The following appeared in the August 2012 Elastec TEAM Newsletter
Jeff Cantrell and Donnie Wilson knew they had something special when they discovered more than 20 years ago that oil lying on the surface of water would adhere to a revolving drum.
But how could these young Crossville, Ill. men and business partners—who had virtually “grown up” in the oilpatch—take advantage of the discovery? “Jeff called me,” recalled Bill G. Harmon, a retired oilfield service company owner in nearby Carmi, Ill., “and asked me to come out to his home and look at a device he said picked up oil off water. ‘And it works!’ he told me.”
Cantrell had one question for Harmon: “Now what do we do with it?”
Nine days later, Harmon said, “I had the device on exhibit at the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston, Texas.”
“I was spending money we [the partnership that became Elastec, Inc.] didn’t have,” he added, in having professional photos of the skimmer taken and quality literature printed to promote the device: “a drum that attracted oil, rejected water and floated!”
The skimmer got quite a bit of exposure at the exhibition. But Harmon saw the need for even more promotion. And so he strapped a unit on the roof of his “little four-cylinder car,” and he and his wife (the late Joanne Harmon) took off for California. Harmon secured a spot (and it wasn’t a very good one, he recalled) in an underground parking lot where an exhibit was being held. “I set the little devil up on a stand and began passing out literature,” he said.
One of those who stopped to ask about the skimmer was a representative of the British Navy. He was impressed, said Harmon, calling the skimmer “sailor-proof.”
After the exhibit ended, Harmon strapped the device to the roof of his car again and headed home to Illinois. But he eventually sold the car, he said, when he couldn’t remove the marks left by the skimmer on the roof of the vehicle.
The man whose advice Wilson and Cantrell sought eventually became an investor in what is now Elastec, Inc. (and is one of several current owners of stock in the privately-held cor- poration). And he brought a lifetime’s worth of experience in the oilfield—and business in general—to the table.
Born in Muskogee, Harmon lived in Oklahoma until his father (who, like him, was an oilman) moved to southwestern Indiana. He graduated from Reitz High School in Evansville, Ind. and earned a degree in mechanical engineering from Purdue University.
Harmon worked for The Superior Oil Co. near Crossville and later for Summit Oil & Gas in Salem, another center of southern Illinois’ oilpatch. He left to go into business for himself and eventually, while operating a diamond coring business, formed DiKor (and an associated division, Harmon Service & Equipment) in Carmi.
He sold the businesses in the ‘80s but remained in Carmi. And although he’s officially retired, he still makes himself available to E/AM in an advisory capacity.
Harmon said he’s “surprised and pleased” by the development of Elastec from a tiny oilfield-oriented partnership to a company with a strong international presence and a wide variety of products (one of those products, the SmartAsh incinerator, was refined after Wilson and Harmon spotted an efficient trash burner at a trade show in Texas, investigated and eventually bought the little company that made it).
And he used words like “capable” and “terrific” to describe the company’s leadership.
“I’m proud of where they are and where they’re going,” he said. “They have my full support.”