Changing A Legacy Product

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Changing A Legacy Product

Two CAP employees team up to handle a freshly made manhole cover.
Two CAP employees team up to handle a freshly made manhole cover.

Chad Nunnery was a high school state champion in distance running in his native Massachusetts.

Seeing the long road and keeping at it are traits that would serve him in a future career. Nunnery would go on to start a business and guide it to early success in the challenging industrial manufacturing field. The New Englander-turned-South Texan now owns a manufacturing facility wedged between 23rd and 29th streets in McAllen. 

Chad Nunnery is a New England native with a successful business in McAllen.
Chad Nunnery is a New England native with a successful business in McAllen.

Nunnery’s Composite Access Products makes a product with origins go back to the era of ancient Rome. Manholes were made of stone centuries ago and then of iron and concrete. In McAllen, CAP is making manholes with new technology that uses a blend of resin and fiberglass. It offers an alternative to aging and ineffective covers to underground utilities.

Innovation Through Technology

“We’re selling a whole new technology,” Nunnery said. “Manholes were made of iron for 180 years and now there’s this disruptor of new technology.”

It’s a technology Nunnery’s CAP is using to make composite manholes that are selling across the United States from Hawaii to Florida. The McAllen plant utilizes a compression molding process and high tonnage presses. Work crews go through a multi-step process that shapes, molds and hardens 21st Century manholes. They are proving to be versatile, efficient and much lighter than the classic iron versions. All the while, they still have the strength to protect underground utilities. 

Sales have been surging for Nunnery’s still young company as he reports several quarters of steady revenue growth. He started CAP from scratch in 2015 and didn’t generate income for three years. During this time, Nunnery worked to design molds and buy equipment while also setting up operations. 

Manhole covers from the CAP plant in McAllen sell and ship to several cities in Texas.
Manhole covers from the CAP plant in McAllen sell and ship to several cities in Texas.

Nunnery drew upon a background in industrial manufacturing that included a tenure at Norton Adhesives of Brownsville in the mid-1990s when he first came to the Rio Grande Valley. Help would come with an infusion of capital from the RGV Angel Network, which provides local entrepreneurs with financial assistance and business expertise in return for equity in the companies it supports.

Making An Impact Across The Country

With that groundwork laid, Nunnery’s company is now busy filling orders. It is currently producing 50 pieces per eight-hour shift at its McAllen facility. Florida is CAP’s fastest-growing market while also serving 150 Texas cities from Waco to El Paso to McAllen and Harlingen. 

Manholes are an essential part of every city’s infrastructure. They are historically access points for underground public utilities to allow access for the inspection and maintenance of water, sewer, telephone and gas systems. In that regard, Nunnery is especially proud of how his company’s composite manholes are helping the environment.

A CAP employee inspects a new manhole.
A CAP employee inspects a new manhole.

He cited Fulton County Georgia as one place where CAP manholes are certainly making an impact.

“Fulton County has seen a 70 percent reduction in wastewater spillage into their rivers,” said Nunnery, a Dartmouth College graduate and a track-and-field athlete at the Ivy League school. “Our covers are part of the solution to reduce pollution.”

On the local level, CAP also goes beyond serving municipalities. Gomez Backhoe Services of Mission purchases CAP covers as grease tops that help separate solids at area restaurants before they go into city systems.

“The quality of the product is extremely good and made to my specifications,” Mike Gomez said of his business relationship with CAP. “They take our feedback to make adjustments to better the product.”

Ricardo D. Cavazos is a journalist and business executive who has over 30 years of experience as a reporter, editor and publisher and is currently managing allied health schools in the Rio Grande Valley and Laredo. Working for Freedom Communications, Cavazos served as editor of The Monitor for eight years and was publisher of The Brownsville Herald for 14 years. He also served as publisher of the Valley Morning Star for one year and launched two Spanish-language publications - El Nuevo Heraldo and El Extra. He is an Edinburg native currrently living in Harlingen.

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