When he first entered the business of hazardous waste cleanup in 1992, Ruben Garcia could not find the tools he needed. There was no store where one could purchase pumps to suction spilled sewage or tools for the safe handling of toxic waste.
He had to buy other tools and twist and adapt them to suit the needs of his business, which is emergency hazardous waste cleanup. During almost two decades, Mr. Garcia and his company have learned a great deal about modifying existing technology for new uses. As a result, Advanced Cleanup Technologies Inc. (ACTI) has grown into one of the West Coast's largest environmental cleanup companies.
Mr. Garcia's experience is not unique. In fact, it mirrors that of many other Hispanic-led technically innovative enterprises. These entrepreneurs – who are now helping to lead the nation in new directions by meeting product challenges with innovation – combine extensive technical knowledge and experience with a sharp eye for identifying potential new market niches. They are bending tools and technology to suit their own purposes. To push these innovations even further, companies like Garcia's are gathering experts and engineers to design novel, and sometimes groundbreaking, products.
Here is a look at three such entrepreneurs who are innovating their way toward the top. They represent different market sectors, but their methods are similar. They are using and sometimes inventing new technology to drive their businesses.
ACTI's bread-and-butter is the everyday waste spill and quick cleanup. In emergencies on the order of Hurricane Katrina, the government calls on ACTI to employ all its skills and resources to assist in hazard removal. The firm, headquartered in Rancho Dominguez, California, has at its command approximately 350 full-time employees, more than 75 trucks, 30-plus water vessels, and even a jet.
But now ACTI has entered the arena of true innovation. Mr. Garcia has launched a series of new technologies to address the burgeoning green market. Perhaps his proudest accomplishment is the design and manufacture of a "sock on a stack," or an exhaust filtration device for both locomotives and ships.
Because Mr. Garcia assiduously tracks new environmental regulations to evaluate the impact on clients, he knows their needs and how ACTI can help customers stay in compliance. The "cloud chamber scrubber" originated after he recognized that there was "no technology available to capture and reduce emissions from non-stationary sources," such as rail and shipping. Mr. Garcia hired a team of engineers, who, over four years, culled technology from power plants, integrated it with equipment employed in glass manufacturing, and added their own innovations and specifications.
In tests this year at the Port of Long Beach, California, the million-dollar device demonstrated its capacity to remove about 96 percent of the "especially dangerous" particulate matter being emitted by ship exhausts. Long Beach has signed on to install two or three of the units, demonstrating its own brand of industry leadership. Mr. Garcia reports interested inquiries from ports across the country, as well as in Asia and Europe.
How To Grab The Customer
Far afield from hazardous waste remediation but following a similar pattern in striking out on new paths, innovating, and transforming an industry is the Web marketing company IronTraffic.
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