Spokane Journal of Business

LineSoft to roll out new lines

Company sees big market in small utilities, continues to grow at aggressive pace

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LineSoft Corp., of Spokane, has grown rapidly in recent years by developing software for large energy companies nationwide. Now, its working to create a more standardized version of its products to sell to smaller utilities and cooperatives.

Fred Brown, LineSofts president and CEO, says the company is working with a handful of smaller utilities in Washington state to develop that standardized software, and hopes to launch new products based on that work within a year.

Were excited for that market, Brown says. It has the potential to be huge for us.

LineSofts products are used in power transmission-line engineering and other functions related to power distribution, and in recent years, the 12-year-old company has become a darling of Spokanes high-technology sector.

LineSoft had operating revenues of about $9.3 million last year, and has had a compounded annual growth rate of 87 percent over the last three years, according to information the company submitted to Seattles Puget Sound Business Journal recently. Linda Hemingway, LineSofts director of marketing and business development, says the company is on track to at least sustain that growth rate in 2001.

LineSoft ranked 17th on the Puget Sound Business Journals annual list of the 100 fastest-growing private companies in Washington state, which was published late last month. At 17th, LineSoft was the highest-ranked company east of the Cascades. Companies were ranked based on their rate of sales growth.

Even though its sales have been growing, the company cut 10 jobs in July. It said it was exercising prudent management and paring down staffing in some departments. Currently, LineSoft employs about 200 people, 135 of whom are in Spokane. In addition to its corporate headquarters at 12310 E. Mirabeau Parkway, in the Spokane Valley, the company operates regional offices in Atlanta; Kansas City, Mo.; Columbus, Ohio; and Pittsburgh.

Brown says LineSofts typical customer is a big power supplier that serves a large population or geographic area. On average, such a customer will invest about $1.5 million in a software package for transmission and power-line design, and a sizable portion of that cost will involve inputting all of a utilitys specific processes and procedures into the software system, which LineSoft handles, Brown says.

Smaller power providersconcerns about the size of Inland Power & Light Co., a Spokane-based electrical cooperative that serves parts of Eastern Washington and North Idahotypically cant make that large of an investment in software, he says. For those utilities, a standard version of LineSofts products wouldnt require as many unique specifications and therefore wouldnt be as expensive, but still would make line design more efficient, Brown says.

Hemingway says the company also plans to release next March a new software product called TL-Pro.

That transmission-system design software will provide 3-D click and see structure and terrain renderings that LineSofts other products dont have, as well as engineering calculation capability and structural analysis and design optimization features similar to those found in the companys bread-and-butter line-design product, LD-Pro.

Brown says TL-Pro will make use of technology used in computer games, allowing the user to view simulated power lines as if he or she were flying overhead.

Earlier this month, LineSoft released LD-Pro 3.4, the most recent version of the companys first line-design tool. That new version includes improvements to the views of power-line plans and profiles included in earlier versions, additional ability to interface with geographical-information systems, and enhanced structural analysis capabilities.

The new version currently is being installed at American Electric Power, of Columbus, Ohio, and Wisconsin Public Service Corp., of Green Bay, Wis., and other large customers are expected to begin installing the upgraded software early next year, Hemingway says.

LineSoft also has partnered with the Houston-based energy division of Logica, a Great Britain-based information-technology company, to begin integrating LineSofts LD-Pro software with Logicas Work Management Information System to streamline the work-management and engineering-design process.

Linn  Parish
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Editor Linn Parish has worked for newspapers and magazines since 1996, with the bulk of that time being at the Journal. A Montana boy who has called Spokane home for some time now, Linn likes Northwest trails, Deep South foods, and lead changes in the ninth inning.

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