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Powering Up the Future


PAETEC Holding Corp. delivers data and voice services in 84 of the top 100 metropolitan areas in the country, including Denver, San Diego, Miami, Phoenix and Washingon, D.C.
The New York-based telecom company is sponsoring the 2010 Sustainability Champion Awards in partnership with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment's Office of Environmental Integration and Sustainability and the Colorado Environmental Partnership, Connected Organizations for a Responsible Economy (CORE) and ColoradoBiz magazine.

CEO Arunas Chesonis says he considers sustainability a major part of the 11-year-old company's business strategy.

ColoradoBiz: Why did you choose to sponsor the 2010 Sustainability Champion Awards?
Chesonis: It revolves around our longer term vision of where PAETEC's products and services are headed. We believe that over the next 10 years, many of the energy purchasing decisions, energy efficiency decisions and sustainability decisions will be made by the office of the CIO (chief information officer.)
If you just think about what issues they're dealing with today, whether it's backup power or business continuity and weather-related issues, whether it's power consumption at their data centers, whether it's building efficiency projects, real estate decisions, remote workers - more and more CIOs are getting into the sustainability responsibility within companies.
We see ourselves continuing to market to the CIOs in the world. And sustainability is one way for us to approach them in a more creative way.

ColoradoBiz: You've come up with a concept to drive sustainability with your clients. Explain how that program works.
Chesonis: We have probably funded over the last 10 years several hundred million dollars worth of telecom systems and IT equipment for our customers in exchange for longer-term voice and data contracts. We're planning to do the same thing for people on the sustainability side, whether it's wind turbines, solar panel arrays, geothermal projects, whatever that organization needs.
We can utilize not just the telecom purchasing power they have, but we are entering into electricity and natural gas resale business as well. We already have several customers in New York state that we broker energy for, and we plan to expand that over the next several years into many more states in the country that allow competitive electricity suppliers. When you take a look at those two revenue streams, we can fund many sustainability projects for our clients.

ColoradoBiz: You're on the board of the University of Colorado Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute. How did you become involved in that group and what is your role in the program?
Chesonis: They have formed a leadership council. They believe one of the areas of opportunity for Colorado growth in the future is people revolved around the sustainability sector. My family has been very involved with MIT on the renewable resource side. And there are a lot of ties between Colorado institutions, whether it's NREL (National Renewable Energy Laboratory), CU-Boulder, with MIT. It's seems to be a natural fit. Plus I like the weather out in Denver.

ColoradoBiz: A recent Harvard Business Review article was titled "Sustainability is Now the Key Driver of Innovation." Do you agree with that concept?
Chesonis: The next set of great fortunes in this world will be made in the area of sustainability. Now that could be a lot of different offshoots. It could be renewable energy; it could be more efficient building design; it could be water purification; it could be on more efficient agricultural techniques. There are a lot of different areas you could focus on sustainability. But I do believe that's where the next Bill Gates is going to come from.

ColoradoBiz: How has sustainability changed what PAETEC does internally?
Chesonis: In a traditional PAETEC switching center we would have 20,000 square feet of all kinds of equipment burning all kinds of energy, requiring all kinds of heating and cooling. With the technology we deploy now on the next generation IT services, we only need a fraction of that footprint and nowhere near the heating and cooling. So we're probably saving 70 percent to 80 percent of the energy we normally would consume.
It's hitting us within all levels within our organization. You look at just the simple things. Ten years ago, we would kill thousands of trees sending out telecom bills to our customers. Virtually everything now is online. Just like any business, whether it's a small, medium or large ticket items, sustainability doesn't mean that it's more expensive. It just means you can actually save money and improve quality of service to your customers and have something that is much more sustainable.

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