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Battle plan for 11-year-old, veteran-owned company includes adding 100 workers, second Lawrence office

February 2, 2009

A company founded by military veterans that performs database administration for clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies to the U.S. Department of Defense is adding a second office in Lawrence and plans to hire about 100 more people over the next two years, doubling its staff.

Perpetual Technologies Inc. paid $1.1 million to acquire a former banquet hall at 56th Street and Lee Road. The 20,000-square-foot building once served as an enlisted officers' club at Fort Benjamin Harrison.

Perpetual is still completing designs but likely will spend several hundred thousand dollars on the project, said Perpetual's president, Ryan Stephens.

The company Stephens co-founded in 1997 is bursting at the seams at its headquarters near 56th Street and Post Road, in the shadow of the Defense Finance and Accounting facility. Perpetual's parking lot is full, with cars spilling out along the curb of Harrison Park Court.

Some of the company's existing 100 employees will move to the new facility, which was necessitated in part by a 30-percent increase in staff last year.

"Our business has exploded over the past year," Stephens said. "At one point, we actually told the salespeople, 'Don't try to sell anything else.'"

Perpetual Technologies is growing in spite of the economy and because of it.

Many companies are outsourcing management of all or part of their IT departments in an effort to lower costs and focus on their core businesses. Some of Perpetual's growth has come from augmenting clients' IT departments, including database support and management during off-hours and weekends.

Perpetual has expanded with a panoply of other services ranging from disaster-recovery planning and backup to training and IT strategy planning.

Early last month, Perpetual acquired a small, locally based firm—Meridian Technology Group—to expand its capabilities to host Web sites and other data for clients.

"This fits our niche in the market and stays within our core business of managed services," said Ronald Plew, executive vice president and co-founder of Perpetual.

Perpetual management says revenue topped $10 million last year. Founders Stephens and Plew met while serving in the Indiana National Guard. Later, the two worked as database administrators for Unisys Federal Systems and were responsible for government-owned databases.

On the side, they jointly authored books, including, "Teach Yourself SQL in 21 days," which was published by the Que division of the former Macmillian Computer Publishing. They also taught courses at IUPUI in SQL, which is short for Structured Query Language—a bedrock of database management.

About a decade ago, they decided to chase a government contract on their own. They won it and created Perpetual. They hired as chief technical officer Chris Zeis, another comrade from the Guard with database expertise.

Contracts with the Defense Department have remained a key part of the business, helping insulate the company from the recession.

In recent years, the government-contracting side has expanded, gaining work from the state of Indiana and city of Indianapolis. Perpetual is now gunning for more business with states and municipalities.

Some of the company's business has come from the sort of communal technology relationships forged in early years. It still offers free seminars and frequently hosts events such as the Indiana Oracle Users Group.

Stephens and Plew have since published more than a dozen books, and staff also have been prolific. Zeis, for example, recently co-authored "Oracle 11g for Dummies."

Perpetual also started its own publishing arm, Perpetual Publications. The latest title is, "High Availability: Successful Implementation for the Data-Driven Enterprise."

"In IT, you don't have people patting you on the back. If something's going wrong, they're on you," Plew said.

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