Since taking over as president of the Florida region of Verizon Wireless in 2013, Mariano Legaz has overseen major investments in its network, in new technology and an expansion of the company’s retail reach throughout the state.
Miami has received particular attention. “There are huge opportunities in Miami’s dynamic market, and our goal is to be No. 1 in quality of customer service,” said Legaz, who was born in Argentina and began working in telecommunications in his home country in 1995. In one of his previous positions at Verizon, Legaz managed $20 billion in procurement of goods and services for the company’s supply chain division.
Last year, Verizon invested nearly $300 million in Florida to expand the company’s new XLTE technology for improving wireless capacity on its 4G LTE network (fourth generation, long-term evolution), and for a variety of other projects as demand for data increases massively in the mobile market.
Much of this outlay went to Miami, a key market where Verizon increased high-speed wireless capacity and coverage at Miami International Airport, the Adrienne Arsht Center, American Airlines Arena, the New World Symphony and the Miami Veterans Administration Hospital. Miami was in the first wave of cities to receive Verizon’s XLTE technology.
The company also invested in opening new, company-owned retail outlets.
“Even though we are a big company, we’re still fighting for market share in the Miami market,” said Legaz, who obtained degrees in electrical engineering and telecommunications from the Catholic University of Córdoba in Argentina and an MBA from the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University.
Verizon would not reveal its revenues or market share in Miami, but the company says that it is the country’s largest wireless provider in terms of retail connections and revenue and that it reaches 98 percent of the nation’s population.
In terms of service quality, Legaz pointed out that Verizon last year received the highest ranking in South Florida for wireless service, speed and reliability in a survey conducted by an independent testing firm, RootMetrics.
Since 2000, Verizon Wireless has invested nearly $3 billion in Florida to build, strengthen and maintain its network.
Verizon’s customer mix is about 50 percent retail consumers and 50 percent large companies, small and mid-sized businesses and government.
The wireless market is fiercely competitive, with major players Verizon, AT&T Wireless, T-Mobile and Sprint duking it out. In addition, Legaz said, many people buy prepaid cards to speak with friends and family in Latin America and the Caribbean. These cards, which use existing networks of the big wireless companies, offer an opportunity. “We have to convince people that we’re not any more expensive than the cards and can provide more convenient service,” he said.
The Florida region of Verizon Wireless covers the entire state except for a small portion of the Panhandle. A separate network division builds towers and installs antennas, and another smaller operation, which is being sold, handles Verizon land-line services.
Verizon Wireless has a workforce of about 3,400 statewide, including employees at management, administrative and sales offices, a call center in Tampa and workers at Verizon-owned stores. It has about 340 sales locations, including Verizon-owned retail stores (80 statewide and 21 in South Florida) and agents who operate independent stores. Verizon also sells through large retail chains like Best Buy.
Last year, Verizon added about 500 new jobs in Florida, many in sales.
Verizon’s wireless operations are decentralized. Legaz works out of South Florida headquarters in Miami and Boca Raton, and travels frequently to another headquarters office in Tampa.
Legaz, a marathon runner, spends a lot of time on the road in Florida, visiting Verizon offices and stores and meeting with customers.
During a recent interview at the company’s new 6,500-square-foot “smart store” across the street from the Dadeland Mall, Legaz said: “I have not set foot in an office today. I try not to be in an office too much. It keeps me in tune with what’s really going on.”
The Dadeland store — which sells “smart” wireless equipment for monitoring exercise, health, home security and other uses, is a point of pride for the Verizon executive. “Five years ago, the were a few different models of wireless devices and a variety of accessories. Look at this store — we sell 12,000 SKUs [inventory items] here — including about 100 different phones and tablets and all these accessories. We’re using phones and tablets as gateways for so many things in life — so much of your life relies on this technology.”
Community engagement is also a source of pride for Verizon Wireless. Last year alone, the company donated over $1 million in grants and tech support to South Florida organizations like Boys and Girls Clubs, Amigos for Kids, Girls who Code, the University of Miami and Children’s Health Trust telemedicine initiative and others. The company also sponsors a variety of local events, such as the upcoming 2015 Mercedes-Benz Corporate Run.
“We volunteer all over the state. Our people care about the community,” Legaz said.
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Business: Verizon Wireless, the biggest business unit in Verizon Communications Inc., says it is the largest wireless communications provider in the United States in terms of retail connections (108.2 million at the end of 2014) and revenue. Verizon Communications has an international presence, offering voice, data and video services on its wireless and wireline (land line) networks. In the U.S., Verizon says its 4G LTE network (fourth generation, long-term evolution) is available to over 98 percent of the population in over 500 markets covering 309 million people. Verizon recently announced that it will sell its land-line operations in Florida, Texas and California to Frontier Communications Corp. The company began doing business in Florida as Verizon in 2000.
Founded: Formerly known as Bell Atlantic Corp., Verizon Communications was incorporated in 1983 and began doing business as Verizon in 2000 after its merger with GTE Corp.
Corporate headquarters: New York.
South Florida headquarters: Miami and Boca Raton.
Florida management: Mariano J. Legaz, president of the Florida Region.
Employees: Total company workforce is 177,300. In Florida, Verizon Wireless has about 3,400, including office, and management staff, a call center in Tampa and employees at company-owned retail stores. More than 400 work in Miami.
Revenues: Corporate revenues of $127 billion in 2014, of which wireless accounted for about $88 billion. The company does not publish revenues for the state.
Ownership: Publicly traded (NYSE and Nasdaq: VZ).
Source: Verizon Wireless