McElroy is thrilled to announce Mel Belisle and Ted Striplin as 2022 Fusion Hall of Fame inductees.
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.
A PIONEER OF POLYETHYLENE
Mel Belisle knew HDPE was the next step in sustainability.
As the owner of Fife Florida Electric, he noticed that his clients in the phosphate mines of central Florida needed something longer-lasting than the steel pipe that was standard at the time, he realized polyethylene was the way to go.
It wasn’t easy. After getting a few sticks of 8600-series pipe from Phillips Driscopipe, Mel reached out to his contacts and told them of his plan.
Initially people thought Mel’s proposal to replace steel pipe with plastic pipe was ludicrous – some of his contacts even laughed at the idea. But one facility gave it a shot, deciding to test HDPE with a steel line that had given the mine issues.
Months later, the results spoke for themselves: zero issues. And when the line was inspected, to everyone’s amazement, there was hardly any wear to be seen. The facility even went as far as to connect a bulldozer to each end of a run of pipe, with a weld made by a McElroy fusion machine in the center, and pull on it to try to break the weld.
The pipe ended up ripping, but the weld held. Fife Pipe of Florida had been born.
SPREADING THE WORD
Mel was a pioneer of the polyethylene pipe industry. He worked tirelessly to promote HDPE in Florida and elsewhere, hiring engineers dedicated solely to the polyethylene business. In 1976, Mel sold Fife Florida Electric, which allowed him to focus solely on HDPE pipe. Fife Pipe Co., his HDPE distribution and fabrication company, would eventually expand outside the central Florida region, with the addition of facilities in South Carolina and Massachusetts. Fife Pipe Co. would go on to be acquired by ISCO Industries, LLC in January 2001.
Mel didn’t just sell pipe. He was dedicated to the PE business and, over the course of his career, taught many other distributors what he knew to help broaden the industry’s horizons. While he may not have been the largest distributor of HDPE, he clearly cared about growing the market, and often made it clear that he placed priority on future opportunities for the industry rather than focusing simply on one job at a time.
Through his spec work, Mel was able to break into the municipal water and sewer market in Florida, long before polyethylene was widely recognized in the water industry. By offering to spec projects long before they went out for bid, Mel was able to demonstrate the advantages of HDPE and show municipalities its immediate and long-term benefits over incumbent pipe materials. Again, this was testament to his passion for growing HDPE long-term – by being proactive in approaching engineers and potential clients, Mel was able to establish a presence in the market long before the benefits of HDPE were widely known or publicized.
WHEN IN DOUBT…
There are plenty of stories of Mel’s resourcefulness. In the late 1970s, an operator working in a refinery presented a problem: the fusions would take place high overhead. Mel’s solution was to put a 36-inch fusion machine on a platform, and then hoist the platform overhead with a crane. The operator could then use the machine in the air to join pipe.
Mel passed away in 2017 at the age of 81. But his legacy continues. To this day, HDPE is still widely used in central Florida’s mining industry, and the progress he made in preaching sustainability and resourcefulness still resonates with those who knew him.
AN AUTHORITY IN FUSION STANDARDS
In August 1974, just five years after McElroy went into the pipe fusion business, Ted Striplin joined the company as its Large Diameter Pipe Sales Manager. Throughout his career, Ted became known as one of the “movers and shakers” within what would become fusion sales. He worked closely with Art McElroy and David Dutton in those early days of the company, and eventually became known as the international face of McElroy, alongside Peggy Tanner.
He never shied away from a chance to get out and spend time promoting HDPE, whether that meant working directly with distributors or by working to establish industry standards. He served on multiple committees and was a regular participant in industry conferences and organizations, including ISO and AGA.
Notably, Ted was the chair of the ISO committee that established the high force standard in the ISO 21307. During his time at McElroy, he would wear several hats – in 1991 he was named Project Manager, and he went on to become Product Development Director in 1995. In 1997, he became McElroy’s International Marketing Manager.
Ted liked to be at the forefront of technology, and in the late 1980s he was active in the procurement and promotion of the UltraMc®, a computerized ultrasonic inspection system. In addition to believing in the product itself, Ted was passionate about providing a non-destructive testing system to operators, and in promoting its advantages within the polyethylene industry. He also became known as a leading authority of the Bullet®, a pipe splitter for ductile iron and steel pipe. When McElroy acquired the intellectual rights to both the Bullet and the UltraMc, Ted stepped up to champion them and led the way in their development throughout their production.
WORLDWIDE PRESENCE AND PERFORMANCE
Ted was an icon in the fusion industry, especially on the international side of the business. He traveled extensively, racking up “million-miler” status with at least three airlines by the time he retired. In the last few years of his career, his focus shifted to Asia, specifically Japan, China, and Korea. His efforts in Japan were instrumental in McElroy’s market success there.
Ted didn’t just sell high-force fusion – he demonstrated the McElroy advantage to clients worldwide. With his expertise in fusion standards and natural ability to help others see practical solutions to their real-world problems, Ted was critical in the acceptance of high-force fusion in the Australia before the market was even established.
The groundwork Ted set in the late 1990s and early 2000s gave Australian distributors and operators the opportunity to accept McElroy equipment. That, in turn, set the stage for McElroy’s established presence during the Australian coal seam gas boom in the mid-2010s. Additionally his work set the stage for Australia to become McElroy’s largest international market. His presence in the Pacific Rim region opened doors for many of the partnerships that McElroy maintains today.
For Ted, making connections wasn’t just about promoting McElroy equipment– he made friends through his business relationships. After his retirement, he went on to maintain those friendships, traveling to visit people he had met over the course of his career.