Building tanks and a workforce

One Johnstown manufacturing company summarizes local employment trends in one word: boomerang.

That’‍s how Bill Polacek, president of Environmental Tank and Containers, refers to it anyway. “People left the area and are now coming back because there are jobs,” Mr. Polacek said as he led a recent tour of the company’‍s facilities. 

The tour led around a construction yard filled with pieces of rolled-up sheet metal; red, yellow and black pipes and valves; and blue and green storage containers higher than an average ceiling. A man in a white jumpsuit and face mask waved. Beyond the warehouse door, almost completely blocked off by a 45-foot white frack tank, were more than a dozen welders wearing hardhats, safety glasses and thick brown gloves.

“We expect to hire 50 to 100 more in the next year and a half,” Mr. Polacek said.

The company, which opened in 2011, manufactures equipment used in the midstream stages of oil and gas drilling. Its products include above-ground impediments, frack tanks, sand separators and API 12-F storage tanks. API 12-F tanks are built to adhere to the American Petroleum Institute‘‍s specific requirements for material, construction, and testing of shop-built storage tanks.

Changing drilling regulations have factored into the production and design of ETC’‍s equipment, including its frack tanks.

In 2010, Pennsylvania’‍s Department of Environmental Protection finalized new regulations to limit the amount of total dissolved solids that could be discharged in waterways, resulting in a need for more temporary fluid storage.

“Gas companies didn’t stop drilling and had to put the fluid somewhere until the certified water treatment plants could catch up. Hence, the need for frack tanks,”  said Matt Hughes, vice president of business development.

“We had orders for frack tanks before we built our first one,” Mr. Polacek added. “We’‍re one of maybe two [companies] that builds frack tanks in the shale play.”

Working with the energy industry is exciting because it‘‍s constantly evolving, he said. “We can build and design anything. We’ll build products a year from now we haven’t thought of,” Mr. Polacek said.

One way ETC attracts clients, such as Seneca Resources and Rex Energy, is by putting workers out in the field. By doing this, Mr. Hughes said he came up with new product ideas, such as KwikTanks, which store water used for fracking wells.

“It was almost like you were giving a springboard to a lot of innovation that was going on here,” Mr. Hughes said. “They [companies] would come to us and say, ‘‍You know if you just build it this way, we’‍ll buy it from you.’‍”

ETC is a spin off of JWF Defense Systems, another Johnstown company that manufactures defense equipment. Mr. Polacek, who serves as president of both companies, said he is considering expanding ETC to locations in Texas and Alabama. It earned $1 million when it started and anticipates revenue of $60 million by 2015.

“If you look at this thing as sort of a hockey stick as far as it’‍s going to grow, we‘re at the bottom of the curve,” he said.

ETC also offers internship opportunities and tuition stipends for students attending Pennsylvania Highlands Community College, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown and others, which has helped the company recruit employees.

Welder Richard Johns found ETC that way. After the Indiana County native retired from the Marines, he moved to Johnstown. He received a degree in welding from Pennsylvania Highlands Community College and was hired by ETC in January.

“I love my job,” he said.

Madasyn Czebiniak: or 412-263-1269. Twitter: @PG_Czebiniak

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