Juneau grads find success at home

IT firm creates Web sites for more than 40 Alaska businesses

Posted: Thursday, October 05, 2006

JUNEAU — While some in Juneau are fighting an exodus of young professionals, five 23-year-olds have launched a local cutting-edge information-technology firm that’s thriving.

Jeremy Hansen and Tyler Gress founded the IT firm, Hansen Gress, which has created Web sites for more than 40 Alaska businesses and organizations, such as the Canton House, Rainy Day Books and Marlintini’s Lounge. The company also installs data bases and an electronic time card system, and offers general IT troubleshooting.

Marketing director Jeff Fanning, IT technician Adam Lang and accountant Stacy Montag round out the five-person staff.

“They’re so great,” said Valentine’s Cafe owner Hector Marrero, who has used the firm’s services. “If I ever have any extra money that I don’t need, I would donate it to their company.”

The five at Hansen Gress often find themselves working into the wee hours of the morning. But the payoff is they get do things their own way: The office is on the second floor of Juneau’s climbing wall facility, the Rock Dump, and they embrace the color pink.

The company reunites five Juneau-Douglas High School grads — some of whom have known each other since elementary school — with Hansen, the company’s CEO, acting as the nucleus of the group.

“Actually, I always knew Jeremy would be a CEO of a company,” Lang said.

Since the eighth grade, Hansen was designing Web sites and troubleshooting clients’ computer problems with his own company, Glacier Computer Services. He and Gress formed Hansen Gress a year and half ago, when Gress came aboard as a partner after returning from Boise State University in Idaho.

Gress wants Internet surfers to feel like they are visiting the places the sites are advertising with a concept called atmospheric design.

For Valentine’s Coffee House, he photographed the wooden floors and used it as a background for the site. The logo was tinted with a slight burnt texture so that it looks like it “came out the oven,” Gress said.

Those visual features may be 10 percent of all components that make up a Web page, Gress said, but an area where he spends the majority of his time.

Local businesses are realizing that IT is more than just setting up software, but finding smarter ways of doing business and attracting customers, Hansen said.

Juneau is growing a crop of young IT professionals, with the help of the Juneau Economic Development Council’s project, the Knowledge Industry Network.

Working in four areas, KIN creates networking and educational opportunities for young people trying to develop their own businesses.

Hansen doesn’t intend to leave Juneau anytime soon and sees the social network he’s grown since a teenager as an invaluable asset.

And so far, being located in Southeast Alaska hasn’t stopped the company from working on projects around the state.

“We’re totally open to doing business outside of Juneau,” Hansen said.

He said the secret to having a business that works in Juneau is simple:

“Just do something you love and do it better than anyone else.”

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