Puretec treats water for thousands of different uses
By Abigail Napp
Special to the Business Times
Since 1965, Jim Harris has served as President of Puretec Industrial Water, a water purification company he founded in Ventura.
“Everybody takes water for granted,” said Harris. “There’s a lot to it.”
Under Harris’s leadership, Puretec Industrial Water has become a regional leader in the purified water industry. The company’s roster of clients, product portfolio and decades of experience prove it.
From purified water packets for thirsty SpaceX astronauts to the millions of gallons used by oil refineries and beverage companies, the demand for water filtration and purification spans many sectors. The company serves them all by focusing on commercial businesses.
“Our opportunity is with manufacturing companies that cannot use city water to make their product. For example, low-sodium beverages can’t use any water. Semiconductors require the highest specification for water purity. The cosmetics industry, including makeup, shampoo and conditioner, cannot be made from city water, because of the salt and impurities,” said Harris. “Humans can consume it, but manufacturers can’t use it. So there are just thousands and thousands of products that you and I never think of. There’s something new every day.”
Today, Harris and son Jed Harris, the CEO and Vice President, run the private company. Puretec Industrial Water currently operates across the Southwest in five states: California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas as well as Baja, Mexico.
Last year, the company earned $53 million in revenue.
Traditionally, the industries requiring the most water use are food and beverage, pharmaceutical and chemical companies, power plants, paper manufacturers, petroleum refineries and primary metal producers. Manufacturers use purified water for a number of purposes, from fabrication and sanitation to cooling and transportation.
Most manufacturers supply their own water or get it from a public supplier. Since the 1980s, US manufacturers have actually reduced the number of self-supplied water withdrawals. Thanks in part to the transition from manufacturing to service-based economies and more sophisticated filtration and purification systems, industrial water withdrawals have declined by 43% as of the last USGS survey in 2015.
Puretec Industrial Water does not supply water, but it handles all stages of the water purification lifecycle and manufactures its own equipment. At the Oxnard facility, the team designs and welds reverse osmosis systems. The company portfolio also includes UV systems, distribution and deionization polishing systems as well as filtration.
The company still retains clients from 1966, a year after its founding.
“If you take care of them, they’ll stay with you,” said Harris.
Harris launched his career just a few years after graduating from Ventura High School. He spent time on the East Coast then returned to California at 25 years old to found his business. He got started with the help of family support.
“My dad let me use the wash rack in the car dealership because all I needed was water and a drain,” he said. “So, I started there, and here we are today.”
At that time, Harris said water treatment was relatively new for manufacturing. Over the years, the monitoring and requirements have become more stringent and sophisticated.
Unlike installing a water softener at home, which may have a variety of settings, industrial plants must meet water purification specifications or risk being shut down.
Harris said his company’s expertise comes with a lot of responsibility as well as mechanical and scientific know-how.
“There’s pre-treatment and all sorts of apparatuses to meet the customers’ specifications,” he said.
The company employs 171 people from across many professions. The departments include engineers, draftsmen, certified welders, Class A drivers as well as plant employees, delivery drivers, and office teams. For several years, Puretec employees voted the company a ‘Great Place to Work.’
Harris said the key to his business success is a million-dollar question, but he believes integrity and quality service are very important.
When asked about the future of water and its scarcity, Harris remains optimistic.
“Look at the ocean,” he said. “It’s unlimited.”