When a natural disaster strikes, shelter and food are some of the first things people think about to help those who are affected. But what they may not realize is how essential clean water is.
According to the World Health Organization, about 842,000 people in low- and middle-income countries die because of inadequate water, sanitation, and hygiene each year, making up about 58 percent of total diarrheal deaths.
“Water is one element you can’t live more than a few days without,” said John Babcock, president of Satellite Industries, a leader in portable restrooms that helps the Federal Emergency Management Agency provide clean water during natural disasters.
“When Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, we were a first-line responder because people needed access to clean water,” Babcock said. “If you don’t contain contaminated water, people get very sick.”
Satellite Industries’ products and work around the world help protect the environment and public health. The company also provides supplies trucks and trailers, deodorizers, and hygiene products.
By providing toilets that don’t require flushing, the portable restroom industry overall saves about 125 million gallons of water each day, according to Satellite Industries.
The Minneapolis-based company grew from having 36 wooden restrooms in 1958 to serving customers in more than 120 countries. Today, Satellite Industries, a Wells Fargo Middle Market Banking customer, is owned by Todd Hilde, the son of the company’s founder, Al Hilde Jr.
Babcock knows when people see his company’s products at festivals, construction sites, and outdoor events, their reaction isn’t always pleasant. After all, the company’s top product is a portable toilet.
“People generally see our product in a park and say, ‘gross,’ but there’s more to our company than they realize,” said Babcock.
Financing growth over decades
Its global presence allows Satellite Industries to serve developing countries and in places where a disaster has hit. Before Todd Hilde took over the company in 2004, he opened offices in Belgium, the United Kingdom, Japan, Hong Kong, and France, thanks in part to help from Wells Fargo.
“We’ve had a relationship with Wells Fargo for more than 30 years,” Babcock said. “They’ve allowed us to finance our growth, whether it’s been through capital, real estate, or equipment financing. We also work with Wells Fargo for our insurance needs, which allowed us to grow internationally. Wells Fargo has been good at meeting a multitude of needs related to financing and growth.”
Satellite Industries’ sector is cyclical, following the economy’s rises and falls, as well as seasonal. It does about 70 percent of its business during five months of the year, “so borrowing and cash needs are very unpredictable,” Babcock said. “It flexes up and down quite dramatically. In a typical year, I need borrowing for half of the year and then no borrowing for the other half, so we need a flexible banking relationship.”
Bryan Ethridge, a relationship manager for Middle Market Banking in Minneapolis, works with Satellite Industries and says it’s rare for a company’s financial patterns to be both seasonal and cyclical.
“We appreciate the business and opportunities John and Satellite Industries have given to us,” Ethridge said. “It’s a unique situation that John is managing day-to-day. I’m looking forward to continuing the relationship and fulfilling their greater needs.”
“We have spent almost 60 years positioning to be the best in the industry and have a significant impact around the world in ways people would never realize,” Babcock said.