Satellite Industries Celebrates 60 Years in the Industry

Al Hilde’s dream became a reality with operators in over 130 countries using Satellite Industries products to create safe, sanitary conditions in their communities

Satellite Industries Celebrates 60 Years in the Industry

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Al Hilde was a young Army recruit stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, back in the late ’50s. Early on, he learned not to like latrines. It wasn’t just an Army issue either. He thought about construction sites where there were no bathrooms. An idea began to take shape in his mind about creating a business to provide private, sanitary bathroom facilities in places where permanent bathrooms were not available. Of course, if he did build a business, it would need a name.

In the fall of 1957, the most newsworthy story was about sputnik, the first ever satellite. Hilde knew he wanted a company name that would be perceived as important and vital. What better way to create that perception than naming it after the most cutting-edge technology at the time? Before Hilde ever built his first rental toilet, he had a company name … Satellite.

Hilde left Fort Hood in 1958 with a dream, a company name and his first homemade, wooden portable toilet. By the late ’60s, Satellite Industries was a well-established portable sanitation business in Minneapolis and beyond. Hilde was building his business rapidly while constantly thinking about product improvements for his restroom fleet, service trucks and deodorizers.

A significant product advancement occurred in 1972 with the creation of the Tufway. This revolutionary, polyethylene toilet was much easier to transport, move, and clean than a wooden toilet, and it wasn’t long before Satellite’s competitors began asking Hilde if he would be willing to sell them Tufways.

Phil Juaire, Satellite’s sales manager in 1972, remembers the first Tufway sale. “I was in a pickup truck traveling to a national show in San Diego with the very first Tufway in the back. Just past Las Vegas, I looked in my mirror and saw it tumbling across the pavement. Stopping quickly, I retrieved the unit with its scuff marks, but no broken parts.

"At the show, I was explaining to a potential customer why there were scuff marks. He asked me how fast I was traveling when it fell out of the truck. I told him 55 mph. He bought the demo unit and put in an order for more toilets. I guess it was a pretty good testimony of the durability.”

Sales of Tufways grew quickly, with one of the most significant customers being Dixie in Germany, which today is one of the largest operations in the world.

By 1988, Hilde made the decision to sell his service business and concentrate on becoming a supplier of restrooms, trucks, and deodorizers. At the time of the sale, Satellite had operations in nine states throughout the Midwest region of the United States.

Sixty years has passed since the company first started with a small fleet of wooden toilets in Minneapolis and the hope that portable sanitation would be a benefit to many others. Today, the dream has become a reality, with operators in over 130 countries using Satellite products to create safe, sanitary conditions in their communities.

At the Water & Wastewater Equipment, Treatment & Transport (WWETT) Show, Satellite celebrated 60 years by giving away 60 gifts to operators as a thank-you for their continued business. Two commemorative T-shirts were also created, with images of older trucks and restrooms. The proceeds of the T-shirt sales were donated to Karibu Loo, a portable restroom business in Kenya run by children and young adults to help them pay for schooling.

Congratulations to Satellite for 60 years of valuable contributions to the portable sanitation industry.


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