Envisioning the day when water is more valuable than oil, Primo Acernese is diverting his company, Allentown's
, toward new markets.
Founded in 1991, Terra's core business for 15 years has been in providing lightweight water purification systems to the U.S. military. Now Terra is focusing its R&D on adapting its products for civilian uses, including emergency responders and residential customers, and is eying foreign military sales.
Availability of potable water is critical in natural disasters, says Acernese, noting how even a relatively small hurricane like Isaac could play havoc on the Gulf Coast. So Terra is looking to a modified version of its military product for agencies like the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Homeland Security. A miniaturized and more affordable home system is also under study.
Meanwhile, Terra is in the midst of a $50 million contract than runs into 2014 to provide water systems to the Marine Corps. Terra's self-contained systems allow forward units to produce potable water from any source: fresh or seawater, brackish and even water polluted by chemical, biological and nuclear contaminants. The units can be set up in under 40 minutes by two people and are virtually indestructible, Acernese says.
So far, Terra has delivered 250 systems with 120 to go. The huge contract has meant significant growth; as recently as 2005, Terra had only four employees. Today, the company employs 27 – mostly Allentown residents – and anticipates another 8 to 12 hires over the next 24 months.
Source: Primo Acernese, Terra Group
Writer: Elise Vider