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First Tech Direct Charts Growth Path Under New Owner, Columbus

ROYAL OAK -- The Microsoft software implementation, application development and IT consulting company First Tech Direct is now a branch office of Columbus, a publicly held company based in Denmark that has been in the IT business for 24 years.

First Tech Direct was founded May 1, 2001 by Hollie Cox, Scott Jackson, Jack Ketelhut and John Silvani. Mark LaBelle was added as a partner in 2009.

Jackson, who is now senior vice president for business development at Columbus' U.S. operations, said the buyout means good things for First Tech Direct's 52 staffers and its customers.

"Columbus views this as a merger, because they had 100 people in the United States, we added 50, and they had four U.S. managers, and our people replaced two of those," Jackson said. "We are going to grow faster, and we are looking for more acquisitions. Our goal by the end of 2013 is to be at 300 employees (in the U.S.), which is double where we are today."

First Tech Direct also has branch offices in Grand Rapids, Chicago and Atlanta, Ga. Those offices will remain open, and will be added to existing Columbus offices in California, Texas and Florida.

Overall, Columbus has offices in 21 countries.

Jackson said talks toward the buyout started in August 2011.

"From a First Tech perspective, we now have global reach," Jackson said. "We have been dealing with a lot of customers with offices in Mexico, Brazil, Europe, Southeast Asia. Now we have that reach with the Columbus network. Since the acquisition we have been able to business in places we wouldn't necessarily have gone to previously. And we also have resources we didn't have before."

Jackson said Columbus will continue hosting local tech events the way First Tech Direct did. It's also looking to add a program for college students called Columbus University that will see the students spending part of their time in the U.S. and part in Europe.

And, he said, Columbus is hiring in Royal Oak -- account executives and consultants across all product lines. Those interested should email

"Were seeing a lot of growth in Microsoft Dynamics CRM and AX," Jackson siad. "Lots of growth in manufacturing -- my own opinion is that the people who survived the GM bankruptcy came out a lot stronger and have money to invest in technology. We're also seeing strength in the service economy -- professional services, engineering firms, and in companies installing HVAC, phone systems and low-voltage wiring. The other upswing is in food manufacturers, which I would not have seen coming."

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