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US WEST has its hands full these days with new phone companies moving into the Wasatch Front and state-imposed goals to reduce the number of back orders for installing new phones.

But the company's new CEO says he isn't looking just at today's competition. Solomon Trujillo said the firm that serves 14 Western states has to gear up for the "next wave" of competition."There are cable companies partnering with long-distance carriers. Just two days ago in the Wall Street Journal, AT&T announced it was getting into the local service business," Trujillo said Friday in a wide-ranging interview during a

Utah visit. "In some markets, if you get Sprint long-distance service, you get a free year of HBO. We, as a company, have to be prepared for that next wave."

As he talks, Trujillo displays some of the drive that pushed him to complete his master's degree in two semesters at the University of Wyoming and still keeps him working 20-hour days while maintaining an active family life.

"We have all these challenges and it's my job, it's our job as a team, to rise to those challenges," Trujillo said.

He'd like US WEST to plan for new competition, go head-to-head with current competitors, improve customer service and consolidate some tasks into regional centers - all in a union shop environment.

These goals sound contradictory, but Trujillo said they actually complement each other. "The union (Communication Workers of America) and the management of the company have consistent objectives: We all want to grow and we all want to win," Trujillo said.

"If we're healthy and growing, you have one environment," he said. "In an declining environment, the shareholders are unhappy, the customers are unhappy and the work environment isn't good. Everybody likes to be on a winning team."

Improving service is clearly on his mind, although Trujillo is quick to say that, "Ninety-eight percent of the time our service is working very well, but we have this pocket where growth has hit us so hard that we're behind and we have a few glitches."

The surge in development throughout the West, and in Utah and Colorado in particular, has produced a backlog of requests for new phone service. Utah's Public Service Commission has set quarterly goals for US WEST to trim the backlog, but the company missed the second-quarter goal.

Although he makes no excuses, Trujillo observes that Utah's booming growth - while a welcome economic phenomenon - has contributed to the situation. The company has grown by 120,000 access lines in one year.

"That's like adding a new Provo or Ogden," Trujillo said. "If you look at it from a company standpoint, we will have gained well over 1 million access lines in the last two years. That's like putting in a whole new state of Oregon. The demands on our industry are unlike any others in our history."

At the same time, US WEST is restructuring to create regional centers to cope with peak service demands by temporarily shifting phone call overloads to other communities.

Providing better customer service and faster response time will work to US WEST's advantage. "The better service we provide, the higher standard we're going to set for somebody else to to compete with us."