Although some of us have the imagination to come up with marketable ideas for products, following through takes a particular type of mindset and determination. Since 1993, UltraTech International, Inc. has been meeting that need for the creation, development and worldwide marketing and distribution of the best spill containment and spill response products imaginable.
“We now have over sixty patents for over five hundred products,” says Mark Shaw. With his official title as Chief Executive Officer of UltraTech, Shaw’s business card should also state ‘entrepreneur and inventor.’ As the driving force behind the company, Shaw’s CEO title is something of an anomaly. Studying economics in college and taking Mandarin Chinese in his senior year, Shaw kept his pulse on relations between the United States and the People’s Republic of China, which were becoming normalized in 1980. His goal was to “become the world’s greatest trader between China and the U.S.”
Fate, however, would hold something much different in store for Shaw. Still in his early twenties, he saw a television newscast about what would become one of the most infamous hazardous waste leaks in history, namely Love Canal. Residents of the Love Canal area in Niagara Falls, New York, were forced to evacuate when the site – a former disposal ground for some 22,000 tons of hazardous waste – started leaking in 1979. The story exploded, revealing hundreds of disposal sites in New York and many other states. Far stricter regulations and disposal laws for hazardous materials were eventually enacted as a result, including Congress passing the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) in 1980. Billions of dollars were also spent on removing hazardous waste from the area.
Massive amounts of 55-gallon drums of chemical waste such as alkalines, chlorinated hydrocarbons, and caustics from the Hooker Electrochemical Company were unearthed. Some dated back to the 1940s. In time, urban sprawl led to the building of schools and houses on the toxic land. Illnesses, including birth defects and residents suffering from low white blood cell counts, were reported along with strong odors, dying vegetation, and “substances” bubbling up in backyards from the ground. The barrels, many of them buried for decades, started leaking toxic and harmful chemical waste.
Despite having no background in environmental science, the young Shaw could clearly tell something was very, very wrong with how authorities were handling disposal at the site. “They were taking leaking steel drums out of the ground, and they were lowering them into larger steel drums called salvage drums. And I thought that was stupid: taking leaking steel drums and packing them into other steel drums that are going to leak,” comments Shaw who then set out on a mission to save the world from toxic waste by building a drum that would never leak. Determined, he jumped headfirst into the then fledgling industry of environmental containment, educating himself along the way and dreaming up new and innovative ways to protect the planet.
At the time Shaw entered the market, it was still very much in its infancy. While the company today has expanded into diverse areas including nanotechnology and advanced technology, many relatively common sense ideas and products simply did not exist back in the early 1980s. With the goal of innovating, marketing, selling and distributing environmental products, Shaw started off with a company called Bondico.
Laws at the time were based on dealing with parking lots of drums, requiring them to be outfitted with drains and nonporous surfaces. Shaw transferred these compliance regulations to smaller areas and devised a containment pallet with grates for two or four drums that would be raised above any leaking liquid. He also devised a new type of salvage drum made out of materials that would not deteriorate when overpacking 55-gallon drums of leaking, toxic waste. More products designed to meet increasing regulations and to prevent and contain spills soon followed.
Today, the company has a staff of forty at UltraTech’s headquarters in Florida and another forty-five at its sister company, a manufacturing facility in Ohio. The business has grown to include chemical engineers, materials engineers, quality assurance persons, project managers, customer sales, marketing staff and many others. The company has come a very long way from Shaw’s first ‘office’ in a hot, humid and windowless storage locker equipped with a two-dollar plastic chair and a five-dollar used desk.
Since the early days of discovering better ways to contain drums of toxic waste, UltraTech has become world-renowned for its hundreds of unique products from storm water management for cities and municipalities to spill response, oil spill clean-up solutions, facility protection, nuclear waste management and spill containment. The company remains focused on serving the needs of clients across a diverse variety of sectors. Releasing an average of twenty new products every year, UltraTech has approximately 1,800 distributors covering over eighty countries and remains fiercely committed to being a leader in the marketplace.
Apart from the quality of its offerings, UltraTech can serve the environmental containment needs of countless customers through the sheer number of products it has available through its distributors. “Our breadth of product is a tremendous competitive advantage,” says Shaw. “We just have so many products, and if you’re dealing with us, you are dealing with our extensive channels of distribution.”
“If you’re a distributor, you have access to 500 innovative products. That is a huge advantage over the competition, which might have only ten or twenty products. We also come out with an average of about twenty new products each year, so it’s hard for others to keep up with us, since we are regularly coming up with new products.”
Since environmental concerns are everywhere, the sectors served by UltraTech are nearly limitless: universities, dry cleaners, cities and municipalities, chemical companies, milling and metalworking businesses, trucking companies, the marine industry, aviation, retail, offshore oil drilling, to name a few.
Of the company’s many creations are products designed to repel water and oil and neutralize odors. Ultra-Ever Dry® – a superhydrophobic and oleophobic coating – successfully repels most water-based, and some oil-based liquids. EverShield® is a unique omniphobic textile treatment which transforms everyday fabrics into high-performance fabrics able to repel oil, water, mud, concrete and even hard-to-remove food products like mustard and ketchup. UltraTech’s Aveho® odor control technology is “an engineered material consisting of micron-sized particles that capture and physically bind odor-causing compounds,” is truly nothing short of revolutionary.
The company was recently interviewed by CNN over the use of the Ultra-Ever Dry in the St. Pauli area of Hamburg, Germany. In the popular party area of Germany’s second-largest city, locals are fed up with ‘wildpinklers’ (party animals) staggering out of bars and urinating on city walls. To combat the problem, the city purchased Ultra-Ever Dry, coated the lower three feet of walls in the area and posted signs saying ‘Do not pee here! We pee back.’ The product’s incredible superhydrophobic properties make liquids bead and run off surfaces like mercury. Instead of urine streaming down walls and staining sidewalks, the coating causes the urine to bounce back all over the guilty party, splashing his pants and shoes. A video on YouTube, fast approaching four million views, is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uoN5EteWCH8.
While Ultra-Ever Dry’s use in Hamburg may seem extreme, it is – like many of the company’s other products – created out of need. Many products are the result of the company’s own ideas, while others are based on suggestions from customers. “We’ve always got our ears open to what’s going on in the market,” says Shaw.
“When you have been to three different people in a week and they’ve all complained about the same thing, you’re starting to hone in on that real need. If you can solve it, you’re going to have a market for it. It is listening to the market and creating products which are innovative. If there is a problem out there, and no one has really made it yet, there’s an opening for us to go out, and create a new product.”
Like Ultra-Ever Dry, the company’s product, EverShield has numerous applications. The fabric treatment is applied at the mill during manufacturing and will transform material into self-cleaning fabric able to repel water, oils, many chemicals, and even mud and concrete. It was developed by the U.S. military and Luna Innovations, a research and development company, in an effort to create self-cleaning uniforms which did not require laundering in the battlefield. The product took six years of research and development, but was able to meet 21 criteria placed upon it by the military. With the worldwide exclusive rights to commercialize and promote EverShield, UltraTech envisions the product being not only on clothing like shirts and pants, but also on socks, underwear, outer gear and hunting gear, sports apparel and even umbrellas.
“EverShield coats each fiber with a super-hydrophobic/oleophobic layer around each fiber… even ketchup will wash off with water, since it is not in the fiber but on the fiber,” says Shaw. “Wouldn’t it be nice to have an umbrella that, when it stops raining, is no longer wet? It’s dry, so when it stops raining, you can put your umbrella away in your house or car right away.” Unlike some products which are Durable Water Repellant (DWR) only and not long-lasting, EverShield is breathable, can be used on regular fabrics to boost performance, and can be washed thirty to fifty times.
Another highly innovative product is its Aveho odor control technology. About a dozen years ago, manufacturing giant Kimberly-Clark – the company behind Kleenex, Depend undergarments, and numerous other paper-based products – sought to create diapers that didn’t smell. The company invested considerable time and money into technologies which would not cover-up odors with flowery smelling molecules, but remove them entirely. However, when it came to diapers, parents actually wanted them to have an odor, so they would know when to change their infants.
Kimberly-Clark turned to UlraTech to commercialize the technology, granting UltraTech worldwide rights. Aveho uses engineered materials consisting of micron-sized particles to capture and bind odorous compounds and is positioned to be ready this summer. A revolutionary way to address odor removal, the technology does not mask, but actually creates odor-neutral environments. It will likely become marketed for a range of areas, from bathrooms and diaper pails to clothing for hunters.
As a company founded by an inventor, UltraTech not only has the experience to get products developed and to market quickly, but understands the mindset of inventors – how they think and how they operate. Shaw says that because the company has this background, it is a tremendous benefit. “A lot of bigger companies don’t deal with inventors, but we can handle the nuances of what inventors bring to the table because we understand them.”
Active in many industries, UltraTech is constantly developing new products in a number of areas, including storm water management. In many municipalities, debris such as oil, scraps of paper, heavy metals, sediment, cigarette butts, and other trash ends up getting washed down city drains during rainstorms. Unfortunately, much of this waste ends up in lakes, streams or oceans. To prevent this, the company has devised filters and other products for use by not only municipalities, industries and governments, but construction sites to keep pollutants generated on location from going off-site and entering bodies of water.
In the oil and gas sector, the company is actively working on technologies to treat water used during the fracking process. UltraTech has recently formed a joint venture in Saudi Arabia with Prince Nasser bin Abdulaziz Al Saud II who is passionate about environmental issues and is also active with major multinational players in the market such as Weatherford, Aramco and Halliburton.
UltraTech started a separate arm about two years ago to bridge the gap between professors, scientists, researchers and the marketplace.
“A lot of those people are technologically sharp, but they don’t have an interest or don’t have an understanding or experience in business, and a lot of their inventions and technologies die or just sit on a shelf,” says Shaw. “So we formed a division to become the bridge between those smart people and the marketplace, and that is what we’ve been doing with some of those new advanced technologies.”
Some of these technologies will disinfect hospitals without chemicals and create self-cleaning cars that never need to be washed or oil rigs that will not corrode.
With world demand for environmental regulations on the rise, the company looks to the future and making the world a cleaner, healthier, more beautiful place to be.