CenturyTel visits

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 11, 2002

&uot;You are a big fish in our pond.&uot; Those were a few of the promising words offered by Andrew Aultz, Southern Regional vice president for CenturyTel at a special luncheon held Wednesday at the Andalusia Chamber of Commerce. Aultz, and many other top officials from the telecommunications company, visited the city in the wake of CenturyTel's acquisition of Verizon's phone services to offer information and answer questions.

"With Verizon," said Aultz, "you were a little fish in a big pond."

The company sponsored the meal which was attended by various members of the chamber, as well as representatives for city and county government and other groups. Every visitor received a packet of corporate information and a small gift.

"CenturyTel is a good corporate citizen," said Aultz. "We are delighted to be here in Alabama. As we take on these Alabama properties, we want to make it as seamless as possible."

CenturyTel assumed operations on July 1 and customers will soon be receiving their first bill from that corporation. They will also receive information about CenturyTel and contact numbers that will, Aultz assured, reach people, not just recordings.

"We can best serve the community by being part of the community," he said. "What we are not is a company you'll ever see on CNBC being questioned about accounting practices."

CenturyTel's early formation took place in 1930 when William Clark and Marie Williams purchased a small telephone company in Louisiana.

Their son assumed management after returning from WWII in 1946 and continues to serve as chairman of the board.

From small beginnings, Century Tel has grown to be the eighth largest local exchange telephone company in the nation and is listed in Standard and Poor's 500. In fact, according to Aultz, it was the only telecommunications company in the S&P 500 to show a profitable return for the previous 12 months.

CenturyTel serves more than three million customers in 22 states.

In October of 2001, CenturyTel agreed to pay Verizon $2.16 billion for the local access lines in Alabama and Missouri, making it the single largest acquisition in the corporation's history, and one the largest in Alabama's history. Nearly 300,000 access lines were included in the deal. The acquisition has increased CenturyTel's access line ownership and annual telephone revenues by more than 35 percent.

Aultz said that the corporation would bring more than a closer relationship with the communities it serves. It plans to extend services to include internet access, both broad and narrow bandwidths, and DSL access. The offices and many of the faces will remain the same. Officials from the corporation stated their intentions to work with the community.

"We will not be the albatross that keeps you from recruiting industry," said Aultz. "We don't feel that because you choose to live in a rural area, you should have to take a step backward in the telecommunication infrastructure.

Tim Griffin, the Alabama State General Manager for CenturyTel, said "We believe commitments build communities" and said that the corporation even has a special program that recognizes and honors employees for their community work.