A $400 billion market in replacing and repairing the nation's highways will exist until the end of the century, according to federal government estimates, and a small Utah company is determined to have a piece of that market.
Hodson Chemical Construction Corp., North Salt Lake, is patiently building its reputation and clientele for its concrete sealer products, hoping federal and state highway officials will soon take notice and use its products in the massive upgrading of state and federal roadways.Hodson's latest client was South Korea, which used a Utah-developed sealant on the new highways and bridges constructed for the recent summer Olympics. Other buyers have been in Hawaii, California and Utah, using Hodson's technology that seals out corrosive elements - particularly water and salt - on everything from roads and parking ramps to entire office buildings and animal cage floors.
"We can seal anything. We are the little kid with more technology than the big guys," executive vice president Owen C. Hogel said.
The privately held firm expects to break even this year, then emerge from its strictly research and development mode into a sales and marketing emphasis, Hogel said.
Hodson Chemical is letting state highway officials know of Utah's road problems and the solutions close to home. Hodson's sealants have been tested on a small scale, and larger scale testing is scheduled next year on selected state roadways, curb and gutter. The latest project is applying the sealants on state maintained fish runways.
Some of Hodson Chemical's products are sprayed or brushed on the surface, while others are mixed into the cement and asphalt. The object of using sealants is not just to prevent corrosion of new structures but also to temporarily stop corrosion until more extensive replacement and repair takes place.
It will take quite a few years, however, to convince government officials of Hodson's proposed solution to deteriorating streets and bridges.
Founder and president J. Val Hodson has been an industrial chemist since 1958 working on military contracts and his own personal research. In the early 1980s, he became familiar with the problems state highway officials face in maintaining and replacing roadways.
Hodson said his testing procedures are what set his products apart from competitors. While other sealants meet government standardized specs, Hodson said he goes further, testing his products not just under laboratory conditions but using Great Salt Lake salt and the same freeze-thaw cycles local cement and asphalt are subjected to.
Utah's extreme weather conditions and salt use on the highways are some of the most severe in the country, Hogel said. "If we can solve problems in Utah, we can handle any around the world."
The state's DOT recently agreed to run tests of four Hodson sealants on certain sections of Utah's roadways. The testing not only requires evaluating a product's performance on the road surface but also seeing if new products can be applied by using existing equipment and personnel.
Mike Roshek, heading the testing for DOT's research and development section, said the process is lengthy and there are a lot of competing products.
"They (Hodson Chemical) are definitely competing with the big boys," he said.
And when it comes to landing government projects, the small firms, no matter how good the product, often get ignored and overshadowed by the DuPonts, Dows and other large chemical companies, Hodson said.
But the optimistic chemist doesn't feel he will lose.
"We went to the state to make big bureaucrats aware of the problems and solutions," he said. "We will win by virtue of the fact we have solved the problems better than anyone else."