By Roberto Hugo Gonzalez
As originally published in Texas Border Business newsprint edition.
W. Chad Nunnery is a visionary businessman who saw an opportunity and decided to go for it. The business product that he thought of is something that you can find on every corner. It is a unique product made exclusively for municipalities all over the United States.
He is the majority owner of CAP, Composite Access Products, and is also the president and cofounder. CAP is a new and fast-growing McAllen-based company that manufactures manhole covers from composite fiberglass, rather than traditional cast iron for utilities like sewer, drainage, electric, telecom, and even grease traps.
He said that it is a proprietary line of composite access covers, which now are solving a lot of problems that cast iron and ductile iron have traditionally had.
Chad told Texas Border Business that the product he is producing is resistant to corrosion and theft problems; it is also not as heavy as the metal kind. These covers in the 30-inch or 32-inch variety run around 200 to 250 pounds, so they are very dangerous to lift.
The company was founded in 2014 with Andrew Brown, owner of Valley Die Casting, and Scott Fry, the Rancho Viejo utility manager. They set up shop in McAllen to start this innovative and market-disrupting business.
From the start, Chad knew that by manufacturing the manhole covers, the company would be providing solutions for problems that municipalities face with outdated or misapplied iron and concrete materials.
During Chad’s previous job, he first realized the potential for composite fiberglass as a replacement for metal in manhole covers. For some 20 years prior, he had formulated, manufactured and sold the fiberglass material mixtures to several industries.
Six years ago, he proposed to his prior employer that he would start Composite Access Products (CAP), and they would be CAP’s raw material vendor. With their support, CAP’s mission was to become a great customer to his former employer, creating a new end-use market for the material and a leading composite molder for utility markets. Two hundred fifty cities around the nation are already using CAP products in 42 states, with approvals all over Texas.
CAP spent the first years planning, designing, testing, marketing, and procuring the equipment for this vision. In 2017, the first CAP covers left the press, and since then, the utilities have specified CAP for projects and maintenance.
CAP has been doubling its sales each year for the past three years. This year, CAP is expanding product offering by investing over $1 million for new equipment, thus creating 10-20 new jobs.
The good news is that large cities like Fort Worth, Texas, and around Atlanta, Georgia have specified CAP as their unique product to replace metal manhole covers. CAP is very grateful to the Rio Grande Valley cities including McAllen, Harlingen, Pharr, and others, because they have also made the change to replace antiquated covers. The business is changing fast; the new investment is creating new opportunities for many, including the addition of a second location within 24 months.
Chad attributes CAP’s success to help from friends and family. One specific example is an entrepreneur program developed by the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) business school called the Rio Grande Angel Network (RGVAN).
These successful and generous local investors allowed Chad to receive the first investment from this group to an RGV startup. “Without John Martin (RGVAN CEO) and the RGVAN believing in our vision, CAP would not be where it is today.” He also added that RGVAN invested a second time into CAP – both investments before profitability – thus, CAP’s success is from many in the RGV.
CAP introduced the first and only traffic-rated, compression-molded, composite manhole cover Made in the USA.
CAP is a problem solver:
1) During high-rains and flooding, sewers can backflow toxic effluent into our streets, rivers, and oceans such as the RGV has endured recently. CAP’s covers are watertight, and San Antonio claimed CAPs performed better than any others they tested.
2) Iron covers frequently fuse shut, causing operators to use dangerous methods to open them for inspections. Many covers don’t open, or they break the covers in the attempt to open them for inspection. CAP’s covers do not fuse shut, which improves safety to workers and pedestrians.
3) Iron covers are very heavy and unsafe to move. CAP covers are lighter and represent a safe team lift. CAP’s lock with bolts, latches, and even special key locks. Fastening improves safety.
4) On occasion, thieves steal iron covers for the recycled value. There is no scrap market for CAP’s composite material eliminating the reward.
5) Finally, CAP’s can be made with many features impossible with iron: high-tech covers with sensors, and aesthetic covers with logos, colors, and even a stone appearance.
CAP’s facility is in North McAllen near the old Reynolds building. You can learn more about CAP on their website: www.justcapthat.com with vast information about the product’s advantages, renderings, and progress with new projects.
CAP markets at worldwide conventions for the water and wastewater industries advertising in industry magazines like Municipal Sewer and Water, Water Environment Federation, and Infiltration & Inflow (I&I).
CAP gives tours to those in the utility industry and local leaders. Call ahead for a visit. (956) 331-8232