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YSI evolves with the times into global sensors player in outdoor water market

It started in the late 1940s when two entrepreneurial-minded engineers joined a chemist and formed Yellow Springs Instruments. The startup's first success was an innovative crystal clock, sold to the Air Force.

Today, the company is known simply as YSI, Inc. and is a global player, with 380 employees around the world and revenues of about $100 million. And while it has demonstrated expertise in a number of sensor applications over the years, it now focuses on the natural resource water market. In other words data collection for ponds, oceans, rivers and streams.

Gayle Rominger, YSI's executive VP, says that focus has been a successful strategy built on a solid foundation.

"(The founders) were tremendously successful, but we ended up being in several different markets," Rominger explains. "The temperature market, the biomedical market and the water market. And those were big markets. So it came to the point where if we were going to get to the next level we really needed to pick a market and develop a strategy to go after that market."

Toxic algae in your pond? YSI makes sensors that can measure oxygen and particles leading to algae blooms. Runoff from the Maumee River into Lake Erie? YSI can detect and measure the problem.

President and CEO Rick Omlor says demand for YSI products differ around the world. China has emerged as a prime source for YSI products, he says.

"While we care a lot about water quality, some areas of the world care about water velocity and water quantity," he explains. For example, some global customers are concerned about flooding, or water needed for hydro power or transportation.

Over the years, YSI has benefited from Ohio Third Frontier funds, including a $1.1 million award in April to YSI, Riehl Engineering and the University of Cincinnati to develop a new kind of sensor for measuring nitrates in water.

The company employs 130 at its Yellow Springs headquarters.

Sources: Rick Omlor and Gayle Rominger, YSI
Writer: Gene Monteith
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