Ted Torbeck's three-decade journey back to his Cincinnati roots wound through cities as large as Chicago and towns as small as Madisonville, Ky. There were Midwest and East Coast locations in between.

Along the way, he sold locomotives, guns and aircraft engines. The unifying thread was the pursuit of business opportunities that looked like winners. So, it's with a sigh of relief from Cincinnati Bell shareholders that the next winner Torbeck spotted was the venerable telecommunications company which he joined last September.

Today's Cincinnati Bell is not your Ma Bell's phone company. Its old bread and butter "” the traditional landline into homes and businesses "” is just over half of its revenue now. It's declining steadily as people cancel home service and rely instead on mobile phones.

But Cincinnati Bell is not sitting on its hands while its old business model decays.

Instead, Torbeck, president of Cincinnati Bell Communications, in unison with his boss, Cincinnati Bell President and CEO Jack Cassidy, is forging ahead with an aggressive plan to grab market share in Internet, cable television and, perhaps most importantly, data center business.

Torbeck leads Cincinnati Bell Communications, which includes Cincinnati Bell Telephone and other wireline businesses, Cincinnati Bell Wireless and the CBTS IT Services and Hardware business.

It's a transformational time for the old phone company, and Torbeck is happy to be a part of it.


"I don't think there has been a more exciting time in the history of the company. We're really reinventing ourselves," says Torbeck, 54.

Cincinnati Bell is investing heavily in expanding data center services for companies that outsource data collection and management.

"Our strategy is to grow on the East and West coasts and globally. Our focus is the Fortune 1000. We're at the early cusp of companies turning over their data centers. We're seeing that they would rather put their investments in their core products, which data centers are not," he says.

Cincinnati Bell acquired data collection company CyrusOne last June and saw data center sales jump roughly 75 percent for 2010.

The other big investment, one that directly benefits consumers, is the continuing rollout of the company's Fioptics network. It delivers lightning-quick internet service "” up to 100 megabytes per second "” phone service and cable television that competes directly with Time Warner and satellite services. The lines are available to about 10 percent of Greater Cincinnati homes, 30 percent of which have signed up for the services. Bell eventually plans to offer Fioptics to about 65 percent of homes in the Tristate, determining that the other 35 percent of homes are spaced too far apart to justify the installation expense.


"Consumers are going to have a pipe into their home. As we expand our offerings around entertainment and voice, we think this is a product we can grow. We're probably just over 10 percent coverage now, so there's huge room for growth," Torbeck says.

The final piece of the puzzle is competing against national giants and their ubiquitous marketing campaigns for mobile phone and smart-phone customers. Bell is rolling out new smart phones like the Dell Venue Pro, due to launch in early May, which combines a touch screen and a slide-out keyboard that runs on the Windows 7 platform. It enters the tablet fray with the Commtiva N700, which combines a phone, camera and Internet browser using Google's Android platform on a 7-inch touch screen, launched in March with a retail price of $200 with a two-year contract and $50 rebate.

Not long ago, the company's fortunes weren't looking bright.

Its share price swooned in the early part of the last decade, due largely to its unsuccessful venture into the fiber optics business through Broadwing. Cincinnati Bell changed its name to Broadwing but changed it back in 2003 when it sold the fiber optics business to CIII Communications after piling up debt. Bell's share price that peaked around $38 in 2000 took a nosedive in recent years, bottoming out under $2 in January 2009. It has recovered modestly to near $3 a share in March.


Analysts generally share the view that Bell is on the right track. Imari Love, a Morningstar analyst, recently downgraded the stock to "market perform," citing headwinds of declining landline revenue and Bell's small market compared to national giants. Still, he projects revenue to grow 3 percent annually for the next five years and sets the company's value at $3.50 a share, a big boost compared to prices in March.

"The fact that it doesn't pay a dividend and lacks the scale of its telecom peers means its fate going forward will hinge almost exclusively on its ability to effectively expand its data center operations. We like the road on which they seem to be heading, but there are sure to be bumps along the way," Love said in an interview.

Torbeck remains optimistic.

"I can't project what the stock is going to do, but I can tell you that we have a very solid strategy that is showing tremendous growth in the areas that have the highest profit margin," Torbeck says.


Torbeck's heart never strayed far from Cincinnati. The Moeller High School graduate married his hometown sweetheart, Peggy. They have two children, Geoff and Natalie.

After graduating from Miami University with a marketing degree and earning an MBA from Xavier University, Torbeck worked for General Electric for 28 years, including 18 at GE Aircraft in Evendale. He ran a plant in Madisonville, Ky., another GE business in Coshocton, Ohio, and ran a locomotive building operation in Erie, Penn.

Torbeck returned home to integrate Greenwich UNC, which GE purchased, into GE and then ran the supply chain for aircraft engines. That job was the end of the road for his family, which stayed in Cincinnati when Torbeck began commuting to Chicago to run a GE leasing company. His last stop was with Cerberus Capital Management, where he ran Freedom Group, a gun manufacturer. Now, he's home.

In his short tenure with Bell, Torbeck has jumped into philanthropy as a United Way of Greater Cincinnati board member and co-chairman of the St. Aloysius capital campaign. He relishes the community involvement.

"I've always wanted to get back to Cincinnati. It's a great place to raise a family, it's small enough that you can know who the real players are, but it's large enough to have sports teams like the Reds and the Bengals. It has a small-town feel. You wouldn't believe how many notes I got when I came back," he says.

"And from a professional career standpoint this is really the first time I've been engulfed in the community here, which I really like."