Local Features
3:05 pm
Fri August 28, 2009

Ballard County family produces high-tech industrial marine equipment

Ballard County, Ky – It's well known throughout our region that Paducah and the immediate surrounding river counties serve as the inland waterway hub for the commercial marine industry. Barge companies populate the shores of the Ohio in Paducah, but off the beaten path, hidden between a cow pasture and a small forested area in rural Ballard County lays a growing family-owned business now known for making products akin to the space industry, but used in the marine industry. Chad Lampe brings us this story.

If you drive west long enough on old HWY 60 from Paducah you'll eventually pass through Kevil and just before you get to La Center look to your left. You'll see a large blue metal building, parts of it still under construction. You might also see long cylindrical tubes large enough to house a dozen people. The cylinders have what look like port holes along the sides with snaking wires and conduit surrounding them. The large chambers are suspended in an enormous steel rack. The eye-catching contraption looks like something you'd use to explore deep space or sea. These are in-fact hyperbaric chambers used in a deep sea Saturation Diving System, manufactured by a growing family business called AC Plus Marine. Cyndie Phillippe is the President.

"I don't know the figures, but we went from being a four or five person company, to now we have 34 employees," Phillipe said

Phillippe her husband, their sons and their commercial marine business of 14 years are originally from Northern Illinois. Their business has grown from designing heating and cooling units for towboats. To the same for the diving industry, then water heaters. And soon after they got their feet wet building a full SAT system from scratch.

"They didn't have drawings or anything , they just bought the pressure vessels and asked us to make a system out of this, and we were put in the difficult situation of building that and we were able to do that, My husband has spent a lot of time with different dive industries developing relationships with them to the point where we were finally able to get an order for one," Phillippe said

The contract Cyndi is referring to is their current job with Bisso Marine, which provides marine construction, pipe laying and diving services among others.
Construction on the massive project began more than a year ago and now workers are scrambling to button up all the loose ends before shipping the 8 million dollar system to its new owner.

It's almost impossible at a glance to understand the many intricacies and details surrounding the SAT system: But Engineering Supervisor, Dennis Colli explains it in its most simple form.

"I look at it kind of like building a space station, because the guys cannot come out of their environment, they'll die. It's just the opposite, your going up in space, there's a vacuum outside your coming out from a pressurized system you'd be dropping to a lower pressure so "

The Phillippe's boast being the only U.S. manufacturer of their spaceship like product, but that doesn't mean that they've struck it rich yet. This is their first major contract.

"My older son keeps. Ya know we say we are building a multi-million dollar system, he grumbles, "but we still live in a mobile home." That tells you where our priorities are at. We know that we have to make those sacrifices until it gets to a point where we can start paying ourselves a little bit more, for years we didn't pay our selves much, because we couldn't. So, it's starting to change the other way now," Phillippe said.

Cyndie's husband, who was on the road at the time of the interview was working to solidify more contracts for their SAT system, has two more potential contracts on the line, and they are working to build their own system to lease out to smaller companies. And, what about building a new home?

"I don't know we are pretty down home people. We do have a farm right next door with some cattle some pigs and some horses. And that is where we are going to build our house. We're hoping this fall to begin building our house," Phillippe said.

While their new home may be a few months away, AC Plus Marine is definitely a bit of a shining light in this down economy. If you drive west long enough on old HWY 60 from Paducah you'll eventually pass through Kevil and just before you get to La Center look to your left. You'll see a large blue metal building, parts of it still under construction. You might also see long cylindrical tubes large enough to house a dozen people. The cylinders have what look like port holes along the sides with snaking wires and conduit surrounding them. The large chambers are suspended in an enormous steel rack. The eye-catching contraption looks like something you'd use to explore deep space or sea. These are in-fact hyperbaric chambers used in a deep sea Saturation Diving System, manufactured by a growing family business called AC Plus Marine. Cyndie Phillippe is the President.

"I don't know the figures, but we went from being a four or five person company, to now we have 34 employees," Phillipe said

Phillippe her husband, their sons and their commercial marine business of 14 years are originally from Northern Illinois. Their business has grown from designing heating and cooling units for towboats. To the same for the diving industry, then water heaters. And soon after they got their feet wet building a full SAT system from scratch.

"They didn't have drawings or anything , they just bought the pressure vessels and asked us to make a system out of this, and we were put in the difficult situation of building that and we were able to do that, My husband has spent a lot of time with different dive industries developing relationships with them to the point where we were finally able to get an order for one," Phillippe said

The contract Cyndi is referring to is their current job with Bisso Marine, which provides marine construction, pipe laying and diving services among others.
Construction on the massive project began more than a year ago and now workers are scrambling to button up all the loose ends before shipping the 8 million dollar system to its new owner.

It's almost impossible at a glance to understand the many intricacies and details surrounding the SAT system: But Engineering Supervisor, Dennis Colli explains it in its most simple form.

"I look at it kind of like building a space station, because the guys cannot come out of their environment, they'll die. It's just the opposite, your going up in space, there's a vacuum outside your coming out from a pressurized system you'd be dropping to a lower pressure so "

The Phillippe's boast being the only U.S. manufacturer of their spaceship like product, but that doesn't mean that they've struck it rich yet. This is their first major contract.

"My older son keeps. Ya know we say we are building a multi-million dollar system, he grumbles, "but we still live in a mobile home." That tells you where our priorities are at. We know that we have to make those sacrifices until it gets to a point where we can start paying ourselves a little bit more, for years we didn't pay our selves much, because we couldn't. So, it's starting to change the other way now," Phillippe said.

Cyndie's husband, who was on the road at the time of the interview was working to solidify more contracts for their SAT system, has two more potential contracts on the line, and they are working to build their own system to lease out to smaller companies. And, what about building a new home?

"I don't know we are pretty down home people. We do have a farm right next door with some cattle some pigs and some horses. And that is where we are going to build our house. We're hoping this fall to begin building our house," Phillippe said.

While their new home may be a few months away, AC Plus Marine is definitely a bit of a shining light in this down economy.