Hesco turns municipal waste into valuable resource with high-tech process

May 2011

Source: Great Lakes Innovation and Technology Report (GLITR)

Kevin Livingston has seen his company grow from a manufacturers’ representative firm specializing in water and wastewater treatment, and industrial process instrumentation, to a green manufacturer with a new wrinkle in disposing of municipal waste.

“Our company has been in business since 1972 as a manufacturer’s rep, serving the municipal drinking water and wastewater treatment industry,” Livingston said. “Five or seven years ago we started going into business as a full systems and solutions provider, becoming partners in our customers’ projects more than just consultive salespeople who provide single products.”

And that, in turn, has led to an advanced new product for the company — IBES, for the Integrated Biomass to Energy System.

“We had a back-of-the-napkin Eureka moment and in a very short time, developed it into a full scale process solution,” Livingston said. “It takes municipal biomass solids and digests that sludge utilizing a process that treats the product to a greater level — pathogen free, class A — that has a market value as a fertilizer.”

Not only that, but the process also creates methane gas that can be used to generate heat and electricity that is used to offset the cost of energy in the processing of the product.

“That allows us to produce the product simply and inexpensively,” Livingston said. “The concept is not new to the industry, we just developed a way to do it cost effectively.”

Hesco now has 11 employees. Its founder, John Grindel, sold the company to Livingston and partner Glenn Hummel, in 1997. Livingston has a degree in civil and environmental engineering from the University of Michigan, while Hummel has a similar degree from Michigan State, which Livingston said makes for some pretty interesting fall Saturdays.

Livingston said the Michigan Small Business and Technology Development Center has helped Hesco grow from a consultive sales firm to a full systems integrator capable of providing turn-key solutions to their customers.

“They’ve helped us, engaged with us,” Livingston said. “When we were introduced they thought we needed help developing the product, but in working with Prafulla Pande, he said, ‘You guys already have the product developed and marketable, what you need is help taking your business to the next stage, from an entrepreneurial based company to a management based company.'”

Livingston said MI-SBTDC staff is “helping us put in infrastructure and processes in place so that as we grow we have the ability to manage that growth in a way that doesn’t
cripple our company. That’s something I used to worry about whether or not we could handle. With the advice and coaching we have received from Praf, I’m confident now that we can achieve great things.”

HESCO was recently recognized as a “2011 Michigan 50 Companies to Watch,” an awards program sponsored by the Edward Lowe Foundation and presented by Michigan Celebrates Small Business. More about Hesco at www.hesco-mi.com or www.hescoenergy.com.