The Unexpected Lure of Industrial Applications
By Carlos David Mogollón
1257 Stanley Ave. • Dayton, OH 45404
Tel: (937) 461-8833 • Fax: (937) 461-1988
Owner(s): James W. Baker CWS-VI
Revenue: $6 million annually
Operation: Complete water treatment systems and services specializing in industrial applications and dialysis.
Odd as that sounds, it was the path to success for Ameriwater. Although his father and uncle owned a water refining company they’d begun in the ‘50s, Baker went off to college to become a teacher. While enjoyable, it did not provide the stimulation, independence or the financial opportunities he sought. Within a couple of years, he left the classroom in favor of starting a residential water softener business in Western Kentucky, and that led to purchasing Servicesoft routes in Wisconsin and Minnesota. Things were going well, but he found himself drawn to creating an industrial business.
He spoke with his uncle about entering the industrial side of the water industry and the result was a partnership between the two, Baker moving to Ohio to create an industrial entity under the Dayton Soft Water name established by his relative. It was 1977, and Dayton Industrial Water was born.
While there were numerous factors that contributed to the success of his venture—the proliferation of small labs during the manufacturing boom of the 1980s, for example—a major boost came from the banning of CFC’s late in the decade. The legislation meant businesses could no longer use solvents as cleaners. “There was a huge move to water-based soaps and cleaners, which meant a new need for water to rinse those products away. The need for clean rinses, and spot-free rinses, drove the switch to deionized (DI) water.”
In short order, Baker’s industrial side outgrew his uncle’s parent company as a result. He decided to focus on the midrange of the market sector, avoiding commercial accounts (i.e., restaurants and car washes) and leaving the biggest users to others. “The industrial process users who had to have this stuff to make their process work became our bread and butter,” Baker recalled. The business continued to thrive, building on the ultrapure products and categories…and then he got ‘drug into dialysis.’
A dialysis center in Cincinnati called Baker and asked if he could build them a regeneration plant. The center had just discovered that one of their suppliers had taken tanks from another application and installed them at their facility. The tanks were not fully exhausted from the previous use, putting the dialysis center in an untenable position of risk. They were hoping Baker could help.
Despite his lack of dialysis experience, Baker understood the problem and found himself offering to build a secure plant for the center and supply its tanks. “So that’s what we ended up doing, and we ended up taking over almost all of the dialysis in Southern Ohio because of that first phone call,” he recalls.