Pell City fabricator gaining global reputation

Story by Carol Pappas
Photos by Jerry Martin

“U.S. goods and services trade with Mexico totaled $341 billion in 2009 (latest data available for goods and services trade combined). Exports totaled $151 billion; Imports totaled $190 billion. The U.S. goods and services trade deficit with Mexico was $39 billion in 2009.” — Office of the United States Trade Representative

While a gap exists in the trade of goods and services between the United States and Mexico, a company in Pell City no one knows much about is quietly putting together components for the largest water treatment plant in the world … in Mexico.

“We’re a well kept secret,” said Equipment Fabricators Inc. President John DuBose. His company has been building the parts in a global deal that involved a companies in Spain, Canada, Salt Lake City and Pell City, Alabama. The closest competitor on the EFI project was in Germany, but DuBose proudly points out, “They’re buying USA again. If we can stay ahead of Asian and Mexican vendors, we can do a lot to save American jobs. I can’t say we can keep doing it, but we’re going to try.”

The project came to EFI as specifications and drawings, it is leaving in the form of sludge mixers, tanks and aerators that will be assembled into the world’s largest water treatment facility, DuBose said. “We sell strictly on quality,” DuBose said. “We build to buy — for them to come back again and again.”

And come back they have. This same customer first bought from EFI in 1973. Now, it is back with a much larger order and even greater demands.

EFI had to prove it could build parts that could handle vibration and flow at 30,000 gallons a minute — the equivalent of filling a swimming pool in less than 60 seconds. “We never had to test in liquid,” DuBose said. In the past, tests were done in dry conditions for vibration, oil leaks and heat.

To accommodate the customer, EFI built its own water treatment facility on its site in the Pell City Industrial Park and simulated the actions that the parts it produced were expected to handle. “We built it to scale,” said DuBose, who noted it was a $50,000 investment that should pay off with this and future jobs since there appears not to be another like it to give that standard of test results.

And, as DuBose predicted, it did pay off. “We have completed the job for Mexico, apparently successfully,” he said in mid-July. “A final recap would have to include relief but also pride in accomplishment. We were flattered to be chosen to build this equipment. We are proud to create jobs in Pell City for export to Mexico.”

The San Jose Aculco project began March 20, taking four months to complete. “Building 30 prototype machines was a major undertaking that gave our guys a huge challenge. They met it and found ways to get the job done,” DuBose said. “We hope to continue to expand into the new undeveloped areas of the world for future business.”

Not bad for a Pell City plant DuBose describes as one that “nobody knows much about.”

— Article courtesy of Discover St. Clair
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