Hitting the endwall Featured

5:38am EDT July 28, 2003
Bruce Hartman's business is at the end of the pipeline.

Far from being at its terminus, however, HartmanEW Inc. is only getting started. Hartman says his product, a linear low-density polyethylene endwall -- the structure that lies at the end of drain pipes carrying storm water into streams and rivers and under and away from roads and highways -- is an improvement over existing technologies.

The product and his business plan this year won Hartman first place in the Enterprize business plan competition and landed him $37,000 in prize money.

Now, he's looking for $900,000 to develop additional molds, manufacture product and boost his marketing effort.

Hartman got the idea while working as a highway maintenance manager for PennDOT. The conventional solutions -- pre-cast concrete endwalls or concrete poured into wooden forms to create the endwalls -- seemed to Hartman outdated and overly expensive.

"I said, 'There has to be a better way of doing this,'" says Hartman.

He came up with the notion of building an endwall out of plastic, then filling it with sand or other ballast to hold it in place. He enlisted the Webb Law Firm to do a patent search. No product like the one Hartman was proposing turned up.

With the help of engineers at Bucknell University, Hartman developed prototypes of the endwalls, complete with a faux stone finish in three colors, and came up with a design that went into production in early 2001. He has been field-testing the endwalls with the help of several states' transportation departments in an effort to have the product approved for use in those states' construction and maintenance projects.

To date, Pennsylvania, New York and Maryland have approved the product for use in their state projects. The endwalls are sold in 14 states and Canada, and to date, about 600 have been sold.

Hartman says the plastic endwall can be installed in about a half hour, as opposed to pre-cast or poured versions which take a full workday. The plastic endwall costs $425 for the basic unit and can be placed in service in about 30 minutes, Hartman says, while a precast version costs about $600, plus labor costs.

The weight of concrete endwalls makes them more difficult to transport to the jobsite. They require heavy-lifting equipment to install and are more dangerous for workers to handle.

Overall, says Hartman, his system reduces costs by about 35 percent. And that could mean better cash flow for his fledgling company. How to reach: www.hartmanew.com