While many companies from other countries have been moving into Forsyth County in recent years, one local company has been selling its products overseas for nearly 20 years.
CO2 Air, housed in a 9,000-square-foot facility on Ventura Drive off Pilgrim Mill Road, has been in Forsyth since 1993.
The company manufactures custom machinery used in the production of dry ice. It also distributes liquid carbon dioxide used for various purposes, including soft drink carbonation, as a PH controller and an antibacterial agent.
President Allen Wood said that to his knowledge, CO2 Air is the only company producing custom-built dry ice machines in the United States.
“Most of our counterparts do cookie-cutter machines that are all the same,” he said. “They don’t build custom machines, so that’s become our niche.”
And that niche has been filled by clients primarily from Asia and Europe, said Dan Rosewall, the company’s vice president.
He said the company’s ability to create dry ice machines that can fit into any size space has led to success.
“In the U.S., there’s not a lot of concern about floor space. But in places like Japan and Ireland, they’re fighting for floor space, so their machines have to be condensed,” Rosewall said.
He said the company, which also has two distributors in Japan and one in England, has created the machines for dozens of countries across the globe.
The equipment can be designed to produce anywhere from 100 to 2,000 pounds of dry ice per hour and can range in price from about $24,000 up to $500,000.
Besides Asia and Europe, Rosewall said, other areas serviced have included countries in Central America, the Caribbean, Africa and the Middle East.
Reasons for needing dry ice are as varied as the countries themselves, Rosewall said.
“In Quatar, they were supplying dry ice to their armed forces so they could transport plasma,” he said. “In Japan, it’s mostly for sushi and other food-service reasons. And in Russia, they needed it to keep their ice cream frozen,” he said.
Due to the specialized nature of their business, Rosewall said the company, which employs nine people, typically builds less than 20 machines each year.
“In really busy years, we do between 12 and 16 machines, but an average year is only five or six,” he said.
After each machine is built and shipped, he and Wood typically go to their client and spend about a week working with them to make sure they understand everything the machine can do.
“We’re at the airport quite frequently,” Rosewall said. “In 2011, I spent 16 weeks out of the year travelling [internationally], but that was a heavy year. During lighter years, it may only be four weeks. It just depends on the cycle of the machines.”
Working with so many different cultures can create unique challenges.
Most of those revolve around time zone differences, Wood said.
“Language isn’t really a difficulty, since in most parts of the world people do speak English,” he said. “It’s more time challenges. Getting calls at 3 a.m. from Japan can be difficult.”
While they may be selling all over the world, Wood and Rosewall said the heart of their business is Forsyth County.
“I think what we do helps our local economy because we’re buying our products that we need to create these machines here in the local area,” he said. “All our powder coating, machining, piping and supplies — everything we need — are bought locally.
“It’s international money being spent locally and keeping our people employed.”