Editor's note: This is the second of four stories on the businesses being inducted into the Blair County Chamber of Commerce Business Hall of Fame.
The business Tim Rea and his wife, Lynn, started in his parent's basement in 1985 has turned out well.
"It worked out far better than we ever thought. It was going to be a small coal testing lab in Blair County," said Jim Rea, Mountain Research LLC president and chief executive officer.
(Mirror photo by J.D. Cavrich)
Mountain Research employees Dave Bennett (left) and Denver Brydon work while drilling more than 10 feet below the parking lot at the Sheetz store on Moore Street in Huntingdon.
Today Mountain Research provides environmental, engineering and laboratory services to keep its clients in compliance with federal, state and local regulations.
Mountain Research LLC will be one of four businesses inducted into the Blair County Chamber of Commerce Business Hall of Fame on Oct. 17 at the Blair County Convention Center.
The company has grown to be a multimillion dollar regional environmental, engineering and laboratory services corporation competing throughout the Mid-Atlantic region.
"Mountain Research has come a long way from its humble beginnings and is now a dominant player in this region," Hall of Fame Committee Chairwoman Claudia Montero Pequignot of Allegheny Ridge Corp. said. "The company consistently demonstrates stability, resiliency and an ability to adapt and respond quickly to changes in the environmental, engineering and laboratory services industry."
Jim Rea calls the induction into the Business Hall of Fame a "sense of accomplishment."
"It means you had to do a lot of things correctly. It was always one of our goals when [his brother] Tim and I were in the incubator with no equipment and no vehicles," Jim Rea said. "A long-term goal was to see if we could achieve induction. That meant we had a successful business over 25 years. It wasn't easy."
Tim Rea said the induction is a big honor for the company.
"It was a group effort from a whole lot of people in the community, and I can't thank them enough," Tim Rea said. "I am immensely proud of what the folks have done with it."
The brothers made a good team.
"My strengths were in science and it was a real blessing to have a brother who is excellent in explaining the concepts to customers how this geeky stuff could help them," Tim Rea said.
The business moved from the family basement on Sylvan Drive to the Altoona Area incubator in 1987, and in 1989 developed a hydrogeology department to complement its laboratory capabilities.
In 1990, Jim Rea and his wife, Debra, gave up their jobs in Kansas City, Mo., where he worked for a large medical company and she owned a real estate business, so Jim could join his brother in the business.
Jim Rea developed a marketing department and sales grew, as did the need for a larger building. In 1992, Mountain Research moved into the 22,000-square-foot former Marhoefer Bakery at 825 25th St.
The company has earned the trust of its clients.
"We are very good at solving problems. No one wants to spend money on environmental problems, so they want someone who is trustworthy and doesn't overdo things," Jim Rea said. "We are not aware of anyone else that offers all the services that we do. People want results, and want them now."
Mountain Research also has developed a good relationship with the state Department of Environmental Protection.
"Our strength is checking the site, remediating the site and getting it back into service, which helps our economy," Jim Rea said. "The regulators trust us. They know if we are on the job, it will get done right. It took years for us to gain that trust."
A $4.5 million large-scale site remediation project at the Westvaco paper mill property in Tyrone in the early 1990s was important to Mountain Research.
"We were there 24/7 for about 18 months. We only had 10 people at the time. We basically took a large landfill and remediated it so the mill could keep operating and keep people gainfully employed. DEP was satisfied. We restored wetlands and kept the stream clear; it was win-win for everybody," Jim Rea said. "That gave us the credibility in the industry that we were real players."
Mountain Research also has done a lot of environmental work for Sheetz Inc. since the early 1990s.
"They are very demanding and expect us to be top notch," Jim Rea said. "We have grown as Sheetz has grown. We have modeled some of the things we do after them - offer great service, fair prices and keep in touch with people."
In 2002, Tim Rea retired and Jim Rea and another partner Ed Dobson bought his shares in the company.
In 2005, the owners created an employee stock ownership plan to ensure that Mountain Research would remain a viable business in Blair County.
"This is a 100 percent employee-owned company. It was part of our succession plan," Jim Rea said. "It is a legacy business. Mountain Research started here and if it all possible, we want to keep it here."
Mountain Research also has two other locations - a satellite laboratory in DuBois and a small office in Baltimore. The company employs 46 people among the three sites.
Jim Rea said hard work, persistence, creative thinking and never giving up have been keys to the company's success.
"We have a good group of people. We have been very blessed over the years. We have the strongest group that is young and energetic, and they deserve a lot of credit," Jim Rea said. "Tim set the tone. We are immersed in the community. It is not just a job; it is a long-term commitment to the community and the business."
Mountain Research has added its own drilling rigs and is currently expanding to include Marcellus Shale exploration for the oil and gas companies moving into Pennsylvania.
Jim Rea said the future is bright for Mountain Research.
"There are challenges ahead with the economy. With Marcellus Shale, our position in the marketplace makes us a strong player. We are a well known quantity in the industry," Jim Rea said.
Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.