Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Strict Rules Foster New Business

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Strict Rules Foster New Business

Article excerpt

Stricter federal regulations on monitoring air inside buildings containing asbestos bring a smile to Gordon Gray's face.

After all, it's those regulations by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that are responsible for his company, QuanTEM Laboratories, becoming a part of the burgeoning environment protection industry.

"There are a lot of people, even those in the industry, who feel this is a bad move, that we are now on the tail end of the curve," he said. "But instead, we are on the front of it.

I feel this company has the potential to be hugely successful and profitable."

Although Gray said he did not like to discuss specific financial figures, he said the company's business plan projects sales in the first six months to reach about $300,000.

Annual sales of about $3 million within five years "appears to be reasonable," he said.

"Personally, I expect to do much better than that, but that's reasonable," he said. "Most of our figures are conservative, but I really feel we will do much better than that."

After all, asbestos clean-up is expected to cost $6 billion annually within 10 years and increase to $9.1 billion annually within 20 years.

QuanTEM, with headquarters and laboratories at 2033 Heritage Park Drive, is Oklahoma City's newest high-technology services company. It opened its doors Tuesday and has yet to attract its first customer.

"But, it's just a matter of time," he said. "We expected to get our first sample (of material for analysis) today, but we didn't so it should be any day now."

The company, which has been in the formation stages for two years, will have a sharply defined focus on a specialized segment of the asbestos abatement industry, dealing only with abatement contractors, Gray said.

QuanTEM will perform highly sophisticated transmission electronic microscope analysis on air, water and bulk samples to determine the presence of asbestos fibers.

"We decided to be highly specialized so that we not only would be good at what we would do, we will be extremely good in a highly specialized way," he said. "Besides, the investors seem to like the idea of a sharp focus. They don't particularly like the idea of people (companies in which they invest) going off 18 different ways and not concentrating on their core business.

"We don't intend to do that.

"For right now, all we will do is that one thing. There have been estimates that it will take at least 15 years to clean up all the buildings which have asbestos. That's the estimate life of our company."

That specialized niche the company is seeking is partly mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency which began about 15 years ago to search for ways to positively identify minute asbestos fibers which cause health problems. First attempts were to use normal light microscopes which helped, but couldn't positively identify all fibers, said Barry Rayfield, the company's laboratory director.

"They began searching for some sort of methodology which would positively identify the mineral fibers as being asbestos," he said. "About five years ago, the search settled on the transmission electron microscope and it was fully approved about three years ago."

Because the transmission electron microscope, which can be used to provide three types of analysis which combine to provide positive identification of minerals, is so expensive, the EPA mandated its use in phases, Gray said. The final phase, in which clean-up of public school buildings must be certified through the transmission electron microscope analysis, becomes effective in October.

"That's one of the things which will help us," he said. "We already meet or exceed all the standards set out by the EPA to monitor those buildings. …

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