The Geosynthetics-2009 conference in Salt Lake City was my introduction to the geosynthetics industry. My interest in attending came from an opportunity I had in the spring of 2008. Since then, opportunity led to innovation, innovation led to application, application led to mechanization. This mechanization (patent pending in both the U.S. and Canada) is proven to improve efficiency and effectiveness when applying geotextiles on prepared subgrades.
I came to Salt Lake City with no expectations and had no idea how much this experience would mean to me. Opportunity for me came from a good customer, who has experienced my solutions for faster road construction. This customer, a large general excavation contractor, was awarded the job for road construction on a wind farm energy project. For the 16 miles of unpaved access roads, the engineering required geotextile installed on the subgrade. The windy environment at this project posed challenges in the consistency of daily road production when installing the geotextile material. Current models of installation are labor-intensive where daily production amounts of 2,000 to 3,000 lineal feet are not uncommon. My innovation, a mechanized means of installation, placed more than 12,000 lineal feet per day. The significance of this production in this environment allowed my customer to complete the project well ahead of schedule, while lowering the cost of labor and exposure. Several engineers, inspectors, and project developers who witnessed my innovation said that in all their years of experience, they have never seen such productivity and that I should pursue this.
Prior to Salt Lake City, this was my only exposure to geotextiles and was the reason why I was interested in attending and learning more. Feeling somewhat intimidated walking into the exhibition hall on Thursday, Feb. 26, 2009, I could not help but feel a little like I did going away to college and walking into that first crowded lecture hall. Making my first introductions, however, made me realize this could be a good learning experience, unlike that first Bio-Sci 101 lecture at university.
Right from the first introductions with manufacturers, distributors, and attendees, one thing was immediately apparent — the willingness of all to listen and help me learn. It seemed that there was a common theme spoken among everyone there: “We are a small industry, tightly woven together by our contributions to the geosynthetics industry, but rewarded with the working relationships we have formed together over the years.”
I met people like Ron Bygness, who introduced me to Andrew Aho, who introduced me to Laurie Honnigford, who introduced me to George Koerner. I learned of their involvement and contributions to the industry. I learned from their experience. I learned from the people they introduced me to. I learned new terms such as “stress-strain curve in geotextiles” and “pre-loading and pre-tensioning geotextiles” and the importance of these application principles to maximize geotextile performance. I learned that, in a way, I have a responsibility to the industry to understand my technology and help grow and further the industry. I know I can make a contribution to this goal.
Salt Lake City was not my wife’s first choice as a destination for a “vacation and a one-night stay.” However, she could tell by my enthusiastic recounts of people met and lessons learned that it was a trip well-spent. I want to thank all who I met and had a chance to introduce my innovation to. I look forward to building my own rewarding relationships with those within the industry. Most importantly, I look forward to making a contribution to the geosynthetics industry by providing innovative and improved levels of production on any job site using large-scale applications of geotextiles on prepared subgrades.