Graduating from Chattooga High School in 1985, David Parker was eager to leave his small, sleepy hometown.
“I couldn’t get down Highway 27 fast enough,” said Parker. “I was ready to get out of here.”
But time and experience changed him and now the 47-year-old businessman is enjoying the small town life in Chattooga County while also operating several businesses that keep him linked to customers around the world.
Parker is owner of Parker Systems and Parker FiberNet, employing more than 30 full-time workers.
He has always embraced work. During his high school years he made money installing stereo systems in cars. Later he began installing home security systems.
“I paid my way through college by doing that,” he said during an interview at his office in Summerville.
Parker continued working while attending Georgia Tech. He left college in 1991 a few credits shy of graduation (a degree which he hopes to complete one day.)
Putting his education and experience to work, Parker plunged into the business world full-time through his multi-faceted business operations. Success came, but not without a lot of work.
An early project which helped build the company’s reputation was installation of a new security system for the Lookout Mountain Judicial system.
While Parker’s early efforts were in construction, the young entrepreneur realized that to build a bigger, more multi-faceted company he needed to expand his operations. The field he chose was telecommunications. Parker moved aggressively on projects like building communications networks for community banks.
He researched the growing telecom industry and saw tremendous potential.
“I studied the Telecommunications Act of 1996 which encouraged private companies,” he said.
That same year Parker contracted to provide the communications network for the Emergency Operations Center at the Olympic Games in Atlanta. He worked closely with the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, which at that time was headed by another Chattooga Countian, Gary McConnell.
“That Olympics brought us a lot of attention,” he said.
Among those who liked what they saw in Atlanta were representatives of Motorola, the multinational telecommunications giant based in Illinois.
Through Motorola, Parker’s company became involved in building communications systems for the United States military. Parker and his crews, mostly residents of Chattooga or Floyd County, have traveled to military bases around the world, including Guam, Italy, Spain and Germany.
Parker also provides emergency services for disaster relief.
“We’ve worked pretty much every major hurricane since Katrina … from Galveston to New York,” Parker said. The company has tanker trucks ready to roll with fuel and crews on call to move in quickly and establish communications for rescue efforts.
HIGH SPEED FIBER
A major project which is currently underway is the installation of approximately 260 miles of high speed fiber lines in six Northwest Georgia counties (Chattooga, Walker, Floyd, Paulding, Haralson and Polk) and two counties in Alabama (Cleburne and Calhoun.)
The $21 million project, part of the federal stimulus package, was funded primarily by the federal government in an effort to provide better broadband service to unserved and underserved counties. The new system is designed to allow entities like libraries, schools and other government facilities to communicate more effectively. It could also help industry.
“Work on the project began in October of 2011 and will be completed by July 31, 2013,” said Deana Perry, Grant Administrator for Parker.
Parker said Perry, who has worked for him for 12 years, deserves a lot of credit for the company getting the fiber network contract.
“She kept putting it in front of me and telling me that she thought it was something we could do,” he said.
Parker also praised the efforts of the Northwest Georgia Regional Commission and Chattooga County Commissioner Jason Winters in bringing the project to a local company.
“They knew we had already worked with several of the counties involved and that we had already invested a lot in this region,” Parker said. “They wanted us to get the job.”
Parker said most government officials and business leaders understand the importance of communications in the modern economy.
“They know it’s not just sewer, power, water and roads; they know that communications is just as important,” he added.
There are not many telecommunications companies being run out of storefront offices in towns the size of Summerville. They are much more at home in the lavish offices of Atlanta, Chicago or New York.
But being based in a small, rural county has not kept Parker from being successful on an international scale.
“What’s not to like?” Parker asks, when questioned about his decision to base his business locally.
“From my house in Lyerly I can connect to anywhere in the world in less than a second,” he said. “In 90 minutes I can be at an international airport and on my way to just about anywhere in the world. Combine that with the kind of lifestyle I can have here and it’s not a hard decision.”
“You could spend a million dollars in New York City and that would get you a small apartment,” he said. “Here I can have land, clean air, and the kind of things I grew up with.”
Parker and his wife Kristy have two children, Seth (15) and Luke (14). That the boys can grow up in a relatively safe and peaceful environment is important.
“I like being able to leave my keys in the truck when I have lunch at Jim’s (Restaurant),” he said.
Parker also believes that if Chattooga County is to prosper, it needs residents to live and work here. He wants to see a culture of quality.
“We need people who have gone away and become successful to come back and bring a culture of success with them,” he said. “If they come here and run their businesses right then that will encourage other people to do that. Everything will get better.”
He is optimistic about the future, both in general and for Chattooga County.
“This is a great place to live, a great place to grow up,” he said.
Parker holds up his cell phone and points out that the ubiquitous device packs more computing power than did the spaceships that took man to the moon.
“We can’t even dream what our kids will be able to do tomorrow,” he said.