Roger Knoph, here at a training session for his employees, has grown the small business he founded to mitigate dust problem into a $41 million, nationwide provider of roadway deicing products and equipment.

From dust to ice, Knoph’s Envirotech offers solutions 2006 Bravo! Entrepreneur — Greeley

It started as a small business offering a solution to hold down dust that chokes travelers on rural roads during typically dry spring and summer months.

After nearly two decades of exponential growth, Envirotech Services Inc. is now a $41 million dollar company that offers a variety of products to help mines, government agencies and municipalities big and small maintain and improve roads year-round.

The company founded in 1988 by Roger Knoph grew 50 percent each of the first 10 years, leveling off to slower but steady growth after that. Envirotech’s success now earns Knoph the 2006 Bravo! Entrepreneur Award for Greeley.

Headquartered in Greeley with an operations and logistics center in Kersey, the company sells its anti-dust, anti-icing and de-icing products nationwide.

Knoph said the company expanded into de-icing products as a way to turn the seasonal company into one that could be profitable year-round.

A big steppingstone into that side of the business occurred when the Colorado Department of Transportation was reconstructing I-70 through Glenwood Canyon and frequent snowstorms shut down work for days at a time.

At the same time, EnviroTech had just completed an EPA study that approved magnesium chloride use for de-icing and got the go-ahead to apply it to the canyon highway. Contractors everywhere took note. And it wasn’t long after that municipalities began requesting liquid de-icer as well. But growth in that product didn’t grow dramatically at first, and for a good reason.

“Nobody had built a spreader for de-icer,´ said Knoph, whose company began to do just that. The first year he sold about a dozen spreaders and the business took off. “We expanded to do that, but it’s not our forte.” When other companies started manufacturing the spreaders, EnviroTech happily stepped away.

De-icing products have allowed the public, Knoph said, to be more demanding of open roads during inclement conditions. The environmentally friendly products have also substantially reduced the infamous Colorado brown cloud, caused in part by a gravel/salt de-icing mix, along the Front Range, he said.

“It seems like one of our successes is bringing products to market and educating how to use them,” Knopf said.

One product for dust mitigation, for example, not only tames dusty rural roads, but helps build them up, allowing cities or counties to grade roads a few times a year rather than every couple of weeks. The cost savings is huge.

The City of Loveland uses Knopf’s dust-suppression product on its rural roads in the summer along with de-icers in the winter.

“We have utilized EnviroTech’s services and products for 15 years,´ said Mick Mercer, public works manger for the City of Loveland. “We primarily use their winter de-icing products – liquid and granular.”

EnviroTech “seems to always be on the cutting edge of the latest developments in that field,” Mercer said. “They have true experts on staff and are quick to respond to requests for information or to show up on site to show us how to use the products more effectively.”

Departments of transportation throughout the United States are the largest customers for EnviroTech, followed by cities, mines and counties. Competition is limited, but is present. Cargill and Dow Chemical are the largest in the industry, with several small companies that provide similar services, but only in a single state or small region.

Knoph said EnviroTech will continue to grow, but at a steady rate, not like the huge growth in the company’s first decade. “Some of our greatest success is the people in the company who help us grow. We’re much larger than I expected to be upfront. When we started, we didn’t have major goals.”