GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Arthur Hale is one of a very select group of Black CEOs and perhaps the only Black CEO of a tech company in West Michigan.

Hale first came to Grand Rapids in the 1980s while working for a company called NEC Corporation of America. When he arrived, he noticed that there was a need for a telecommunications and internet technologies business and decided to begin his career as an entrepreneur.

“We said, ‘We need to get this high-speed internet so we can transmit around to different companies,'” Hale said.

In what would be one of his first internet access installation jobs in Grand Rapids, Hale used an AT&T fiber hub to set up one of the first wireless access areas in the city.

NBX, Hale’s business at the time, rented a house next to an AT&T data center once located between Shaffer and Radcliff avenues on 28th Street SE to connect it to a transmitter that would send data to a receiver at Bridgewater Place. After Bridgewater Place was connected to NBX’s signal, the whole building and surrounding area had access to high-speed wireless internet.

“What they were looking for, they wanted to get an internet connection. And we were giving them an internet connection. It wasn’t about Wi-Fi, it was about an internet connection that happened to be wireless,” Hale said.

An NBX employee sets up a receiver at Bridgewater Place. (Courtesy Arthur Hale)

He went on to do work with several companies including Fox Motors — installing wireless internet access points at all of their Michigan and Illinois locations — General Motors, Witte Travel & Tours and St. Luke’s Lutheran Church.

Hale’s interest in telecommunications goes back to his 10th grade year in high school. A friend of his dad did work with ham radios, which piqued Hale’s interest. Hale said his father’s friend letting him work with slow-scan television was the beginning of what would become a lucrative career for him.

Hale’s father, Arthur Hale II, known as Happy Hale, was also an entrepreneur. Hale III said in the mid-1900s, his father built his own movie theater in Amarillo, Texas. He wasn’t able to go to the local cinema due to segregation laws at the time, which sparked his idea and in turn led to the beginning of his career as a business owner.

A picture of Arthur Hale II (Happy Hale). (Courtesy Arthur Hale)

Hale has owned three companies over the course of his time as an entrepreneur. As a Black business owner in the technology sector, he said he has never really faced any blockades that other Black-owned businesses may have when he began. Hale said much of that was because of how he positioned his business.

“If you’re selling cars, you’re going to be a car company, not a Black car company, you can’t put the ‘Black’ on it at all. If we were doing civil rights, that would be different, but when we’re selling products, it’s a product,” Hale said.

Hale believes that if he would have presented his company as a Black business, he would have not been taken seriously, citing a lack of faith that consumers had in Black technology companies when he first began.

In 2010, a medical group from West Michigan went to Haiti to help victims after the 7.0-magnitude earthquake. Dr. Troy Silvernale, Hale’s doctor at the time, was part of the group. Silvernale told Hale about the mission and Hale told him to let him know if he needed anything. Silvernale said he didn’t know exactly what he needed at the time, so he was surprised to see Hale show up before his departure date with phones and solar-powered battery chargers. The phones would prove to be a vital asset because of the lack of access to power and communications after the quake.

“You know, it was really valuable and really added to the ease and the success of kind of making things happen for the team,“ Silvernale said. “When we were traveling from the Dominican Republic to Port au Prince, it was about a 10-hour trip. And I was basically using a lot of that time to figure out how to use all the items that he (Hale) sent with me and everything. But the main thing was, (the phone) didn’t have to have electricity. We could charge it with a solar charger. And that worked really well.”

Hale has seen a lot of success during his career, being featured in magazines like Digital Connect Mag for his pioneering work on Voice over IP and winning several awards like the product of the year from Internet Telephony. Outside of his achievements in telecommunication, he served in the Navy during the Vietnam War. He became a jet-rated commercial pilot, even having had the chance to fly around a few celebrities, flying popular 1970s singers Tony Orlando and Dawn and Natalie Cole to her wedding.

Hale has owned three companies over the course of his time as an entrepreneur. His business motto has not changed over the years, but the technology he is working with has. His current company, Business Mobility Systems, is working with fixed wireless, which is 5G, 6G and 7G technology that lets users connect directly from a tower to their home or business rather than from a tower to other places and then to their location. The result is a faster, more secure network.

Hale said he is currently working on installing fixed wireless in public schools around Michigan and the rest of the Midwest. When it comes to what’s next in the world of telecommunication, Hale said that the possibilities are endless.

“I think the future is going to be that … we’ll be a completely connected world and it’s going to get to the point … to where that maybe we can say, ‘Beam me up, Scotty,’” Hale said. “But other than that, the system is set up, it’s covered. You get more security for everything in the buildings, kids are safer, our families are safer. And it’s gonna be a better world for everybody.”