Patrick Heinz has no less than 33 patents pending, but that's not why he's so busy these days. The founder of Innovative Fiber Optic Solutions (or iFiber), Heinz is making full use of Butler County's "Fiber Optic Backbone," the high-tech network that makes communication "” be it data or voice "” easier and faster.

iFiber is not an Internet service provider, but rather a network that uses Ethernet protocol and eliminates the need for routers. iFiber serves its clients through such technologies as the Fiber Optic Backbone or by implementing one of its wireless "last-mile" connections.

"We are opening up the pipeline so companies are free to do what they want to in technology," Heinz says.

Heinz grew up in southeastern Indiana and attended Indiana University, but left before completing his bachelor's degree to enter the high-tech business world. While working as an engineer for Lucent Technology, he decided that the protocol and networking in modern communication was insufficient. This was at a time when there was only one network for people to choose from "” SBC Ameritech. "Now they'll have a choice," Heinz says.

iFiber was unofficially conceived in April 2001 and officially began operations in August that same year. Heinz brought over people he had worked with previously, including his mother, Pam, and started the business in Dayton. The company later moved to Middletown, its current location. iFiber's network includes five counties "” Miami, Montgomery, Warren, Butler, and Hamilton.

When the company began, one of the biggest challenges was getting customers. As the company grew, the challenges changed. "Now it's how do you support them in a way in which they are accustomed," Heinz observes.

So why do people choose iFiber over competitors? Customer service, in a phrase. "We are a local company, people know who we are, and we're available when they need something."

Most of iFiber's customers are businesses, but the company is hoping to expand to more schools, and even to residential areas. Some notable clients include Miami University, Butler County Surgery Center, Butler Tech, and Sinclair College in Dayton.

Schools are definitely a target area. By iFiber estimates, "schools can save over 40 percent of service-provider costs by eliminating the local loop charges and fostering competition in this space."

Since iFiber aims to provide a network to residential areas in the near future, this may also be beneficial to students. "[Students] will have educational resources at home to study with and learn from and will not have bandwidth restrictions that other broadband services have." This is because iFiber's network operates at the speed equivalent to three T-1 lines. "With this connectivity, schools may offer their curriculum to at-home students, students suffering from long-term illness, and handicapped students."

The future looks bright for iFiber, but Heinz hasn't forgotten those who helped him along the way. "We received funding from Butler County economic development groups, which has been very helpful."

One person in particular who helped iFiber is Larry Wood from the Middletown Economic Development Corp. Heinz says "Larry's help has been invaluable."

Wood speaks highly of iFiber as well: "First and foremost, iFiber is a highly valued technology-based employer providing growth and diversity to Middletown's economic base. Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, iFiber provides a great opportunity to many of our local companies to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the delivery of products and services to their customers."