If you ask someone from LineSoft exactly what the company does -- and you are not a software engineer -- the answer will likely begin with, "Well, it's kind of complicated..."
LineSoft CEO Fred A. Brown started the software company at his Spokane home in 1988. After graduating from Texas A & M, a combination of his love for calf roping and a wish to start a family had brought the Texan to the Inland Northwest. From its beginning as a basement engineering operation, LineSoft has now grown to 210 employees, with offices in Columbus, Ohio, Kansas City, Mo., and Atlanta, Ga. Today, 125 people work at the Mirabeau Parkway offices.
"There is no question about it, we are booming," says Linda K. Hemingway, LineSoft vice president of marketing and business development. "We just won a contract for Wisconsin Public Service and another software contract with Entergy Corporation out of New Orleans. We developed this software that we are now selling for ourselves to use, back when we were Engineering Consulting Services Incorporated. Pretty soon it made sense selling this software, and that's when the name LineSoft came around."
LineSoft's primary clients are utilities. The software LineSoft has developed, LD-Pro, can design a map of power lines in the most optimal way, taking distribution patterns, substations and transmission factors into consideration. Another piece of software, LD-Track, can track work orders and analyze maintenance tasks coming up, finding the optimal solution for add-ons and repairs.
For instance, a utility company usually owns the power poles its lines are mounted on, but because of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the company must share its poles with phone companies and cable TV providers. But power poles can only carry so many cables, and cables can only carry loads up to a certain size without breaking down, and this is where LineSoft comes in.
"We've automated the design of power systems, and we can design them faster and cheaper than anybody else," explains Hemingway. "Our software tries all the different ways of designing the line, all the different combinations of equipment, and comes up with -- not always the cheapest -- but always the optimal solution. We can do that for both gas lines and power lines."
The energy sector is really strong right now, adds Hemingway, and that's one of the main reasons why the company is staying really busy. And LineSoft has had no problem attracting investors.
"At tradeshows and energy conventions, [venture capitalists] basically flock to you," she says. Last May, GFI Energy Ventures from Los Angeles invested $26 million in LineSoft -- a substantial cash injection that Hemingway says will keep the company in the forefront of technology.
And there's continuous growth on the horizon: LineSoft is looking for people to fill about 40 vacant positions in fields such as software design, marketing, project management and Web development. The number of vacant positions could double with incoming orders, a few of which may be finalized before the end of the month.
"We prefer to hire people from Spokane, and we generally do. We always advertise in Spokane, before we start posting positions in Seattle, Portland and then California," says Randy Long, LineSoft's director of human resources. "We work with EWU, WSU and Gonzaga. If the people are not here, we may try to grow them locally, through internship programs. Then, once they are done with school, hopefully they'll be ready to work for us."
Hemingway agrees that LineSoft intends to stay in Spokane and hasn't been restrained by its efforts to hire local people.
LineSoft is involved not only in retaining, but also in training the pool of workers in Spokane. Through its involvement with the Inland Northwest Technology Education Center (INTEC), the company communicates its need to universities in the area.
"Through our work with INTEC, we try to create a larger pool of qualified people in this area," says Long.