Business owner shares his technical expertise

Neal Nilsen

Neal Nilsen

April 29, 2007|by DAVE McMILLION

The ironic part about Neal Nilsen's story is that he struggled in math and science in his youth.

"Go figure," Nilsen said.

Now technology is Nilsen's thing.

Nilsen has started and operated seven technology companies since 1969 and he has worked on General Motors' development of its OnStar service. Nilsen's current company, Ask Neal Home & Business Solutions, specializes in areas such as "smart home" technology, which focuses on efficient use of energy.

Nilsen installed a wireless Internet system for Jefferson County's new community center at Sam Michaels Park and his company has been the technology provider for Jefferson Business Park, which is home to high-technology employers such as the U.S. Coast Guard.

Developers of Jefferson Business Park in Bardane, W.Va., boast that their facility gives high-tech companies the place they need to compete. That is evident in the design of the office space, where each electrical outlet also is wired for voice and data transmissions.


These days, Nilsen is donating his technical expertise to Jefferson County's growing government operations.

The 55-year-old Chicago native is a member of an IT steering committee that the Jefferson County Commission formed to give county officials advice about the county government's technology needs.

The work has involved examining complicated computer systems, such as a sytem needed to scan documents in the Jefferson County Clerk's office.

Nilsen also lends his expertise to the Jefferson County Office of Homeland Security and works to protect county forest land from gypsy moth infestations.

Gypsy moths can devour large stands of hardwood trees and Nilsen works with an organization in the county that collects money to pay for periodic aerial spraying to keep gypsy moths under control.

There are challenges in the growing county, but there are all sorts of ways that people can interact and meet the needs of the community, Nilsen said.

"You can't stop it," Nilsen said, referring to the county's growth rate. "But you can facilitate for it. And that's what excites me."

Nilsen said much of his technology expertise has come from vocational training.

Nilsen attended public school in Chicago and in 1979 his life reached a turning point when his father died.

Nilsen remembers when "me, my camper and my dog" headed out of Chicago and ended up in California.

He spent the next 30 years in California as the technology industry was getting off the ground.

He worked in the telephone and paging system field and his career had led him across the country to cities such as Detroit and Pittsburgh.

While in Pittsburgh, Nilsen worked on former Gov. Tom Ridge's "Stay Invent the Future" initiative, which examined why bright students attending the state's universities did not stay in the state to start their careers.

Nilsen and his wife Carla live on the Blue Ridge Mountain in the Harpers Ferry area.


Name: Neal Nilsen

Hometown: Harpers Ferry, W.Va.

Occupation: Systems integrator/contractor

What was your proudest moment?: Outcome of lifeboat exercise in a training class.

Whom do you most admire, and why?: He named Fred Drexel, who was a mentor as well as a former business partner. He said Drexel was wise and kind.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received and who gave it to you?: There is never enough time to do it right, but always enough time to do it over - Ken Silay. Nilsen said those words of wisdom drive him and his team to get it right the first time.

What is the next goal you would like to achieve?: In business: Establish AskNeal LLC. Personal: Complete renovation project of home in River View Park.

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