Plant Telephone Co. - Plant Telecommunications
(1895-1935) The birth of modern telephony was established by the early pioneers in their homes. These early telephone connection providers were referred to as “independents” because they were independent of the Bell companies. The Gleaton family’s telephone business began in 1895 with the Doles telephone operation and continued to grow with the addition of the Warwick exchange in 1928. The founder of Plant Telephone Company, as it is now known, J.P. “Jimmy” Gleaton, (3rd generation) was born in 1919. J.P. graduated from high school in 1933 and continued to work with his family’s telephone exchange in Warwick and was later employed full time by Southern Bell Telephone Company as a lineman. J.P. married Allene Grimsley in 1935, continued to work for Southern Bell, and enjoyed staying involved in the family telephone business.
(1940-1949) Shortly after the Gleaton family moved to Tifton in 1946, the Omega Telephone Company was purchased and became Plant Telephone Company. The name “Plant” was chosen because Omega was known as the “Starter Plant Capital of the World.” In 1949, the Lenox exchange was constructed. Tifton became the headquarter site for Plant Telephone Company since it was adjacent to the Lenox and Omega exchanges and J.P had established his home here. J.P. and Allene had three daughters, Betty Chloe, Beverly, and Barbara. Plant is unique, it is a locally owned telephone company with headquarters and business offices located in a Bellsouth area. The tremendous growth and expansion of Plant Telephone continued under the outstanding leadership and vision of J.P. Gleaton.
(1950-1956) The Pearson and Willacoochee Telephone Companies were purchased in 1950. By 1951, all the companies merged and converted to modern dial telephone service. The Pinehurst exchange was acquired in 1954. On March 17,1955, a loan contract with the Rural Electrification Administration (REA) provided money to cover the additional costs of expanding the company’s service since the existing facilities were inadequate to meet the demand for the modern services. The Soperton exchange purchase followed in 1956.
(1956-1974) Mobile phones and paging services were added to the telephone company’s array of products. In 1963, Beverly Gleaton (4th generation), J.P.’s daughter, began working at the family business and married Danny Sterling in 1966. They both continued the family tradition of working with Plant Telephone Company. Plant Telephone entered the computer age with its first computer in 1974.
(1978-1981) Following the death of J.P. Gleaton in 1978, Danny Sterling was elected to the Board of Directors and made Operations Coordinator. In 1979, a new technical era began when the company started putting the most up-to-date switches into operation. These switches would allow rural customers to have the assurance of quality service and telephone features usually offered only in metropolitan areas. Danny Sterling became Assistant Vice-President in 1981.
(1982-1988) On May 3, 1982, Plant Telephone hosted an Open House when it moved to it’s new headquarters in Tifton on Highway 82. In 1983, Danny Sterling was made Vice President and General Manager. Plant Telecommunications Sales and Service, Inc was created in 1984 to provide additional needs for its customers. By 1988, all Central Offices had been upgraded to digital switching. Danny and Beverly Sterling, 1967 and 1968 ABAC alumni from Tifton, received the “Outstanding Business Leader Award” for 2002. They were also presented the 2002 “Cox Century Award” honoring their success in keeping their multi-generation family-owned business in operation for more than 100 years. Broadband Internet Service via satellite is introduced in 2002.
(2004-2008) David Metzger (6th Generation), Betty Chloe’s grandson, started work at Plant. Ginger’s husband, David Nelson, came to work for Plant as Customer Service Manager. Plant Telecommunications received the first place trophy in the OPASTO Indy awards competition for its 2007 Regional Telephone Directory. Entries were accepted from independent telephone companies throughout the U.S. and Canada.
(2009-2011) CityNet was acquired from the City of Tifton in 2009. The name was changed to Plant TiftNet, and provides cable, internet and phone service to the city of Tifton. In 2010, Plant TiftNet launched The Wiregrass Channel 3 to provide local events and news. T-Time, Tifton’s only local talk show, with host Ginger Nelson and producer David Nelson was started soon thereafter. Danny and Beverly received the John Hunt Entrepreneur of the Year Award from the Chamber of Commerce in 2010. Plant’s Telephone Museum was completed and open for tours upon request. The museum features a collection of old telephones collected by Danny and Beverly Sterling over the years. Plant Brocasting was created with the purchace of three radio stations now known as WTIF (107.5), Burnin’ Country (105.7), and 99Rock (99.9fm). In 2011, Plant Security Systems was formed to provide 24-hour Security Monitoring and Medical Alert Services to surrounding counties including Tifton and Tift county.
Plant Telecommunications has been managed and operated by the Gleaton descendants for 118 years spanning six generations. The Sterling-Metzger family jointly own Plant Telecommunications. The family business is one of the largest family-owned telephone companies in the state, with a service area spanning 13 counties in South Georgia including Tifton and Tift County. The 875 square miles served are mainly in rural areas. The company sells and services NEC Telephone Business Systems in South Georgia and continues to service about 80% of the local business telephone systems in Tifton.