Tensar Corporation, based in the southern city of Alpharetta, Georgia, provides unique and highly innovative solutions that preserve, stabilize and reinforce soil and pavement. From humble beginnings, the privately owned company has grown to a global entity with approximately six hundred employees. Tensar Corporation is also the parent company of Geopier Foundation Company, Tensar International Corporation and North American Green.
Although founded in the United States in 1983, Tensar’s roots go back to the 1950s in the United Kingdom, when Dr. Brian Mercer created the Netlon process. This process sees plastics extruded into a net-like structure in a single step. This unique method results in products such as grocery store produce bags for onions and was presented with the Queen’s Award for Technological Achievement. Dr. Mercer was a tireless researcher, innovator, inventor, engineer and businessman. He later received the Order of the British Empire and a fellowship in the prestigious Royal Society dedicated to advancing scientific knowledge. He also went on to create other highly practical inventions.
“In the late 1970s, Dr. Mercer invented geogrids using processes based on the original Netlon process,” says Tensar Director of Marketing Bryan Gee. “In 1983, this geogrid technology was licensed for production and sale in the Western Hemisphere by what is now Tensar Corporation. Finally, in 2006, the two companies merged to create a single, global entity.”
It then constructed a 175,000-square-foot manufacturing facility Morrow, Georgia in the mid-1980s. Today, Tensar Corporation’s business development personnel are located in sixteen countries around the world, and it remains dedicated to ongoing product development.
Much of the company’s ongoing success comes from its people. “A significant number of our employees are degreed engineers and scientists, working across our business from product development and research to manufacturing to application development and support,” comments Gee.
“Many of our engineers hold advanced degrees and/or professional licenses,” he says. “One significant differentiator for Tensar is that we devote significant personnel and budget resources to the application of our products, rather than just to their production. This allows us to bring value to our customers that the makers of commodity products can’t, and it provides us with the insight into our customers’ projects that drives the development of new and improved products, such as our TriAx Geogrids.”
Tensar Corporation designs and manufactures technologically advanced, alternative products that are used in the mining and waste management industries as well as for a host of turf reinforcement and vegetation establishment uses. They are also employed to stabilize land along waterways; to reinforce foundations, retaining walls, pavement and slopes and to control erosion and sediment along roadways and railways.
“And we also have specialized systems that provide improved solutions in areas like coastal protection, underground mining, seismic design and environmental applications,” says Gee.
All of Tensar Corporation’s products are designed, tested, engineered and manufactured to be the best in the industry, to make every aspect of site development not only easier for customers but to create systems which are extremely reliable and fast to install. As a result, the company’s products and services – when compared to old-fashioned site development methods – are often more economical while offering greater performance and long-term life-cycle cost savings.
Its Tensar TriAx Geogrids are used to optimize flexible pavements and railroad track beds as well to stabilize weak soils to facilitate construction. Tensar’s grade separation systems use the company’s Uniaxial Geogrids to build walls and slopes more effectively, while the North American Green erosion control products help establish vegetation quickly and prevent environmentally damaging runoff from construction sites. Geopier provides foundation systems that support mid-rise buildings, storage tanks and other critical structures more efficiently than conventional systems.
Tensar seamlessly integrates tested systems with specialized technical services. These innovative applications provide alternatives ‘to traditional materials and practices used in earthwork construction,’ according to the company.
It has developed unique earth retention and foundation improvement systems including the creation of systems to ‘piggyback’ a new municipal solid waste landfill on New York’s Long Island atop an existing, full-to-capacity landfill site. The breakthrough resulted in changes to regulatory options and land use for future municipal solid waste containment in America. Soon after this advancement, it created the economical and effective systems and practices used to contour large masses of land.
In 2002, Tensar Corporation purchased the Geopier Foundation Company and North American Green and was named one of the fifty most innovative small businesses in the U.S. by Inc. Magazine. It then introduced a new proprietary Impact™ pier technology in the United States through Geopier. This was followed by other developments, including the acquisition of Slope Reinforcement Technology, LLC (SRT) by Geopier and the opening of a manufacturing facility in Russia in 2014.
The company has four manufacturing facilities for Tensar Geogrids: in Morrow (Georgia), United States; Blackburn, United Kingdom; St. Petersburg, Russia and Wuhan, China. The company also has two manufacturing facilities for North American Green erosion control products in Poseyville, Indiana and Centre, Alabama.
Tensar is committed to research and development, both to improve existing products and advance technologies. Its efforts ensure that it continues to stand apart from others in the industry. The company’s range of products are designed and manufactured to last longer than the lifespan of the construction project itself. Polymers used in geogrids are essentially inert and maintain their integrity for decades in all foreseeable ground conditions.
“We have also devoted a lot of resources to performance validation for our products and systems, which goes beyond what would normally be considered R&D, and this is an area where we truly distinguish ourselves from others in our industry,” states Gee. “As an example, we maintain a multi-million dollar performance validation testing program related to roadway design using our TriAx Geogrids. This includes pavement research conducted by independent third parties such as the United States Army Corps of Engineers and major research universities, as well as our own testing facilities and monitoring real world installations. We also develop design software for our products, including our new Spectra M-ETM software for mechanistic-empirical pavement design.”
To provide the greatest value for the client, Tensar tests material properties to ensure product quality, with most of the company’s efforts going towards testing product performance on the ground, at full scale. “There is a tendency in the construction materials market to focus instead on what the product is and how this can be specified based on material properties,” says Gee. “This is the basis for value provided to the customer. At Tensar, we set ourselves apart by developing products with unique capabilities and then providing the application expertise that ensures successful projects for our customers. You need both of these to provide maximum value.”
The company sells its unique and highly effective products in eighty-five countries to date and has a global footprint enabling it to sell virtually anywhere. Products are engineered to create value through cost savings, time savings and durability. In most cases, customer needs dictate which factor is of primary importance. For example, if the need is to reduce construction cost, solutions can be tailored to deliver that to the customer.
Since 2014, Tensar has been under the leadership of President and Chief Executive Officer Mike Lawrence who has considerable experience in building business ventures in Japan, Korea, India and other locations. He has been involved in all aspects of business from operations and marketing to product development, sales and business management. The bulk of Lawrence’s work has been in businesses that market high-value technical building products in a business-to-business model – much like Tensar – making him an ideal fit for the company.
“My overall business experience, combined with my global management knowledge, has helped to quickly understand the needs of Tensar’s worldwide business model and expansion capabilities,” he says. “I see a huge need for Tensar’s products in bringing much-needed cost and especially time savings for construction projects of all sizes. Our capability to help contractors and owners to deliver more cost effective projects on time, or even ahead of schedule is what separates us from others in the industry.”
This innovative market leader serves customers in sectors as diverse as coastal and waterways protection and railway improvement to retaining walls, foundation and pavement erosion, turf reinforcement and more.
“Fundamentally, Tensar is not about a specific set of products and systems; our business exists to find better ways to build and to bring them to market in a way that adds significant value for our customers,” says Gee. “We are always looking for new products and new ways to apply them. That’s the future of Tensar.”