Treasure sought, treasure found

Exploring for minerals requires looking closely at tons of material to find the hidden gem you're after. Learning to love the city in which you're living after taking a job is pretty much the same thing.

Dave Keselica discovered a treasure when he left Atlanta six years ago to become president of EP Minerals in Reno. EP Minerals produces diatomaceous earth ("DE" for short), perlite and cellulose products which are used in a myriad of applications.

Originally from New Jersey, Keselica earned his degree in chemical engineering from MIT (his master's in business came a decade later). He began his career in the chemical industry doing research and development and eventually worked in sales and marketing, too.

One of his employers had a chemicals department as well as an industrial minerals department but decided to sell the chemicals portion of the business.

While he worked on an acquisition of what was then EP Minerals' biggest competitor, Keselica learned all about the world of industrial minerals.

"I love the industrial mineral business. People think of us as a mining company but that's our back end. When you sell a mineral, it's just a commodity but we have customers," he says. "There are so many applications for our product."

"I get into talks on ski lifts and hear stories about how people know what DE is. 'I use that in my swimming pool filter' or 'I use it to clean my ferret.' It's used to remove scars, as a mild abrasive. Even running one of the largest companies making DE, I find out about so many applications I never knew about."

After his industrial minerals employer in Atlanta was acquired, Keselica took the job with EP Minerals and moved his family west. Despite numerous previous moves, the family had never lived west of the Mississippi. Reno presented quite a change.

"The first thing you see is brown," he recalls, laughing. "And when we looked at homes in the Galena Forest, all you see is the trees."

Settling nearby so they got the best of both, Keselica, his wife of 25 years Evie, and their daughter Anne settled in. His son stayed in the South, attending two years of college before deciding to attend the University of Nevada, Reno. Father and son often have friends from the East come to Reno for skiing trips.

"It's beautiful when you learn to appreciate the shadows on the mountains and the sunsets," he says. "We love the beauty of the area and the great year-round outdoor activities. I ski, mountain bike, golf...I love it. I'm surprised how much I like it out here."

Another surprise for Keselica the region's relatively high cost of living and the challenge that's created for him at work.

"Reno is a recruiting challenge. We can still get people from California, but the East Coast is hard. And it's even harder to recruit to some of the smaller towns like Elko," he notes.

Despite that hardship, Keselica has helped the business step away from the idea that its markets had matured.

"I've got a lot of talented people who've turned a stagnant company into one that's grown 70 percent over the last five years," he says proudly. Keselica attributes that success to his employees.

"I've been able to attract good people to work with me, and I've not run them off," he says with a laugh. "I've developed, with people I've worked with before, good relationships, trust. People realize that with me what they see is what they get. I'll always challenge them to do better, but be respectful of capabilities. We try to be serious about business but not too serious about ourselves."


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