Flowers named to Fast 50 list
Fast Company magazine recently announced the winners of its Fast 50 awards, which recognize “the doers and the dreamers, the truth tellers and the trendsetters.” The issue profiling the award winners recently hit newsstands and is available online at www.fastcompany.com. Bill Flowers, chief executive of Ames-based Etrema Products Inc., was one of the 50 leaders culled from more than 1,650 entries. The Business Record spoke with Flowers about the honor.
Q: When did you find out you had been named to the Fast 50 list?
A: I knew they were considering me the first part of January, and I knew officially a few weeks ago. I couldn’t say anything. It was hard, but they only told me under the grounds that I couldn’t tell.
Q: What qualified you to be one of the Fast 50?
A: They asked me, “What’s one thing that’s different now than a year ago?” I said we turned a corner into profitability in ’03. After all the years in start-up mode, we actually made money. The parent company, Edge Technologies Inc., began in 1987. Etrema Products, the operating company, was formed in 1990. Edge was created by an investor group in Des Moines to create high-tech jobs. They took on three technologies from Iowa State University and formed companies around them. The only one to survive was Etrema. It’s been a long time getting to profitability. When you’re creating new technology, you never know how long it’s going to take.
Q: What is Etrema best known for?
A: Etrema is known as the best in the business when it comes to developing “smart metals,” such as Terfenol-D, which can change shape up to 20,000 times a second in a magnetic field. That technology was spun off into S3i Sound, a company that uses Terfenol-D to produce devices that can convert any solid surface into a speaker. We also created an ultrasonic wastewater treatment system that processes manure into fertilizer. That technology was spun off into Egg Waste Recovery Systems. Our company incubates technologies or products. Once the technologies or products become established enough to stand on their own feet, we spin them out.
Q: How long have you been with Etrema?
A: I came to Etrema in 1995 as sales director. I found that they had lots of toys, but weren’t taking any of them to market. They just wanted to make the products better and better. I said, “You’ve got enough stuff; now lets take some of it to market.” I think that’s a big part of why we’re seeing profits now.