Taking Flight

Piping Hot

"Underground" franchise heats up.

By Elaine W. Teague

You could call them pipeline detectives. Hydro Physics Pipe Inspection Corp. franchisees venture 20 feet beneath the surface of concrete or earth, using underground video technology. Their mission? To identify problems in commercial, residential and industrial pipelines.

Video inspection has long been used by government agencies for large, municipal-sized pipes. Now, Hydro Physics, based in Englewood, Colorado, has carved a niche out of smaller, 3-inch to 6-inch pipes.

The company doesn't sell or repair piping systems, which means purely objective appraisals for its customers. "My inspection [simply] confirms the problem and shows the customer what needs to be done to correct it," says franchisee John Richmond of Pleasant Valley, Missouri. Customers can observe the inspection process, and receive the revealing videotape and pipe analysis on the spot.

Surprisingly, local plumbing contractors pose no competition for franchisees. To the contrary, plumbers often come to Hydro Physics to take the guesswork out of their own troubleshooting process, thus eliminating costly, unnecessary digging.

A background in the pipeline industry isn't required. At the Hydro Physics training facility, practice pipeline setups mimic specific problems. As a result of the training, says Richmond, whose background is in food processing, "I had no problem transitioning to this field."

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This article was originally published in the March 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Taking Flight.

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