A work ethic learned in the fields pays off|Beaufort County native’s company gets Wal-Mart deal

Published 4:38 am Sunday, November 15, 2009

Contributing Editor

Tonee Bell had reason to celebrate Oct. 31, not because it was Halloween but because his company, A Unity System Inc., signed an agreement with Wal-Mart to provide desktop and laptop computers to the retail chain’s customers.
A Unity System’s products are available through Wal-Mart’s Web site at www.walmart.com.
“It was a dream come true,” said Bell, president and CEO of AUS, about the agreement.
“Getting in Wal-Mart was my long-term plan,” said Bell, who grew up in the Acre Station area of Beaufort County, during an interview last week when he was visiting relatives, including Beaufort County Commissioner Ed Booth, a first cousin.
AUS is a minority-owned computer supplier and distributor based in Indianapolis. It offers a broad portfolio of products, including desktops, laptops, servers and fully rugged field PCs.
“AUS intends to crack the digital divide by offering products that are affordable and more valuable for the average consumer,” Bell said in a news release about the deal with Wal-Mart.
Bell believes the agreement with Wal-Mart and the exposure it will bring his company bodes well for AUS.
“This is an opportunity for AUS to become a Fortune 500 company,” Bell said in the interview.
Bell started AUS in 1999 and entered major retail markets in 2001 with Staples, and later Kmart and Office Depot. AUS also supplied computers to General Motors through its GM Advantage Program.
During the interview with the Daily News, Bell said he’s always looking for opportunities to create new jobs and keep existing jobs in America. Some of those opportunities may come close to his childhood home, he said.
“I can see my company expanding back home,” Bell said.
Bell credits his business success to the work ethic he learned growing up on his family’s farm. Bell recalled long days of toiling in tobacco fields, picking cucumbers and performing other farm-related work in his youth. He also said his 16 years in the Coast Guard as a radioman also provided him with valuable experiences.
Bell said others in America can follow in his footsteps because “opportunities are there, if you want them.”
The costs of the computers range from $298 to $478 for desktop models and $398 to $628 for laptops. The high-end desktops have built-in Wi-Fi. All laptops feature built-in webcam, microphone and Wi-Fi, and the upper-end laptops include Bluetooth.
“Our products are affordable due to our operational efficiencies and they are assembled in the United States to help maintain and create American jobs,” Bell said.
AUS is backing the quality of its products by offering a one-year warranty on labor and three years limited warranty on parts, which is two years more than the market average. For similar products, other competitors are only offering one-year parts and labor, Bell said.
“The longer limited warranty period is a part of our focus on excellent customer service as we want our buyers to be comfortable with their purchasing decision,” Bell said in the release.
The AUS vision is to provide state-of-the-art products that its customers can be proud of by always knowing what its customers need and desire, Bell said. AUS’ core values include quality products, excellent customer service, integrity and affordability, he added.
For more information on AUS, visit www.aunitysystem.com.