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Twenty-seven years ago, Rex Plaizier had little idea that Salt Lake City, Utah-based WesTech Engineering would prove to be such a big part of his life. “I thought my future would be with some major global corporation,” says Plaizier. “But when I interviewed with WesTech, even though it had only 20 employees at the time, I was immediately drawn to what they were doing.”
This month, after spending the last five years as company president, Plaizier assumed the additional title of CEO of WesTech, which itself is enjoying its 40th anniversary this year.
WesTech Engineering designs process equipment for municipal water and wastewater treatment as well as industrial and minerals processing. WesTech’s former CEO, Steve Brewster, successfully led the company the past five years. During his tenure, WesTech’s annual revenue increased nearly 53%. He is taking a step back from that position due to illness.
Thus, WesTech is a well-run company that doesn’t need a new CEO to “fix” anything or make wholesale changes. “I’ve been asked a number of times in what direction I mean to take the company,” Plaizier says. “But WesTech, with its employee ownership culture, was founded on values of doing the right thing. That’s always been reflected in our work and will remain a constant. We will continue to forge innovative technologies and processes.”
A little more than a year ago, WesTech purchased from Siemens Industry its conventional water treatment business, including the Microfloc and General Filter product portfolios. This business strategically complements the position WesTech already holds in wastewater treatment markets. Sixty-two active employees dedicated to the water-treatment business joined WesTech.
“The two are clearly differentiated,” says Plaizier, “But issues related to water reuse, for example, are bringing them closer together. The conventional water treatment business offered us more opportunities for growth, simply because of the already strong position we have on the wastewater side.”
The secret, says Plaizier, is having something besides innovative technology. Brand strength and reputation makes new technology adoption palatable for its customers. “This is a conservative industry, and rightly so,” he says.
In January, WesTech reintroduced the Microfloc and General Filter Brands to the municipal water treatment market, where they’ve not had much exposure for many years.
General Filter was founded in 1935 in Ames, Iowa. It has a long tradition of innovation, beginning with the invention of the ATOMERATOR system – a way of introducing oxygen into a process stream without breaking system pressure. General Filter became an industry leader for water treat equipment, including common-underdrain filter systems, package treatment systems, direct-retention underdrain caps and backwash systems.
Microfloc was founded in 1961 and is known for several water treatment methods, including the mixed-media filter bed, the first commercially viable tube settler, the upflow Adsorption Clarifier System and a method for electronic control of coagulation chemical addition. Microfloc continues this tradition with the Trident HS system, a sophisticated package treatment system.
Looking back on the last several years, Plaizier says, “Every market is going to go through cycles. It’s easier, and more enjoyable, to be prepared for the upswings. When the market is soft, key players may be forced to make decisions that are economically driven. There may be a drop in quality and competitors are favored based on a low-cost approach.”
Facing ahead, international competitors in water and wastewater markets are looking to enter U.S. markets, Plaizier says. The fix for that, he concludes, is to emphasize the range of solutions WesTech Engineering has to offer, resultiing in a complete, well-performing process for its customers.
Plaizier holds Master’s Degrees in Mining Engineering and in Business Administration. WesTech Engineering today has 530 employees.