It hasn't been a smooth ride for Louis M. Pope since he founded US Synthetic in Orem 10 years ago, but that just makes the company's recent success all the sweeter.

A Provo native and a holder of bachelor's (mechanical engineering) and MBA degrees from Brigham Young University, Pope learned about manufacturing synthetic industrial diamonds during the five years he managed the manufacturing plant at Megadiamond Corp, developing products and processes and helping design hydraulic presses.In April 1978, Pope went out on his own and launched US Synthetic and asked his father, Bill Pope, to come on board as president of the new company while Louis Pope served as executive vice president and general manager. The company focused on making synthetic diamond grit for the grinding-wheel industry.

In 1985, Louis Pope set up synthetic diamond plants in China and India, but that period also marked the low point for US Synthetic when the very existence of the company was in doubt. Company executives went without paychecks, the work force was reduced from 13 to six, Pope's credit cards had been maxed out, his house was in foreclosure and an accountant of a key US Synthetic investor recommended bankrukptcy.

But Pope hung on, shifted the research and manufacturing focus from grinding wheels to creating synthetic diamond materials for oil and gas drill bits and implemented a quality control plan to achieve ISO 9002 status.

In 1992, he became president and CEO of the company and US Synthetic went on to become one of the fastest growing companies in the United States: 30th in 1995, 16th in 1996 and 25th last year. It also has become the top manufacturer of diamond cutters for the drilling industry. Pope plans on being a $100 million company in the year 2000.

Pope, 50, is active in civic affairs in the Provo/Orem community and is currently a commissioner of public housing in Provo, but he counts his five children and four grandchildren as his greatest achievement, which he shares with wife, Christine.