Here in Kentucky, not everyone has internet access.
WKU alumnus Alex Wilson, 2017 graduate, works to change that. Alongside his older brother, Eric, Wilson owns and operates Ridgenet Network Group, an internet-providing business based in Science Hill.
“There were tons of communities that didn’t have access to internet,” Wilson said. “We really focus on rural communities, because that’s where the need is.”
With larger internet providers like AT&T and Spectrum, a business like Ridgenet seems backwards. Rather than opening its doors in the 21st century, one would think it should be closing them.
“I never saw myself going into that field,” Wilson, who graduated with a communications degree, said of working in the internet business.
Wilson would rather meet with the client than have them come to him, he said. Although the business’s first objective is to make money, its heart revolves around better serving the community.
One of Ridgenet’s biggest clients is Kentucky Kingdom, which uses two-way radio systems the business provides.
“They break a lot of radios there,” Wilson said jokingly.
Ridgenet also provides these systems to the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office. Born and raised in Somerset, Wilson went to Pulaski County High School, where he found his interest in business.
Pulaski County High School business teacher James Murray served as one of Wilson’s earliest mentors. He said Wilson had a knack with leadership even before his time at WKU.
With Wilson as president of Pulaski’s Future Business Leaders of America club during his senior year, Murray said attendance increased and the club earned a record number of awards.
“He was already thinking about what he wanted to do at a young age,” Murray said.
Due to the isolated location of his family’s Somerset home, which sits atop a hill, slow internet speed was an issue Wilson and his brother experienced daily. After buying some equipment and a 20-foot service tower, the two improved internet access where they lived drastically, inadvertently kickstarting Ridgenet.
Wilson said the biggest thing setting Ridgenet apart is its customer service.
“For me, they’re all important to us,” Wilson said of its customers. “I’d rather make an honest dollar than a lot of money.”
James Turpen, a WKU alumnus, has known Wilson and his family for multiple years. He said Wilson is the kind of business owner worth trusting.
“People want to be able to trust you, and I think he has that,” Turpen said. “He has high respects and ethics.”
The full picture
Not only has Wilson worked with the local police and students, he also gives back to the community’s other needs.
After encouragement from Murray, Wilson recently joined the board of trustees for Over My Head Somerset, a homeless shelter for those in transition.
“It’s pretty impressive that a young man like him is wanting to give back to the community,” Murray said.
Wilson already helped organize a fundraiser for the shelter and has more projects in mind, Murray said.
Turpen said he believes Wilson and his brother’s persistence is starting to pay off.
“I told him and his brother the other day, ‘You know overnight success comes after 15 years of hard work,’” Turpen said.
Features reporter Katelyn Latture can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected].