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Behind the Scenes: Companies At the Heart of Everyday Life

Carson Aquatic Complex, Mesa, Arizona, 6.7.08, 3:15 p.m.
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Shades

It's about 30 percent cooler under this structure than it is in the sun. Made of high-density polyethylene mesh, the shade blocks up to 95 percent of ultraviolet rays while still allowing breezes to pass through. USA Shade & Fabric Structures, based in Dallas, has manufactured more than 175,000 of these sorts of structures for airports, amphitheaters, and resorts. The company formed in 2004 when two competitors, both run by South African founders, decided to join forces. Today, it has annual revenue of $70 million and employs about 425.

Chemicals

When it comes to fighting bacteria, signs reminding patrons to "keep P out of the ool" aren't as effective as chlorine and bromine. But an excess of these chemicals can irritate skin and corrode metal parts. That's why this pool uses a water chemistry controller by BECS Technology, a $5 million company based in St. Louis. The BECSys5 continuously monitors the water's pH and chlorine levels and automatically tinkers with the chemical balance. Before starting BECS in 1991, two of the four founders developed their first product for a college project. BECS's 34 employees design and manufacture electronic controls for a variety of industries.

Kiddie-pool Fountain

In the shallow end, children linger under this 13-foot, stainless steel pole, which pours 25 gallons to 35 gallons of water per minute from its three arms. It's made by Fountain People, which designs and produces large fountains for municipal districts, hotels, and casinos. A subsidiary, Water Odyssey, creates more than 50 types of these brightly colored, playfully shaped fountains for pools and water parks. Fountain People, based in San Marcos, Texas, was founded in 1987 by three co-workers from another fountain company. Fountain People now employs more than 100.

Diving Board

Duraflex International makes some of the springiest boards around. Its diving boards are used in the Olympics and most other competitive diving events. Unlike most other boards, which are made of fiberglass and wood, Duraflex's boards are aluminum. They are formed with the same 15,000-ton press used to make wings for commercial jets. Raymond Rude, who founded the Sparks, Nevada -- based company in 1949, was working as a subcontractor for airplane manufacturers when he discovered that aluminum made a great springboard. His daughter, Jan Rude, now runs the $6 million company, which has 22 employees.

Last updated: Aug 1, 2008




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