Aervoe brings back production of safety, solar products
Situated on a country road in a rural area south of Gardnerville, Aervoe Industries is one of northern Nevada’s lesser-known success stories.
Working in five buildings on 40-acres of a company-owned 300-acre business park. Aervoe Industries manufactures a dazzling array of products — paints and lubricants, safety items and portable solar power systems.
Its markets cut across diverse industries ranging from mining, manufacturing and construction to distribution.
The company’s 150 employees include 15 in a new division that was created when Aervoe brought production of five safety and solar products back to the United States from China.
“When the difference between manufacturing in China and the U.S. dropped from 40 percent to 15 percent, we decided to bring the manufacturing back,” says company founder and Chief Executive Officer David Williams. “We also have better quality control, and we are expanding the product line.”
The company‘s roots go back to 1960 in San Leandro, Calif., with a company called Pacific Aerosol. The name Aervoe was born in 1972 as an anagram created from the three founders’ first names.
The company initially packaged and marketed paint and lubricant products, but its development of its first unique product established its strong growth.
In response to the death of a Pacific Gas and Electric company employee who was hit by a car while marking underground cables with spray paint, Aervoe introduced a spray can that could deliver marking paint while it’s held in an inverted position. This allowed workers to mark underground utility locations while staying alert to traffic.
The company was acquired by Kelly Moore Paints in 1975 with Williams in charge of the new division.
Williams repurchased the division’s assets in 1978 and founded Aervoe-Pacific Company. With California regulations and taxes becoming more onerous, the company acquired the land in Gardnerville and built a new manufacturing and corporate headquarters facility in 1988. The following year, California operations were closed and 15 employees relocated to join the 40 new hires in Nevada.
In 1990 a subsidiary, Athena Corporation, was formed to conduct plastic-injection and machine shop operations. The plastic-injection operation not only made plastic lids for the paint and lubricant products, but supported the import of portable appliances marketed by Athena.
Expansion and acquisitions grew both manufacturing capacity and product offerings through the 1990s and into the 21st century. Athena was merged back into Aervoe Industries in 2007, and annual sales reached $45 million just before the financial crisis hit.
“The recession affected our steady growth pattern, as the construction industry is one of our major customers,” says Williams. The plastic and electronic safety products developed and manufactured in China helped to keep the company profitable. In 2011 the company expanded the safety products to include a line of LED road flares, and began development of solar products under the Sierra Wave brand.
Mark Williams has been president and general manager of the operation since 2005, while David Williams assumed the role of CEO and chairman. In the current arrangement, Mark Williams oversees the manufacturing, distribution, sales, and support operations of the company.
Aervoe sells primarily through distributors to industrial customers, so consumers won’t see their products on the shelves at their local home improvement store.
The company manufactures wide-ranging array of paint, marking, and lubrication products, many specific to individual industries. Among the specialized products: Camouflage paints for military use, special paint for mining use and rust-proofing and galvanized coatings.
The original inverted marking paints, used for identifying the location of gas, water, and electrical underground utilities, are made in a variety of colors and other properties. The newest wrinkle is the company’s “Fugitive Marker,” a patented coating that disappears under UV exposure in four to five weeks.
Aervoe Industries’ lubricant line includes fluids used in machining, tool making, shop floor cleaning, and non-destructive testing. Aervoe even makes insect sprays and an anti-graffiti coating. The company has been awarded 14 patents in addition to the development of innovative products that don’t qualify for patent production.
While the paints, lubricants, and cleaners are the backbone and history of the company, Aervoe has been busy developing additional innovative product lines. Among them is a line of portable gas and electric products for restaurant or outdoor recreational use. From a tabletop gas burner to induction cooktops to 12-volt appliances for RV enthusiasts or long-haul truckers, the Aervoe portable appliance and accessory line even includes small solar collectors and power cells.
Mark Williams is excited about the company’s line of safety products and the new solar power systems.
The safety products have opened up a whole new market for the company. Users include police and fire departments, and include items ranging from LED flares to flashlights, portable speed bumps, collapsible traffic cones, safety vests, and solar lanterns and work lights.
Although these products are still sold to specialized markets through distributors, the company is working on a deal to sell through a major auto-parts retailer so that the average motorist will have access to electronic safety flares which are much safer than the old incendiary type, as well as other Aervoe safety items.
While solar applications are only a small part of Aervoe’s appliance, safety, and traffic control products, the Sierra Wave solar line has been expanded to include solar storage units and generators.
Systems range from five-watt solar collectors and battery cells up through 80- and 120-watt collectors that can be coupled to solar generators providing 240, 1000, and 1,500 watt-hours of solar-generated power. These can be used as a back-up or primary power source, and customers say they’ve used them at remote work sites, ranch use and other locations where silent, fume-free power is required.
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