Please join us in congratulating 2023 Fusion Hall of Fame inductees Jim Kirchdorfer and Ian Powell.
In 2019, the Fusion Hall of Fame was created to recognize the development and acceptance of fusible plastic pipe and the advancements that the industry has seen over the last 50 years. Inductees are individuals whose contributions have been particularly notable and whose impact and influence on the industry lives on today.
ON THE COURSE
When Jim Kirchdorfer founded Kirchdorfer Irrigation Company and Irrigation Supply Company in 1962, he combined two of his passions – his entrepreneurial spirit and his love for the game of golf. It was through the irrigation world that Jim came across high-density polyethylene pipe. He oversaw the installation of Kentucky’s first automatic underground golf irrigation system, and as demand grew, he began to see polyethylene pipe as a revolutionary way forward. HDPE is more flexible than PVC, and HDPE’s freeze and thaw capabilities mean it can survive all four seasons outdoors.
Jim partnered with Driscopipe in the 1970s to broaden his business’s horizons, and it’s through that partnership that he was introduced to McElroy machinery and the emerging world of HDPE butt fusion.
Jim was a master of innovation, and like any good businessman he knew an opportunity when he saw it. Where other early adopters of HDPE focused on the mining or municipal sectors, Jim dedicated himself to the world of irrigation. At the same time, he realized that there were countless other industrial or municipal applications for the relatively new concept of butt-fused HDPE.
IN THE FIELD
Jim didn’t just want to be a salesman or spokesman. He wanted to add value to the industry, and as such he was devoted to preaching the concept of pipe fusion. As Irrigation Supply Company – now known as ISCO – grew, Jim spent much of his time traveling and promoting HDPE to engineers and municipalities.
A golfer at heart, Jim was very influential in that market and stayed very involved with the development of golf courses throughout the United States. Thanks to his efforts, HDPE pipe is the standard piping material for golf courses, and countless other industries can trace their success with HDPE back to Jim’s efforts.
A LAUNCHPAD LEGACY
Jim was a master of innovation, and many of his techniques are now considered industry standard. He was often one of the first people to try different fittings, equipment, or technologies. He never wanted to be a follower or copy another person’s work, which paved the way for ISCO’s reputation as an innovative company that consistently delivers the highest-quality solutions to its customers.
In the decades since its founding, ISCO has grown into a global piping solutions provider. Jim’s sons, Jimmy and Mark Kirchdorfer, have taken their father’s work and used it as a platform to launch the company to even greater heights. ISCO is still headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky, but it boasts 25 locations and more than 800 employees. The future of ISCO is bright thanks to the spark lit by Jim’s tenacity and dedication.
McELROY’S CANADIAN TRAILBLAZER
In 1983, Ian Powell had a challenge ahead of him: promote pipe fusion as the manager of McElroy’s first-ever international subsidiary.
Ian hit the ground running; his enthusiasm was easy to see – whether he was training operators or working with customers on jobsite logistics, he developed a reputation for being straightforward and honest in his work.
The people who worked with Ian knew him as someone who was fun to be around, whether he was educating coworkers about the world of ice hockey or taking customers salmon fishing near Seattle. Hockey, in particular, was his passion – anyone who traveled with him knew that if one of his teams happened to play during a trip, Ian would find a way to follow the game.
TAKING THE REINS
Three years after forming AH McElroy, company founder Art McElroy decided it was time to sell the Canadian division of the company. Art knew Ian was the perfect person to take the helm. With the help of a handful of investors, Ian purchased the subsidiary as a distributorship while retaining the AH McElroy name.
For years, AH McElroy was McElroy’s lone Canadian distributor, but even as the company’s presence in Canada grew Ian ensured that his distributorship remained at the forefront of fusion technology. He was a member of McElroy’s Distributor Advisory Council – now known as the Channel Partner Conference (CPC) – and was a great contributor to the organization.
Unlike many of McElroy’s current distributors, Ian was focused on promoting, selling, and renting McElroy equipment, along with the training required for operation. He kept his fleet in top condition through rent-to-own programs that let him constantly refresh his equipment. He was known as an honest man who counted many among his close colleagues and friends.
Ian was a huge advocate for ways McElroy machines could be tailored to fit any job. He embraced the concept of swapping carriages with different vehicles, promoting the modularity of McElroy equipment.
A PASSION FOR EDUCATION
Ian didn’t just manage his company – he was a natural teacher. While working within McElroy, Ian developed a reputation for his ability to train fusion operators at the same level of quality as they would get in McElroy’s own classrooms. If he was traveling to a training operation, Ian wouldn’t leave until he was satisfied that everyone there could go into the field and consistently fuse pipe to McElroy’s standards.
Even while running AH McElroy, he made time to get into the field and work with the machines that he promoted and sold. He embraced each new technology that was developed, from the UltraMc® to the McSnapper®.
Today, Canada remains one of McElroy’s top international markets, largely thanks to Ian’s tireless work promoting HDPE.