Crew stadium minority-owned business contract opens doors for a/v firm

Shannon Shelton Miller
For Columbus CEO
Tiffany Putnam and John Clifton III of Teltron Design Group. The company installed audiovisual components at the new Crew stadium.

The Field grand opening July 3 was more than a historic moment for the Columbus Crew and its fans. It was transformational for many local businesses, including a telecommunications firm whose work enhanced the fan experience at the new stadium.  

Columbus-based Teltron Design Group secured one of 117 contracts awarded to women- and minority-owned businesses for the $313.9 million, 20,000-seat project, winning a $2.5 million contract to install audiovisual services at the facility.

While Teltron Design Group has delivered telecommunications support and services for multiple clients over the past 12 years—including the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve—the company’s leadership viewed winning the Field project as a game changer.

“The city of Columbus and the Crew made this one of the most diverse projects I’ve ever seen,” says Teltron CEO Tiffany Putnam. “We want to make sure we give thanks to them for allowing us to participate, but we’re hopeful it doesn’t stop here—not only for Teltron, but for other businesses like ours.”

Columbus Crew owners were intentional in their efforts to include underrepresented firms in the stadium project, with 81 minority- and women-owned businesses receiving contracts worth $74 million.

Nancy Tidwell was an early champion for Teltron, often suggesting the firm’s services for regional opportunities. As owner of NRT & Associates, a project and organization management services firm that serves as a diversity and inclusion consultant on construction projects, Tidwell says many minority- and women-owned businesses face a disadvantage due to a lack of name recognition.

Teltron faced that hurdle on multiple projects, but Tidwell says developers who weren’t familiar with Teltron before her recommendation left impressed by their presentation.

They were even more impressed by Teltron’s work—a point Tidwell says emphasizes the importance of being intentional about inclusion.  

“Teltron exceeded their contract and were kept on the Crew stadium project longer than initially planned,” Tidwell says. “Because of the emphasis on diversity and inclusion right now, if proper attention is given to a company, they should continue to grow.”

Putnam and John Clifton III incorporated Teltron Design Group in 2009, but the company was born years earlier when Clifton’s father, John Clifton Jr., launched a communications firm with his son after years working for telephone companies. The team got most of its work installing telephone equipment but expanded into the digital space as communications and tech began to converge.

Clifton III says Teltron blossomed with the addition of Putnam, who brought operations experience to the business after years in the banking and business development sector.

Clifton III and Putnam also made connections through the Turner School of Construction Management, where Putnam attended to learn more about the construction industry after leaving banking. Tidwell was among the people they met through Turner, and she became a strong advocate for the company’s inclusion in high-visibility projects.

Smaller contracts, like its work for the Facebook data center in New Albany, led to larger contracts, like the Columbus Metropolitan Library. Teltron’s client base now includes businesses and nonprofit organizations in the military, state and local government and education.

Recruiting, scouting and hiring nontraditional talent is also part of the company’s mission. Clifton III and Putnam regularly reach out to technical schools and community organizations to hire new workers and host office visits for high school students.

“We’re breaking glass ceilings,” Clifton III says. “We want the city of Columbus, the state of Ohio and others to know that there are small minority businesses out there that are able to handle large-scale infrastructure projects like this. We’re here, we’re ready, and we’re prepared to bring quality every time.”

Shannon Shelton Miller is a freelance writer.

Teltron Design Group

2157 S. James Road, Columbus 43232

Business: Network infrastructure construction and technology firm

CEOs: John Clifton III and Tiffany Putnam

Employees: 18

Annual revenue: Would not disclose