Friday, August 12, 2005

TelecomHub serves as a good barometer for the telecom climate

If the scene in front of Tysons Corner night spot eCitie Restaurant & Bar in any way reflects the health of the local technology economy, then things aren't looking too shabby.

At 6:15 p.m. Monday night, a line of BMWs, Mercedes and Range Rovers waited to be parked by the valet at $3 a pop, even though a spacious parking lot surrounds the building. At the door, half a dozen people stood patiently as name tags were handed out and admission fees were collected for a networking happy hour.

A one point, a man with a cigar actually uttered the sentence: 'Good times are here again.'

And this was a telecom gathering, no less.

Two years ago, TelecomHub events had a mood to match the funeral of a beloved great aunt. Topic A was: 'How long you've been laid off.' Topic B followed suit with: 'Number of times your résumé has been rejected.'

Not so anymore. The 220 people who showed up at the organization's event this week were much more interested in discussing hot deals and new cars than career woes.

'I really think the Hub serves as a good barometer for the local telecom climate . . . and we've seen a lot of optimism,' said Barry Toser , the group's president and general manager of telecommunication services for Reston-based Transaction Network Services Inc .

During the depths of the downturn, finding sponsors for TelecomHub was like 'pulling teeth,' Toser said. But just in the first half of this year, seven companies pledged $5,000 a year as gold sponsors.

The group's monthly meeting for out-of-work techies regularly drew 50 to 75 people during 2001 and 2001. These days, it's rare to have more than 10 or 20 people show up. (We'll wait to see what the fallout of the Nextel/Sprint merger does to those numbers.)

As for eCitie -- a restaurant that was once the epicenter of high-tech flash and then the target of scoffing disdain because of its indelible link to dot-"