CARBONDALE – What began as a high schooler’s bit of adventuresome fun in his garage 35 years ago is today an award-winning business with 161 local-area employees, and one of the Pioneer City’s fastest growing companies.

On May 22nd, Pleasant Mount Welding, Inc. (PMWI), a specialty metals fabricator, will earn a prestigious Ben Franklin iXchange Innovation Award for its excellence in manufacturing achievements. More specifically, the award recognizes PMWI for its efforts in developing a machine controlled by programmable software to manufacture grating that drove an annual revenue increase of more than $3M. A current Ben Franklin project for a proprietary water treatment facility promises to create 10 more jobs.

“PMWI has been affiliated with the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of NEPA (BFTP/NEP) with matching grants three times throughout the years,” said PMWI founder and CEO Bob Non. “This year’s award recognizes our efforts in furthering the development of a Sequencing Batch Reactor (SBR) for water treatment facilities that serve municipal, commercial, and industrial wastewater flows. Johnson College worked hand in hand with us to develop the programmable technology that we needed. This is very exciting for all of us here at PMWI, as it helps us continue developing and expanding our wastewater treatment projects while growing the overall company. We can all take pride in this award.”

As Non explained, “This SBR process is far more flexible now due to the updated technology that has been created. The control panel now available is designed so the varying steps in the water treatment process can be monitored on site or remotely and adjusted quickly to address any unexpected system or condition changes. This operational flexibility is unique to the SBR process and ensures future compliance with design performance, even if the wastewater characteristics change. It further guarantees the user maximum effectiveness in advanced wastewater treatment, and It’s also key to a more cost-effective method of nutrient removal.

“A pilot SBR plant has been operating successfully in Greenfield Township,” added Non. “And we anticipate being fully on board with the new system to offer it to new customers by this summer. On April 17th, a trailer model of our SBR system will be moved to Johnson College. We’ll be there to demonstrate the system to potential students who want to learn more about this electronic software.”

Non noted that the SBR process for water treatment of wastewater was initially designed in 1985 by environmental engineer David Klepadlo of Clarks Summit. “David designed this for the Elmhurst Township Sewer Authority in Elmhurst PA,” he said. “His SBR won the EPA’s Innovative & Alternative Technology Award for Energy Savings at the Wastewater Treatment Plant. About three years ago, David wanted to work for someone else and left his own company to join us. He gave PMWI the SBR design, and with the new software addition it’s a big jump toward automation. The programmable capability complements the overall design with the numerous technological improvements made during the past 30 years, allowing PMWI’s SBRs to provide state-of-the-art, proven modern wastewater treatment for our customers.”

The Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania (BFTP/NEP) creates and retains highly paid, sustainable jobs by investing in and linking companies with experts, universities, follow-on funding, and other resources to help these firms prosper through innovation. Funded by the Ben Franklin Technology Development Authority, it is part of a four-center economic development initiative of the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development. Annually, awards are presented to six recipients, companies or individuals, who have achieved business success through Ben Franklin funding and assistance, have helped others to achieve success, or have improved their businesses through innovation. Each award recipient exemplifies outstanding achievement in that particular category.

“BFTP has worked with PMWI since 1988,” explained Ken Okrepkie, Regional Manager-Pocono Northeast Region for BFTP. “For their current project, we engaged Johnson College to assist with the information technology infrastructure to complete their SBR process development. In working with companies like PMWI, our strategy encompasses three key areas. We help develop and grow early-stage technology-oriented companies. We support established manufacturers as they creatively apply new technology to help them succeed globally by producing their product(s) better, faster, and more economically. And we promote an innovative community-wide infrastructure that supports Pennsylvania’s technology ecosystem.

“PMWI has excellent engineering skills,” added Okrepkie, “but they needed the technology expertise that Johnson College provided. As a result, we kept the overall business development local and here at home in Pennsylvania.” Sine beginning operations in 1983, FTP/NEP has helped to create 18,056 new jobs for Commonwealth workers, to retain 31,840 existing jobs, to start 511 new companies, and to develop 1,733 new products and processes. “Since 2007, our clients have generated $1.5 billion in follow-on funding,” Okrepkie noted. “And our network has returned $3.60 to the state treasury for every $1.00 invested in the program.”

PMWI had its start in 1983 through the entrepreneurial skills of Bob Non while growing up in nearby rural Pleasant Mount. He recalls liking “to repair things on the farm. I enjoyed working for myself and after high school went to Vo-Tech for welding. I worked for others for a short time and eventually bought some portable welding equipment to do farm and general metal repairs. Two years later, a friend and I had our own building in Pleasant Mount and had established ourselves in the metal fabrication business. I had no idea what I was getting myself into!”

Non said he quickly learned that this kind of business “seemed to include a poor reputation for service. Customers talked of late deliveries, inconsistent workmanship, and there appeared to be problems with overall customer service. When developing PMWI, we were committed to be being different. Our primary goal has been to focus on what customers expect.”

By 1993, Non relocated the early farm-oriented business to 52 Dundaff St., a 40,000 sq. ft. facility that currently serves as its main office and Environmental Equipment Division. “Our commitment to excellence has fostered tremendous growth through the years,” Non added. “We soon purchased an additional 80,000 sq. ft. manufacturing facility on 8th Avenue. Both of these sites are certified AISC (American Institute of Steel Construction) fabrication facilities, complete with all modern equipment and technology. We fabricate metals according to all major building codes and standards.”

Last year, PMWI purchased a third manufacturing site at Rear Atlas Street for the purpose of producing aluminum grating products. “Through extensive R&D efforts, we’re now capable of producing a wide variety of grating products, all of which are fabricated in accordance with the standards and practices of the National Association of Architectural of Metal Manufacturers.” Today, PMWI is the largest manufacturer of miscellaneous metals for water and wastewater treatment facilities on the East Coast.

“Our manufacturing and design personnel have more than 35 years of experience supplying lintels and weir plates, embedded angels and bar racks, grating and pipe supports, ladders, and numerous other fabrications,” said Non. “When it comes to fabricating aluminum, stainless steel, and carbon steel products, PMWI has the necessary experience customers can rely on to help meet their specific application needs.”

Going forward, PMWI is looking for more good people to take them further into the future. “We need structural engineers, drafters, welders, and metal workers,” said Non. “And we offer good training for those who want to work with us.” For additional information, visit PMWI’s website to apply on line, www.pmwi.net.

BFTP also encourages employees, families, and friends to share PMWI’s recognition by attending the May 22nd awards event at 5:00pm at the Zoeliner Arts Center at Lehigh University in Bethlehem. Those interested may call 610-758-5237 for additional information and to register.