Thu, 02/28/2002 - 7:00pm
Patricia Sabatini

Copyright 2002 Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News

Copyright 2002 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Pittsburgh Post - te…03/01/2002

From LexisNexis

Tollgrade Communications Inc., which saw its profits slashed in half and 25 percent of its staff get pink slips last year, expects the hard times to continue in 2002.

"It's going to be tough sledding, at least in the first half," said Chris Allison, chairman and chief executive officer of the telecommunications testing equipment maker. "There could be some improvement in the second half," he said yesterday during an interview from the company's headquarters in Cheswick.

"I tell our employees this is the gut-check year to position ourselves for the future."

Tollgrade has been hurt by severe cutbacks by the Baby Bells, including local phone giant Verizon, which together account for about 95 percent of the company's revenues.

"Our customers aren't spending as much as they used to. It's still tight as a drum," Allison said.

Still, he said, Tollgrade is faring better than most of its peers.

"We're making money," said Allison, who took a 20 percent, or $60,000, pay cut last year and like the rest of the staff, gave up his bonus. "Our projects are getting funded where others aren't."

Allison called last year's $60 million cash acquisition of LoopCare, a maker of telecom testing software that it bought from Lucent Technologies, "arguably the most important event in the company's history."

LoopCare's software links with Tollgrade's hardware, which phone companies use to diagnose problems on their lines remotely instead of sending a technician to the site.

Allison said he didn't anticipate any more layoffs this year, but that the company, which employs about 325, will never have a "bloated work force."


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