When Susan Ford Bales, daughter of the late president, broke a bottle of champagne across the bow of the U.S. Navy’s newest supercarrier on Nov. 9, the USS Gerald R. Ford didn’t seem to notice. But two men in the audience that day certainly did. They had traveled from North Texas to Newport News, Va., for the event, because somewhere inside that $15.5 billion boat there was a small piece of Denison playing a big role in the ship’s function.

When Susan Ford Bales, daughter of the late president, broke a bottle of champagne across the bow of the U.S. Navy’s newest supercarrier on Nov. 9, the USS Gerald R. Ford didn’t seem to notice. But two men in the audience that day certainly did. They had traveled from North Texas to Newport News, Va., for the event, because somewhere inside that $15.5 billion boat there was a small piece of Denison playing a big role in the ship’s function.


More than 10,000 lineal feet of state-of-the-art ESLIN (Energy Saving Layered Insulation) encapsulates much of the maze of piping that will keep the carrier’s two A1B nuclear reactors functioning at maximum efficiency. Denison’s Visionary Industrial Insulation is the only outfit in the United States that makes ESLIN, which uses proprietary glue to fuse layers of glass fiber, creating a bond that can withstand temperatures as high as 1,400 degrees.


"It’s a replacement for industrial insulations (calcium silicate and mineral wool) that have been used for the last 40 years," said Dan Plaskett, one of Visionary’s two vice presidents. "Our material is an E-glass fiber, which is essentially the same sort of thing you’d find in boat hulls, Corvette bodies and that kind of thing."


Visionary Industrial Insulation sprung out of a Korean company that pioneered the ESLIN manufacturing process, quickly growing to dominate the East Asian market. Plaskett and his counterpart, fellow VP Ross Rolirad, started distributing ESLIN to American companies from a Dallas location in 2008, but quickly realized the eight-week turnaround on orders routed across the Pacific wasn’t going to cut it. They began looking for a way to manufacture the product domestically, and were put in touch with the Denison Development Alliance by a local business associate.


"It’s hard to start a company, and they came up here and we got them set up up in that building, and we just helped them make contacts," said DDA President Tony Kaai, who also detailed job-creation incentives the city provided to help land the company. "They’re optimistic (about future growth), and they know their business better than anyone."


Growth could come sooner than expected. The company opened shop in Denison only seven months ago, but business has been so brisk that it’s already looking to expand far beyond its current staff of a dozen employees.


"We’re selling everything we can make right now. We just have to keep building up our production," said Rolirad.


While the majority of growth is expected to come from the federal government’s push to upgrade or replace aging coal power plants over the next decade, the Navy represents significant potential as well. After undergoing more than four years of testing, ESLIN is on the verge of approval to qualify for retrofitting Navy ships across the entire American fleet — 285 ships, including 71 submarines.


"With the ongoing testing that’s going on right now, we anticipate that probably within the next 18 to 24 months, we will be approved fleet-wide," said Plaskett, who emphasized the prestige that would come along with that designation. "If it’s good enough for the USS Gerald Ford, or the John Kennedy that’s going to come after it, and the battleships and the submarines and so on, then, in a situation with a power plant or a refinery, it’s going to be (easy for them to see the benefits)."


Within the next two years, Denison’s Visionary plant could be delivering industrial insulation not only across the country, but to Europe as well. The company recently took its first international order from a company in Germany.


"We expect to be, within the next year and half, up to 120-130 employees," said Rolirad. "When they started making this stuff (in Korea), they went from $0 to about $35-40 million a year in less than four years. … And the potential for growth here is 1,000-times greater."