In 1998, Geza Nagy led a project at University of California—San Diego (UCSD) to design and build a large composite bridge across the freeway on campus. It was to be a 450-foot long, two-lane suspension bridge. A small company in Denver called CoreCraft Technologies was hired to create the structure. Afterward, CoreCraft CEO John Kunz joined with Nagy to form Infrastructure Composites International to manufacture composite panels for infrastructure applications. Though the company is small, employing 10 people, it hopes to expand the usage of composites in large panel system structures such as pipes, bridges and domes.
What are some of the biggest challenges you face?
We need venture capital to grow so that we don’t use a lot of hand labor. Mechanizing this technology will dramatically influence the cost structure. Being a small business, we’re cash-starved and are trying to rev up operations by venturing with larger companies or acquiring investment capital to reach economy of scale. That being said, our composite panels are a great technology; we’ve done a lot of projects here as well as overseas, primarily in Europe.
What differences are there working abroad?
There’s not a whole lot of difference based on our experience. One aspect is that labor and material costs tend to be higher in Europe, about 20 percent on average.
How do you gain a competitive edge over larger companies?
The competitive edge is in the efficiency of the technology. Competing technologies are based on pultrusion-based systems, or structures that can use sandwich-type construction. We don’t do that, so there’s less competition. We also maintain technical expertise in terms of engineering and design and try to stay price-competitive, but it would be better if we had larger-scale machinery. Along with that, the specific cost per-square-foot or pound helps out. It’s a structural system that works well, but we still need to be lean and mean. It’s also difficult to secure contracts in this economy, but we focus on industries that involve government work, like infrastructure, roads, bridges and municipal business. Hopefully, the money invested by the government for renewal will help our business. However, there’s usually a lag from project advertisement to funding. We have a current contract that was awarded in February, but it took three years to get the funding. In contrast, private customers put out requests and then three months later they fund them.