06/27/06 — Local inventor's solutions used throughout Armed Forces

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Local inventor's solutions used throughout Armed Forces

By Dennis Hill
Published in News on June 27, 2006 1:49 PM

Ed York doesn't see problems.

York, 65, a former oil company executive, has been seeing solutions where other people see problems for years. His inventive mind has come up with a number of patented devices that have been snapped up by the military and are in use around the world to make life safer for soldiers, sailors and airmen.

Two of his inventions, a spill containment berm and a handling and storage environs mat, recently received approval from the U.S. Government Patent Office. The devices defuse the chance of static build-up near fuel trucks and other vehicles that could cause explosions.

For York, coming up with new ideas to fix problems comes naturally.

A native of St. Louis, he grew up in Omaha, Neb., and earned a degree from Creighton Law School, eventually adding a master's degree in marketing.

He joined Exxon-Mobil out of college and spent years in the petroleum business. Later, he ventured into insurance work.

But it is his work after leaving those fields that has made him a name in military circles. He created York Industries in 1989 to market his inventions.

When the U.S. went to war in the Middle East to push Iraq out of Kuwait, military officials found many of the equipment covers inadequate for keeping out the desert sand.

York came up with a sand cover that bested any already on the market. Back in the states, his covers held when storms blew the others away. So the military asked him if he could come up with a cover for rainy weather that could withstand high winds. So he did.

He also created a polyurethane paint that prevents the camouflage on tanks and trucks from fading.

York has entered into contracts with military bases and installations around the world, including Seymour Johnson, Pope and Shaw Air Force bases and Fort Bragg in the Carolinas. For York, the phone can ring at any hour of the day or night.

York's career as an inventor started when he came up with a tray on which to park a vehicle to prevent the accumulation of ice and snow from melting and running off. He sold several hundred of the devices but considered the venture a failure.

But military officials heard of the invention and invited him to a procurement conference in Washington, D.C. York ended up at the Pentagon, selling his idea to the brass as a way to contain leaks.

"Everything in the military leaks," York said, "and they were interested in any way to stop them."

He improved the trays, made them larger and stronger, and now they are used for tanks and trucks, to keep workers safe amid large amounts of fuel and static electricity.

"I invented this thing for cars and they wanted one big enough for an Abrams tank," York said.

The increased need for the military to be environmentally sensitive has opened up a world of opportunity for York. Besides making it safer for soldiers, sailors and airmen, the containment devices prevent spills from contaminating the environment, whether it is on base or in the field.

York does not manufacture his inventions. He has them custom-made by different factories around the country. That allows him to concentrate on coming up with new ideas.

And he is getting a little extra help from some Wayne County sources.

York and his wife, Beverly, moved to Goldsboro about seven years ago. York's youngest son, E.J., is a student at Wayne Country Day School. Students in the school's honors physics class will be helping York continue running tests on his latest inventions this fall.

"They're going to help me verify that it will remove all current and take away all static electricity," York said, noting the ever-present danger of explosions when static electricity builds up near sources of fuel.

The two new devices contain an innovative grounding system that carries electrical static or friction away from the work area. Another unique feature is a visual alerting system, with a flashing LED light that keeps crew members appraised of any breaks in the grounding circuit loop.