RACINE – The steely blue swish of an “I” perched on the cream style brick wall at 610 Sixth St. says a great deal about Angel Ramos-Ortiz and his business, Innovative Dynamic Networks Inc.
The reconditioning of this building is sleek, modern, fresh – everything you would expect from a company that specializes in connecting businesses, schools and government to the latest information technology systems.
But the heart of the building is rock solid, encased in century-old hardwood floors and the cream brick that laborers dug from what used to be a quarry near the Racine Zoo. This building has roots entrenched in Racine, just what you’d expect from a home-town venture.
Innovative Dynamic Networks, which employs 15 people, is marking the company’s eighth anniversary and celebrating its new Racine office with a grand opening from 6 to 9 p.m., Nov. 30.
Sleek, modern, fresh with deep connections to Racine. That, indeed, captures Ramos-Ortiz’ vision.The company, grown from the basement of Ramos-Ortiz’ home, is driven by a founder and President with a staunch commitment to the local and minority communities here and his futuristic vision to provide all people with access to the latest technology.
“I was born in Puerto Rico, but came to Racine when I was young,” said the 35-year-old University of Wisconsin-Parkside graduate. “Education got me where I am, and it is what I want to give back.” For that reason, IDN focuses on working with schools and government agencies to connect them to the Internet, network their users, install the latest voice-recognition telephone and security systems for their needs, and provide other similar technological services.
Roughly three-quarters of IDN’s clients are schools and churches and the remaining 25 percent is private business.
Ramos-Ortiz said he would like to be part of pursuing the idea of bringing wireless internet access to all of downtown Racine. Other cities have done this, and Racine feels a bit behind.
“When I heard that the Mayor’s (John Dickert) 10-year plan was to bring wifi to Racine, I knew we had a parallel mindset about where the city ought to grow,” he added. That could attract more downtown business and residents, and make internet access more available to people who otherwise would not have it.
“We need to build a better infrastructure in the area to serve a broad range of businesses, organizations and people,” he said.
Fueled by the belief that good business requires a commitment to the less privileged, Ramos-Ortiz has longstanding relationships to charitable organizations, such as Casa Cesar Chavez in Racine, in order to bring new technology and the knowledge about how to apply it to at-risk youth.
Ramos-Ortiz also has a strong desire to do business locally.
“This is where I live,” he said.
“Small business people make an impact and a difference,” said Jorge Figueroa-Ortiz, who works with his brother at IDN. “They provide good-paying jobs.”
“We’re locals here and we wanted to establish our business here,” Figuero-Ortiz said, explaining that during the early stages of the company’s growth, they were located in Milwaukee. “We have good connections in Milwaukee, it’s a bigger market. But, we’re from Racine, and we need to bring Racine up to par with other cities when it comes to technology.”
Doing business locally is so much a part of his mission, that Ramos-Ortiz opted to be his own general contractor in the remodeling of 610 Sixth St. He hired small businesses that were from Southeastern Wisconsin to do the reconstruction, with the majority of them based in Racine. Half were minority-owned small businesses. “It goes in sync with what we want to achieve,” he said.
One Racine contractor, Alex De La Garza, owner of A & T Hardwood Flooring, said working on the new IDN office was a great experience and a bit of a challenge.
“It was one of the hardest, labor-intensive jobs I’ve done,” said Garza. “There were three layers of floor in the building, and it took almost 80 hours just to remove all of the nails.”
While some people would have torn out the floor and put down a new one, Ramos-Ortiz challenged Garza to recondition the original floor. It says something about his reverence for history in this city. The building was constructed in the late 1800s and likely housed a small business.
That sense of history is uniquely blended with modern office technology, such as the LED lighting throughout the building, solar panels on the roof that help offset energy costs and the banks of humming servers that keep all the technology connected in IDN’s new home.
“We wanted a good presence in Racine,” he said. “We’re not someone who will just leave. We plan to stay in Racine and employ in Racine.”