Air Products Comes of Age
For Air Products, the 1950s would be a decade of dramatic growth. In the private sector alone, the firm's revenues would increase over five times. More decisive would be the spurt in sales to the federal government from $200,000 in 1951 to $29 million in 1959. Military developments and the space race would multiply the demand for Air Products' engineering skills and fund the research that would make the company a major contender in low-temperature engineering.
Despite the importance of military contracts, Leonard Pool did not abandon the leased-plant business. It too became a major engine of growth when the company found a mechanism which not only financed its leasing activities, but also created a working capital fund. Equally important for the company's growth was the decision to begin selling specialized equipment to the chemical industry. As a result, Air Products became a process engineering firm, not just a manufacturer of oxygen generators. Salesmanship, risk taking, and a "can do" approach to novel engineering challenges remained central to the company's growth. That growth was greatly aided by the buoyancy of the American economy in general, and of the gas and chemical industries in particular. A company like Air Products, prepared to be aggressive and to take risks, could expect a larger share of a larger pie.