Cable icon Bill Bresnan likes small markets and small towns. This affinity is reflected in the company he founded, Bresnan Communications, which serves 320,000 customers in the Rocky Mountain states. This is not a dollars and cents predilection — it’s just that with small markets, it’s easier to be a true member of a community, and that’s the way Bill likes it.
"A basic tenet of Bill Bresnan’s corporate philosophy, which has been embraced by every one of us, is that in order to serve a community well, we need to get involved in the fabric of the community," says Bresnan Communications president Jeff DeMond. "Our folks are encouraged to get involved at all levels, from large corporate initiatives down to the smallest community bake sale."
Bresnan, celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, grew even deeper community roots during the last two years with the launch of Bresnan Safety Net, which helps parents and kids learn about Internet safety, and Bresnan Business Incubator, which kick-starts local businesses.
Bresnan Safety Net distributes child safety information and tools to parents via the Web and live events to help them keep children safe while on the Internet and watching TV. "What makes it cutting edge are the unique partnerships we have created, most notably with a world-renowned children’s theater company that happens to be in our footprint, the Missoula Children’s Theatre," DeMond says. "Through this partnership we’ve created a curriculum and a compelling character, Captain Internet. This allows us to adopt local schools and provide theatrical Internet safety assemblies for younger children in a way that captures their attention and imagination." Bresnan Safety Net also partners with local FBI offices to present lunch and learn sessions for parents and children. All Safety Net events include a child ID station that gives parents ID cards in a format recommended by the FBI. Bresnan Safe & Secure Expo kiosks are also available to schools and civic groups, and are staffed by Bresnan employees.
At the urging of Bill Bresnan, the company launched the Bresnan Business Incubator, which, through partnerships with small business agencies in Montana and Wyoming, helps entrepreneurs and small businesspeople get off the ground and grow. "As a consummate entrepreneur himself, Bill wanted to create a program that would enhance existing state programs through the power of cable advertising and also provide a portfolio of grants that those agencies could use to help small businesses and new businesses and individual entrepreneurs succeed," DeMond says. Bresnan committed an initial $2.1 million in grants, which come in the form of PSAs promoting the Incubator; funding for cable advertising and production assistance from Bresnan’s staff; and telephone and high-speed data services. Bresnan’s investment in the Incubator will rise as the grants increase in number. DeMond admits it’s difficult to quantify a bottom-line impact of good corporate citizenship, but he says that the company’s success over the last 25 years is intertwined with its community involvement. "The benefits are evident in the loyalty demonstrated by our customers, the affection demonstrated by community leaders, regulators and policy makers and the compelling effect it has on the spirit and morale of our family of employees."