines. The network would consist of 72Mb radios configured in several rings around the county for redundancy. Then, 36Mb radios would be utilized to feed local school districts along with some smaller building-to-building radios. CAS easily won the contract being under the next bidder by nearly $400,000 per year for 3 years.
Also in this year, CAS adopts Astaro for its firewall and content filter solution. We worked closely with Astaro over the following years to mold the product and provide its direction. Astaro will later become the #2 firewall sold next to Checkpoint. CAS will later become one of the nation's largest reseller of the Astaro product line. Astaro started out as software only and was installed on CAS' designed and built hardware.
Due to several factors, including some name confusion with another company, we obtained the DBA Casair, Inc. adding "AIR" to the word "CAS" as a unique name we proudly display.
The name change also came with a new project. We were awarded the video surveillance project for Central Montcalm Public School of 24 cameras. THis system has computer-based motion sensor recording and web-based remote access. Before the project was completed it was used to determine and particular person of interest. 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 policy, and FBI to obtain videos 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 expanded on 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 for the communities. This area will be expanded upon with our 2010 USDA/RUS grant into the Elbridge Township and Hart Township area.
Casair begins selling wholesale, even to our competitors. We view everyone as a customer and/or partner, and we are always willing to help anyone that is seeking it. We are careful not to hurt our customers' installation base. This arrangement continues today for tower climbing, Internet, transport, and all services we provide.
Casair is awarded the project for a large-scale DBA Bi-Directional Cell Phone Amp system for CEI's four-floor building in Lansing. This provides cell phone coverage throughout the building.
After installing GPS units in ambulances and fixing police car issues, Montcalm County approached us 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 surpression, 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 expands now with 37 broadcast tower locations.
Casair purchases fiber from Sidney to Greenville which enables it to greatly improve services to MAISD and tower transmitter sites.
We also create 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 retires 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 begins 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 begins to install customers on WiMAX with semi-licensed band from its Dickerson Lake Rd. tower location. We've continued to rollout WiMAX on towers since, providing greater speed and services.
Fitting into our technology background utilizing RML's SAC system, we add professionally installed audio systems to our offering. This becomes part of the broadcast group.
Casair installs fiber from Central Montcalm School in Stanton, Michigan to Montcalm Community College in Sidney, Michigan. This completes 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 funding through USDA/BIP program. Our plan is 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 as a small mid Michigan company 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 telco's 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 this year we doubled our backbone upstream capacities, became certified with offering Ruckus wireless gear, and begin 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 broadcasts 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 CLEC (Competitive Local Exchange Carrier) 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
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