Weaving Innovation and Diversification
Although geotextiles is not a well-known industry, its products are part of the foundation that holds much of our infrastructure together. Many of our roadways are lined with geotextiles, which are fabrics designed to be used with soil and have the ability to separate layers, filter, reinforce embankments, and allow drainage to filter through.
Propex Global is a diversified company involved in soil and erosion control, concrete reinforcement, industrial packaging, specialty products, impact protection, and carpet backing, the business’s original product. As you can imagine, Propex’s products cover a vast array of industries and have provided solutions for everything from industrial building construction to sports gear for Reebok and Nike.
But from 1949 until the Great Recession, carpet backing was Propex’s main business. With the movement to other flooring surfaces, Propex was forced to diversify outside carpet products.
“Geotextiles became a more attractive market out of the recession,” said Mike Gorey, President and CEO. “Our main part of the business—carpet backing—was in decline because of design and functionality choices, so we needed to redirect our focuses accordingly, and there were more prospects in geotextiles.”
Gorey was brought on at Propex to help the brand transform from its carpet-backing days to the new geotextile business. He had acquired the ‘Mr. Fix It’ label from his time managing the tire recall at Bridgestone, and was the driving factor needed to push for change.
“Geotextiles is not a simple industry,” Gorey said, and we have to agree. Each situation that calls for geotextiles can be vastly different from the next, meaning a geotextile product line is complex and requires constant innovation.
One of the most popular uses for geotextiles is in roadway stabilization and separation—it does everything from acting as a separator between rock and soil to stabilizing pavement surfaces. It’s also used as a stabilizer between layers of concrete or asphalt.
But its most important use is for soil and erosion control, specifically for slope stabilization for roadways. Propex’s products facilitate stormwater renovations, inland pond shoreline repair, as well as protect the integrity of containment ponds and landfills. The product line continues to grow as more uses are discovered.
“When building a highway or adding lane miles, you often create added slope needing,” Gorey explained. “Sometimes these slopes can be covered with straw blankets to prevent erosion, but for a steep incline, products like our Geotex are necessary.”
Products like Propex’s Armor Max® performs the same task, only this product allows for growth of vegetation through the woven high-performance turf reinforcement mat. Propex invented and patented this product, and has seen much success in its invention.
“It’s capabilities for promoting root growth are second to none. It’s designed to support natural occurrences like storm surges, and has found a use in keeping storm levies in place.”
This easy-to-install product has found a use in New Orleans, where Propex is actively supporting the soft armoring of the New Orleans levee system.
The geotextile industry still has a lot of growth to achieve in the U.S., where adoption rates are less than 10 percent compared to 30 percent in Europe. Gorey rattled off several things—like legislation, risk aversion, tradition, relationships with companies that produce traditional products—that stand in the way of a larger adoption rate.
His solution? Education.
“We are constantly looking for ways to create understanding at the university level and get geotextiles taught. The GMA—Geosynthetic Manufacturing Association—shares our agenda to promote use. California is one of only a few states that require geotextiles. It would be a game-changer if more did.”
Geotextiles allow for more lane miles to be constructed for the same amount of money. It saves material—which means lower transportation costs—and extends how contractors could use labor hours. Once the legislators figure this out, expect to see geotextiles rolled out in more states.
Until then, Propex continues to deliver quality products to its clients, all while focusing on growth and the future of the company.
“Innovation is at the top of our list, but our diversification into the fields we’re in has been leading our innovation,” said Gorey. “We see ourselves at the head of the market—we’re the number one market seller in many of the market segments served.”
Propex has either invented or innovated most of the products that are sold in the industry at this point in the game, meaning it is always on the leading edge of technology.
“We’re committed to each market we serve, and we’re committed to being leaders in each,” he said. “You learn that you have to listen to what the market is looking for, and what it’s demanding.”
This isn’t just for geotextiles either. Propex is still a leader in the carpet backing business and has introduced a new product—made of woven polyester, a first for the industry—that is changing the field. Carpet tiles have become more popular in the 21st century, but many are non-woven products. Propex’s solution is easier to produce, higher quality, and allows its users to do more with design because the woven method holds a pattern better.
Whether in geotextiles, carpeting, concrete fibers, or industrial packaging, Propex has continuously shown its commitment to improving upon and creating new solutions with its product line. The one aspect of the business Mike Gorey is so proud of has nothing to do with the products: for him, it’s all about the people.
“There are 2,000 people at Propex. They are all very proud and committed, and they reflect our excellent culture. I’m proud of our tenacious culture—I’m proud of the innovation our company portrays and practices. The transformations we’ve undergone have led to a high level of commitment from our employees, meaning we can do even more for
As the global leader in geosynthetic reinforcement and geotextile fabrics, we engineer products that stabilize the ground.
Backed by a legacy of innovation, our products improve upon traditional landscaping erosion control by offering lower costs and exponentially better results. We are always leveraging technologies, innovating products and developing platforms that enhance our brands. Stabilizing roads and soil, reinforcing levees and pavement. Building unshakable confidence, protecting core infrastructure. Enabling good growth and creating critical engineering tools that bring unsurpassed performance and safety to the world we share.
1110 Market Street, Suite 300
Chattanooga, TN 37402
Website - www.propexglobal.com