Mining, construction, the oil industry and other civil uses account for about 90 percent of the explosives manufactured globally. The defense industry uses about 10 percent. All have a similar need: to eliminate the threat of explosive byproducts and those no longer in use.
UGA geology Professor Valentine Nzengung helps bases eliminate these threats using a chemical product that dissolves, neutralizes and destroys explosives without causing an explosion. Nzengung developed the product through his business, MuniRem Environmental, which manufactures and sells it to commercial explosive manufacturing facilities and military bases. His market is expanding to serve nongovernmental organizations.
You contaminate the air, soil and water when you blow up explosives to dispose or destroy them.— Valentine Nzengung
Nzengung started his business in a UGA Small Business Development Center incubator in 2001. UGA granted the license to commercialize his technology in 2007. UGA’s Innovation Gateway incubator hosted MuniRem Environmental from 2015 to 2016, when he relocated the business in Gwinnett County. He continued seeking help from the SBDC throughout the process.
“I’ve built a very close relationship with the SBDC as we’ve continued working over the years in different areas of business growth and development,” he said.
For example, after selling his technology to domestic customers for several years Nzengung was asked to export his product to a Canadian company under contract with the Canadian government. He turned to the UGA SBDC for help.
Rick Martin, director of the SBDC’s International Trade Center, helped him review the agreement and steered him to the Export Georgia workshop, which introduced him to all aspects of the exporting process. Martin connected Nzengung to a free program that provides legal advice on exports and brought in SBDC consultant Darrel Hulsey to offer guidance on potential sources of export financing that would help his organization grow.
“The main thing MuniRem, and all small exporters, must do is their homework and engage international resources to help them with the process,” Martin said. “To their advantage, in Georgia, our trade resources communicate with each other so we can bring in the information and support needed for any company.”
MuniRem successfully expanded into Canada. It also received a 2017 GLOBE (Georgia Launching Opportunities by Exporting) Award from the Georgia Department of Economic Development’s International Trade Division, for MuniRem’s expansion into Australia, Israel, South Africa and South Korea. It is also in Taiwan.
“We recently received a competitive Atlanta Metro Export Challenge grant for more international business development,” Nzengung said. “We intend to use it to go into Southeast Asia to train humanitarian organizations to use our products in supporting their demining work.”
Sales have doubled every year and are now in the seven figures. Employment varies with each project, depending on the number of highly skilled ordinance disposal technicians needed.
“There are still times when I need information or resources related to business development, so I call someone at the SBDC,” said Nzengung. “The SBDC is the place to go.”