Manufacturing  June 3, 2024

Ionex: Quiet company, loud growth

LAFAYETTE — Not a lot of people in Lafayette know about Ionex Research Corp. though the 131-employee company has been here since 1978. But people around the nation should be happy it is quietly going about its job.

“There really isn’t any reason anyone would know,” said CEO Doug Porrey. “We don’t build any consumer products and all of our clients, at least now, are out of state.

Ionex saw an astounding 53% growth in revenue from 2021 to 2023 to bring its estimated revenue to about $24.5 million. Most of the company’s business is building custom air filtration units, and a great deal of that business is helping to clean up nuclear weapons sites.

“Of course Rocky Flats was our client when we built this building,” Porrey said. Now the company is heavily involved in other National Labs cleanup work in Hanford, Washington, and Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

“This is a business of highly specialized people, like our own people,” Porrey remarked. “So those are the only people who really know about us.”

Ionex works as a subcontractor for what is usually referred to as the operators of these facilities, such as in the case of Rocky Flats, companies such as Rockwell and EG&G. Bechtel is one of the bigger government contractors today, and Ionex has been cited in its press releases as a top subcontractor.

“Everything we do is custom designed and manufactured,” Porrey said. “So about one third of our staff are mechanical engineers.

“We design it here. We manufacture it here, and we help oversee installation.”

These air filtration systems are designed to ensure the air is cleaned for lab rooms and entire buildings, using both high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) and more traditional charcoal systems. 

“Our systems are designed to ensure the air is safe for both the people working in the building and also downstream,” Porry said. Downstream of Rocky Flats, of course, would have been the Denver metropolitan area.

In a much smaller fashion, Ionex is involved in nuclear weapons manufacture, helping to ensure safety for the workers and the public, as antiquated systems are replaced by new technology.

Some of this work involves building custom glove boxes, though, in truth, glove box is probably an antiquated term. Though workers can still reach into these boxes with gloves, the boxes have to house extensive robotic equipment, which does almost all of the work.

Ionex also has worked in the air filtration of mercury from gold milling operations, mostly in Nevada but also some overseas work. Newmont of Denver is one of Ionex’s clients in this field.

But while it’s easy to overlook the Ionex sign, which sits in front of the company’s original building between South Boulder and Baseline roads on 120th, soon that will no longer be the case. The company is planning to build a campus setting, mostly to bring in the  engineering staff, who work in a building near South Boulder Road and U.S. Highway 287. Those plans will extend the company building presence out to 120th Street.

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