Research & Development, with Some Outside-the-Box Thinking

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASolutions-IES, which stands for Industrial and Environmental Services, is an award-winning environmental consulting, engineering and remediation firm started by President Ann Borden in 1999.  Borden’s impetus to start her own company came from a desire to fill an industry niche she saw available.

“There was a pressing need to want to develop something that was different than the other businesses I saw out there,” she explains. “Many of the other businesses at the time focused on very traditional types of environmental engineering, and I saw a need to bring together some research and development, some outside-the-box thinking into the traditional framework, and that wasn’t being done at the time.”

Solutions-IES focuses on emerging environmental issues and offers a wide range of services including site assessments, soil and groundwater remediation and innovative research and technology development. The company delivers strategic environmental solutions with the aim of a healthier planet for future generations.

Borden says that her first large contract was with Mallinckrodt. Soon thereafter, Solutions-IES obtained another contract with the Air Force to develop a new remediation technology that became a breakthrough for the company.

“At the time people had been using molasses to clean up contamination, and as you know sugars burn up pretty quickly,” says Borden.  “We came up with using oils that would sustain longer and so the Air Force liked that idea, and we started to pursue it.  As a result, we learned about emulsifying oils, and we formed a subsidiary shortly thereafter to sell the products we were developing to other consultants.”

Solutions-IES’ clients break down to being fifty percent state and federal, such as the Navy, Air Force and Army, and fifty percent manufacturing.  Solutions-IES is also the parent company to EOS Remediation, which deals exclusively with product sales to environmental consultants.

Remediation is a service that deals with the removal of pollution or contaminants from soil, groundwater, sediment, or surface water with the intention to protect human health and the environment, as well as for redevelopment purposes.

Borden explains that we learn more with time and that cleaning up past mistakes becomes an important need.

“Many of these sites that have contamination have been out there for forty or fifty years,” she says.  “Because at the time, people didn’t realize that there were problems with some of the typical solvents that we would use, like dry cleaners, and what they would use to clean things or machine parts, or people didn’t think much about gasoline being a problem.  I can remember my father syphoning gas out of his car with a hose in his mouth and spitting out the gasoline.”

Often, contamination issues get lots of media coverage when they occur in commercial contexts such as the recent BP oil spill, but people don’t always think about their own role in the matter.

“We’re only human,” says Borden.  “We have spills.  You think about just washing your car out in your driveway.  Where are all the suds going? Is that a problem for the environment?  Well, you may not think so right now, but twenty years from now you may have your own contaminated site.  There are a lot of different issues that go on, so we help people that have spills, unintentionally.  Maybe a leak occurred from somewhere, or maybe they’re all old things that they’re trying to clean up, but that’s what we do.”

Borden describes Solutions-IES as being a very strong and dedicated group of scientists and engineers who work together in a family-like environment.

“The ones that I’m the most proud of are the ones that put the extra energy into the business to learn as much as they possibly can, the ones that have a little bit of self-doubt so that they want to learn more,” she says. “And it’s interesting, because some of those people, they’re absolutely brilliant, and they really can’t compare themselves to those outside, but they’re doing a spectacular job in really understanding some of the issues and coming up with new ideas, and I love people who come up with new ideas.”

Borden says there are always challenges in owning a business and her field is no different. With a shaky economy and the potential for environmental regulations to be eased in the near future, she has concerns for the next few years.

“I think most business owners constantly are looking at how do we grow, how do we succeed, how do we maintain profitability, how do we keep our people happy?  What do we need to do?  And so, we’re always looking at those things, and those things can keep us awake at night.”

When it comes to giving advice to those wanting to start their own business, Borden emphasizes the need to stand apart.

“You’re going to face challenges and difficulties that you never realized you’d face, but if you’ve got a niche, if you’ve got a different idea, go for it because that niche is what’s going to keep you strong,” she says.“If you’re going to do what everyone else is doing out there, it’s not worth it.  But if you’ve got something a little different, and for whatever reason, whether it’s a personal reason, or a philanthropic reason, or a business reason, go for it.”

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