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Within months of going public in February 2000, wireless provider Nextel Partners Inc. set up its investor relations operation–although the word ‘operation’ may be a little bit of an exaggeration. Today, as it did four years ago, the “operation” consists of one person–Alice Kang Ryder, who serves as both director and staff for a department that spends about $1 million a year. “I also do other things, like financing transactions and so on,” she laughs.

Kang Ryder and Nextel are hardly unique. For midsize companies, even a staff of one and a budget of $1 million can seem like luxuries. When it comes to fielding investment community inquires or disgruntled investor calls, many middle-market companies are forced to rely on their treasurer (if they have one), CFO or even CEO. “We try to be efficient, but at the end of the day we realize we’re a cost center,” says Kang Ryder. And for companies with less than $1 billion in revenues, it is a cost center that many have reluctantly decided that they must live without.

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