Five years ago, dbaDirect began with only two employees and a vision. Today, the Florence company provides remote database assistance and IT outsourcing for businesses in 48 states as well as companies worldwide.

Lary Runge, vice president of marketing and operations, attributes the success of the company to its senior-level employees: "We only hire employees with high-technology experience." Staff members are also required to take regular training classes to make sure they keep up with the latest technology.

That kind of attention to detail pays off. Last year, dbaDirect was awarded a Small Business Innovation Research Grant from the Kentucky Science and Engineering Foundation. This funding has allowed the company to continue developing the latest computer technologies.

Right now, the firm maintains that it is the only worldwide company that provides remote database support for all five major database technologies (Oracle, DB2 UDB, Sybase, Informix, and Microsoft SQL Server), using the ONguard process.

Runge himself is no stranger to the world of business. He spent a quarter-century working at IBM, as well as founding his own sales and marketing automation consulting company, D&R Marketing.

Runge's biggest suggestion to students looking for a career in marketing, management, or business is to co-op first to make sure they are still interested. "It's a lot of hard, repetitive work," he notes.

Northern Kentucky University students now have the opportunity to do just that through the on-campus dbaDirect Student Call Center, which opened earlier this year. The telemarketing center is a collaboration among dbaDirect, Fifth Third Bank Entrepre-neurship Institute, the Institute for New Economy Technologies, and the state of Kentucky's Office for the New Economy.

Five co-op students, generally marketing majors, spend up to 20 hours a week at the dbaDirect center working on marketing campaigns with a supervisor and talking to real clients. They also receive job training for more technical duties.

The telemarketing center is part of the NKU Entrepreneurship Institute sponsored by Fifth Third Bank. The Entrepreneurship Institute, which was created in 1999, provides students with various academic and outreach programs that prepare them for careers in the real world.

"This call center is a win for everybody," says Dr. Jim Votruba, president of NKU in Highland Heights. "[It's] a win for the university, our students, the local community, the Northern Kentucky region, and the state of Kentucky."