Volume 43 Number 12
Braving the Cold Winter in Coal Country: Advanced Water Treatment of West Virginia
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Like many water treatment dealers around the country, Gordie Amsdill, CWS-VI, CI, CSR, owner and president of Advanced Water Treatment/EcoWater Inc., recognizes why sales this year won’t meet his expectations. The Hinton, W.V., water treatment dealer sums it up in a word.
“The economy,” he says. “One of the other problems is that we had a major flood that wiped out a lot of southwest West Virginia in the summer. Of course, all of the terrorist stuff has got everyone paranoid, and sales are dropping.”
More than most states, West Virginia is affected by the economy as its three major industries -- coal, lumber and tourism -- have been dealt a big blow. It seems economic conditions have forced even the general public to tighten its purse strings.
Taking the brunt
One part of the business Amsdill would like to increase would be his rental number, which currently stands at 5 percent of total revenues. He explains that it can be difficult to stay on top of which customers are paying on time and who aren’t. EcoWater has a rental program that places the responsibility of bill collection and equipment maintenance on the individual dealer.
Serving half the state
With municipal water, Amsdill encounters chlorine and hardness. One of his more popular systems is a chemical-free pump air system that’s used on low to moderate iron and sulfur levels. Water refiners and softeners are also used for hardness. West Virginia is home to plenty of limestone (creating hardness issues), high iron and sulfides, and low pH. For upper iron and sulfur levels, Amsdill frequently uses a chlorination process.
Since 1994, EcoWater has provided Amsdill with most of the equipment used on his systems. For those occasions he must go outside EcoWater, he turns to Ecodyne, Watermaster, Hydrotec and Mountain Filtration, among others. Prior to 1994, Amsdill—who has a bachelor’s degree in electronic engineering from DeVry’s Institute of Technology—built his own systems.
Making the rounds
With 1,500 accounts currently, that can be a lot of traveling. Before starting his own business in 1988, Amsdill spent six years in the Air Force in power production and seven more years as an electronic field service engineer.
“I didn’t like what I was doing. I wanted to be outside and meeting people. I’m not the office-type person,” he says. “I had been following EcoWater for a few years before 1994. I really liked their product. I bought out the existing dealership from another EcoWater dealer.”
Presently, Amsdill has six on staff including a certified installer, two service technicians, an office manager and his wife, Valerie, who’s vice president. Advertising is done through word-of-mouth and a steady complement of direct mailings, space in various phone books, and radio advertising on three stations that cater to the baby boom generation (’60s and ’70s music).
No room for mistakes
“We either do it right the first time or we walk away. We don’t do anything halfway and I’ve lost business because of that.”
One way that Amsdill makes his business more accessible to the general public is by attending Water Quality Association (WQA) shows and several local home shows. Along with the state fair every August, Advanced Water Treatment looks to six shows during the springtime as “beneficial” to his business’ reputation and bottom line.
“With any show we attend, it’s a great symbol of awareness for people and to get them thinking about water,” says the eight-year WQA member. “People are hearing more about it on TV, radio and magazines. Even with the city water scenario and all this chlorine and chemicals and terrorist-type stuff, we’re starting to get calls about that, especially in the major metropolitan areas.”
Advanced Water Treatment/EcoWater Inc.
P.O. Box 847
Owner and president: Gordie Amsdill, CWS-VI, CI, CSR
Staff: 6; vice president; one certified installer; two service technicians; and an office manager
Sales: $708,000 in sales in 2000; a 15 percent drop is expected for 2001
Quotable: “I’ve always been into environmental-type stuff. Water treatment is doing something good for the environment. It’s also doing something good for everyone we contact. It’s saving them money on plumbing and improving their health. All of that combined makes you feel like you’re able to help people’s health and saving money in repairs.”—Gordie Amsdill