Carbon Link’s Brumfield Breaks Away
By Carlos David Mogollón, WC&P Executive Editor
Carbon Link Corp.
800 Distribution Dr.
Columbus, OH 43228
Tel: (800) 858-6889 or (614) 275-3955
Fax: (800) 858-7189 or (614) 275-3959.
Owner: William Brumfield, President
Revenue: $3-4 million annually
Operation: NSF-certified seller of activated carbon sourced largely in Sri Lanka (coconut shell) and China (coal-based). Also focuses on some equipment sales, particularly a 55-gallon tank designed for flue gas treatment and others applications involving pressure tanks. Seventy percent of sales are water related.
A 2002 report from the Freedonia Group points out: “Demand for virgin activated carbon in the U.S. will reach 450 million pounds in 2006, with market value expected to rise 3.5 percent per year to $332 million… Gains will be partially attributable to water and air pollution laws, as well as the ongoing development of new applications.”
Overall, Freedonia estimates demand in the $25 billion world water treatment market will grow 6.6 percent per year through 2007, driven in developed areas by stricter environmental standards, according to another report released this year.
All of this is good news for Bill Brumfield, president of Carbon Link Corp., of Columbus, Ohio. And it couldn’t come at a better time. In May, he was in the middle of completing the buyout of his company from UK-based CPL Carbon Link, which should be a fait accompli by the time you read this.
Brumfield, a Columbus native, was lured from Barnebey & Sutcliffe about 10 years ago to start the U.S. branch by a former owner of Sutcliffe Speakman UK who’d spun off Carbon Link in 1990. He’d spent eight years at Barnebey as a sales engineer and was there in 1987 when Sutcliffe acquired Barnebey-Cheney, whose history stretches back to making gas masks for the military in World War I. It’s that history Brumfield points to in explaining the high concentration of activated carbon industry players in Columbus, citing several area firms started by graduates of “Barnebey & Sutcliffe University.”
At Carbon Link, there was always a loose affiliation between the U.S. and UK outfits, Brumfield said. Initially, he was one of the biggest customers for his UK partners. About five years ago, he saw greater efficiencies in sourcing his own carbon and those ties got thinner. Three years ago, Coal Products Ltd. (UK) bought out his UK partners Carbon Link and its interest in the highly competitive U.S. market waned even more. So, Brumfeld decided he needed to go it alone to better pursue opportunities he sees here.
“It’s been a huge opportunity for me, and they pretty much saw it as a parting of ways on very good terms… I already own the copyrights and trademark and everything like that here… We still have a very good working relationship. We continue to work together,” he said.
It’s also been a challenge. He’s had to streamline operations in preparation for the buyout. He’s revamped his business plan, and he’s looking toward the future.
“I’ve got a couple products that I really want to throw at the market hard, because I know how competitive they are and what they can do compared to some of the other people out there who are supplying similar products,” Brumfield said, pointing to his H2Sorb, FE1 and coconut-shell carbons as examples.
In addition, he’s planning on expanding equipment offerings as well as supplying activated carbons. He’s also looking at targeting specific applications such as decolorization. And he’s looking at a move of the business from the 30,000-square-foot building it occupies now, possibly into space he would own instead of lease.
For more of Brumfield’s thoughts on commoditization of the carbon market, offshore carbon quality and positioning of smaller players in a consolidating market, go to www.wcponline.com and click on the “Executive Q&A” button for the full interview.