Ringgold Telephone Company started out on the cutting edge of the future and hasn’t stopped since.
Jim Evitt Sr. was the only pharmacist in Catoosa County when he decided to add a telephone company to his business ventures.
"Evitt opened his phone company above his pharmacy in Ringgold," says RTC Business Development Analyst Andy LeGrande. "He had eight customers to start with."
That was in 1912, and two of the first customers were Evitt himself and his business downstairs, Ringgold Drug Company. Another two were the Catoosa County Courthouse and the Bank of Ringgold. The switchboard for operating the phone lines was less than three feet wide.
By 1948, RTC was up to 250 customers. Six years later, the Evitt family decided there was enough of a future in telephone service to sell their pharmacy and concentrate on communications.
In 2012, RTC celebrated its 100th birthday. The company has remained a family business and has grown from a dream to a centerpiece of its community.
"We service 8,100 phone lines," says LeGrande, "6,100 internet lines, and we have 1,100 security customers. We service all the schools in Catoosa County."
LeGrande has been with the company for 16 years. He started out working on RTC’s construction and splicing crew, then worked as a customer service technician for eight years and was a part of the switch to the latest fiber optics technology. "Our fiber optic internet service runs from 250 megabits, which is superfast, to one gig, which is ridiculously fast," he says. "We also provide copper internet service with speeds up to 100 megabits."
RTC was the first phone company in Georgia to offer high-speed internet to all its customers. By 2004 they were running fiber optics to people’s homes, just 27 years after phone companies started experimenting with the potential of the glass strands that carry signals via light instead of electronically.
But telephone and internet technologies are not the only areas in which RTC works to stay on the cutting edge. "We look to be energy efficient within our buildings," says LeGrande.
When RTC Buildings and Grounds Manager Brad Harwood suggested the company replace the old and expensive lights throughout their 52,000-square-foot facility on Evitt Parkway, LeGrande says it made such a difference in their energy consumption that he started considering other ways to update. "We looked into the possibility of harnessing wind power at first, but we learned it’s not feasible for this area. So we started looking at solar panels."
On April 6, 156 solar panels on the roof of RTC’s headquarters became operational. The panels do not serve the electricity needs of the company – the building is too large for that. Instead, the energy they produce flows through a meter and onto the power grid and RTC receives credit that helps cover its own electric bills.
"We contribute to the production of greener energy and we save money, which helps keep down our costs and our customers’ costs," LeGrande says. "We have over 20 remote locations and we’re looking at the possibility of adding solar panels to some of them."
"RTC has been a cornerstone of Catoosa County for over 100 years," says Celeste Bandy Weaver, vice president of business strategy/regulatory, and great-granddaughter of RTC founder Jim Evitt Sr. "We are committed to environmental sustainability to ensure that we are preserving this great community for the future. RTC felt the installation of the solar panels would be an important step toward investing in clean, renewable energy."
For its 100th birthday, RTC added a small museum to its headquarters. The museum is open during regular business hours. Visitors can see the company’s original switch board, and equipment ranging from the earliest telephones to modern fiber optic lines. The walls feature life-size photographs of the pioneers of the company, and there’s a phone booth so young folks can see what a challenge it was for Superman to change into his hero clothes in the old days.
Ringgold Telephone Company is located at 200 Evitt Parkway. For more information, readers can visit their web site at rtctel.com.