Phil Castle, The Business Times
Jack Hays knew he wanted to run his own business when he was still in grade school and selling stuff to his classmates. While it took a lot of time and hard work, Hays eventually realized his entrepreneurial dreams.
These days, Hays operates a venture selling wastewater evaporators and above ground storage tanks, along with another venture manufacturing fans and accessories for the mining industry. A third venture has expanded its product line beyond the oil and natural industry to include construction trailers and waste containers.
That’s not to mention yet another enterprise the Grand Valley man developed over the course of two decades from a one-man startup into an operation with a staff of 500 and $100 million in annual revenue.
While generating profit remains a crucial part of business, Hays says he’s also motivated by the opportunity to lead and provide opportunities for others. “It’s very rewarding. It’s more rewarding than making money.”
Hays was recognized for his efforts in his selection for the Excellence in Entrepreneurship Award presented during Entrepreneurship Day at Colorado Mesa University. The annual award is bestowed on a local entrepreneur who’s started or expanded a venture, contributed to the economic development of the region and exemplifies the spirit of entrepreneurship.
Hays says he appreciates the award — along with the opportunity to publicly recognize his daughters, Emily and Sarah, who he says put up with a single father who also was for years a struggling entrepreneur.
The award is the latest recognition for Hays, who in 2012 was a regional winner of the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award in one of the most prestigious business awards programs in the country.
Hays operates Resource West, a Grand Junction company that manufactures and sells a line of water evaporators Hays developed. The company also sells large above ground storage tanks. SMJ Fans, another part of the operation, manufactures and sells fans, scrubber systems and other equipment for the mining industry.
The operation also includes PCI Manufacturing Solutions, a venture based in Texas that manufactures a range of products that includes mobile storage tanks, construction trailers and waste containers.
Until he sold the company in 2011, Hays also operated Western Pump & Dredge.
Hays traces the origin of his entrepreneurial journey to a childhood growing up on a farm near Cameo east of Grand Junction, where his parents produced fruits and vegetables.
Hays graduated from Palisade High School and began his career in the energy services industry by working for his uncle’s casing company. Hays says he worked 11 years for his uncle’s firm and then another six years in sales and management for an oil field rental tool company.
Hays founded Western Pump & Dredge in 1992 with a pickup truck and dredge pump, equipment he says he used to pump everything from oil field drilling mud to sewer sludge to the grape sludge left over from making wine in California.
As oil and natural gas development technology advanced with multiple well pads, directional drilling and the increased use of hydraulic fracturing, Hays says he recognized the need for a new type of business to manage water for operations in the field. Western Pump & Dredge expanded its services to offer not only pumping and pump rentals, but also pipeline installation, filtration and fracturing support.
Hays also expanded his company geographically with operations in oil and natural gas plays in other areas of Colorado as well as North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Utah and Wyoming.
Hays says he decided to sell Western Pump & Dredge in 2011 when it became apparent the company faced increasingly larger competitors who could bring more resources to bear. He sold his company to Rockwater Energy Solutions, an oil field services firm based in Texas.
Five years earlier, though, Hays launched Resource West to sell equipment that quickly evaporates water by spraying it into the air. Hays says he based the equipment on the large blowers used to make snow at ski resorts. The evaporators are used, though, to evaporate waste water at such diverse operations as dairies, mines and wood processing plants. Hays expanded the operation by offering large above-ground storage tanks that can be quickly assembled.
Hays also acquired SMJ Fans, a Grand Junction company that manufactures fans, scrubbers and other accessories for mines and power plants. And he recently acquired PCI Manufacturing Solutions, which has expanded its product line beyond storage tanks to include construction trailers and waste containers.
Hays says he’s been successful over the years because he can identify opportunities to solve problems and meet needs. Identifying opportunities is a result, he says, of understanding how processes and markets work. Moreover, he’s willing to take risks to take advantage of those opportunities.
The effort often requires perseverance, he says. “I just wasn’t smart enough to give up.”
Hays also credited success to the employees he’s hired and a culture he’s strived to foster in which they’re expected to contribute to meeting goals, but also share in the rewards. He says he treats employees with respect and strives to maintain their trust through honesty.
While profits are necessary to sustain businesses, Hays says the greatest rewards of entrepreneurship for him come from the relationships and operations he’s developed over the years. “Money is money. I’d rather build companies.”
It’s a process in which Hays has long been involved — since he was in grade school and selling stuff to classmates.
“I was born to do this,” he says.