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Good location helps KMTelecom add customers and service

Mary Ehmke, KMTelecom

Kasson, Minn., the home of KMTelecom, is different than many small communities in the Upper Midwest because the town is growing.

Kasson can thank the thriving medical hub of Rochester, Minn., for much of its residential growth. The town is only 13 miles west of Rochester, which is the home of the Mayo Clinic, an internationally known and highly regarded center for medical services.

The community’s proximity to Rochester protects it from some of the economic ups and downs that rural communities heavily dependent on agriculture withstand.

“Rochester’s economy hasn’t ever really known a recession,” says Mary Ehmke, president of KMTelecom. “We are fortunate in that not everyone wants to live in Rochester. They want to live in a smaller community, and we have an excellent school district.”

During the past 25 years, Rochester’s population has grown from 70,700 people to more than 112,200. During the same period, Kasson has grown from about 3,500 residents to 6,100.

The KM in the company’s name is an old reference to Kasson and Mantorville. (Mantorville is a town of about 1,200 residents, which the company also serves.) Early in its history, the company was known as the Kasson & Mantorville Telephone Company.

The two communities are in the same school district. The telecom company has the naming rights to the school’s football stadium, KMTelecom Stadium.

The company and its 22 employees also serve the communities of Rock Dell and Dodge Center and purchased the Rock Dell Telephone Company in 1961.

Ehmke is a fourth-generation member of the family that started and owns KMTelecom and has served as president for about 15 years. Her great-grandfather, Herman Tollefson, founded the company in Kasson in 1901. Her younger sister, Beth Tollefson, currently serves as the chief financial officer.

The family-owned company has a history of providing advanced technology solutions to its residential and business customers.

KMTelecom serves customers in Kasson and Mantorville with fiber to the home. A recent $764,000 grant from the state of Minnesota will help extend fiber connectivity to more than 200 customers in the rural area north of Mantorville. The company is matching the grant with a $1.2 million investment in the project that’s expected to be finished by June 2018.

Fiber gives customers better access to the company’s services, including one gigabit per second Internet speeds that KMTelecom creatively markets as “Whippet Full Boogie Internet.”

KMTelecom is one of eight partner companies in SDN Communications’ year-old expansion into southern Minnesota. It includes five other independent telecoms from Minnesota, one from Iowa, and SDN, which is the managing partner.

Getting involved in the partnership was not the first time that KMTelecom has worked with other independent telecoms.

“We’re stronger together than we are apart,” Ehmke says, “and the project has promise.

“We have customers in our markets looking for connections to the outside. If we can stay on the independents’ networks rather than give the revenue to someone else, it made sense to us.”

The expansion reaches across southern Minnesota from the border of South Dakota to Wisconsin, and from south of the Twin Cities to Iowa. The fiber network linked several networks together to provide new communications options to attract and serve regional businesses.

In addition to KMTelecom and SDN, partner companies in SMB are:

Get to know SDN's member companies better and the impact they have on their communities through our other member articles.