Senator Barrasso visits Diamondville business

COURTESY PHOTO / Jennifer Haessig

Sen. John Barrasso visited Diamondville business Stinger V on Oct. 24. Barrasso is pictured with the Stinger V team: Axel Backman, Anna Ellis, Tammie O’Neil, Jennifer Haessig, Cynthia Langley, Sen. John Barrasso, Mark Langley and Robert Langley.

DIAMONDVILLE — It’s not every day a person finds themselves in their own kitchen, chatting with a U.S. senator about health care and the Wyoming economy. But that’s exactly what happened to Diamondville residents and business owners Mark and Cynthia Langley on Wednesday, Oct. 24.

Continuing a tradition of visiting and supporting small Wyoming businesses, and just one day after President Trump signed his 2018 Water Infrastructure Act — to which he was a witness — Sen. John Barrasso traveled to Lincoln County  to learn about Stinger V, a Diamondville home-based business owned by the Langleys.

“That’s the beauty of Wyoming,” Barrasso said, referring to his interest in and support of small business. As a large state with few residents comprising many small towns, small businesses are a big part of Wyoming culture.

In a state and county dominated by energy, Stinger V has established a foothold within the industry by way of a unique take on a time-honored product used in shielded metal arc welding (SMAW) — electrode holders, commonly referred to as “stingers.”

Also known as “stick welding,” SMAW is achieved by the flow of electric current between an electrode and the metal material being joined. An electrode holder not only provides the current for this process, but is the tool that allows a welder the means to control the size, shape, and direction of the molten metal produced when the current travels through the electrode to the base material.

The time between having an idea and making it a reality is not brief.  From conception to manufacture and distribution, the process took the Langleys three years and a tremendous amount of work. Mark’s original goal, however, was not development and nation-wide distribution.

“I did it for myself to use, actually,” Mark said. “I was frustrated with the ones that were on the market. They hadn’t changed the holders since the invention of the arc welder. Engineers [of electrode holders] didn’t know what welders needed and were frustrated with.  The business has been life-changing. If it weren’t for that, I’d still be hunting down construction jobs.”

Of assistance in this process was the annual Inventors Conference hosted by Sen. Mike Enzi. The 2018 conference theme, “From Your Garage to the Assembly Line,” succinctly sums up the Langleys’ path.  From an idea, Mark developed prototypes. With a prototype, he and Cynthia secured a provisional patent. With the provisional patent in hand, they needed drawings from which manufacturers could produce parts, and so on.

Unfortunately, none of this work would guarantee product success. Armed with the knowledge that the product was a solid idea and would be, to an extent, a bit revolutionary as far as electrode holder technology went, the Langleys made good use of the resources highlighted at the conference.

They partnered with Wyoming Technology Transfer and Research Center at the University of Wyoming director Davona Douglass to conduct market research. The project was eye-opening and provided solid numbers from which the couple could draw assurance to forge ahead.

Sen. Barrasso listens as Stinger V employees Axel Backman and Cynthia Langley explain the stinger’s components. The Diamondville business is owned and operated by Mark and Cynthia Langley.

As it turned out, the study determined that 120,000 electrode holders are sold every month. From those numbers, Douglass and her team were able to calculate that capturing just one percent of that market could make the product a success and worth the investment.

Fast forward to 2018. The patent is no longer provisional and Barrasso is in their shop, while Cynthia and Axel Backman, technician and part of Stinger V’s human assembly line, demonstrate for him both the manufacturing process and the differences between the Stinger V stingers and traditional stingers.

What distinguishes the Stinger V product from others is the “v” insert, into which the electrode is inserted and secured, thereby preventing the electrode from being knocked from the holder, which is more easily done with traditional holders that hold the electrode with scissor-like action.

“Its success is obvious,” Barrasso said as he examined the product, noting the differences between the traditional holders and the Stinger V design.

Cynthia beams with pride as Mark quietly watches. He may have been the one who conceived of and built the prototypes, but he is content letting Cynthia handle the demonstration. It was, after all, her dedication to the day-to-day operations and some time on Twitter that were instrumental in the senator’s visit. Upon seeing a tweet from Barrasso’s office about a visit to another small business in Wyoming, she replied, inviting the senator to Diamondville to see their operation.

“I had my reservations about staying here [in Wyoming], but the longer we stayed, the more I realized that Wyoming was the perfect place to start a business,” Cynthia said. “The lack of state income tax and the available resources make it ideal. We still hear from Enzi’s office and from Davona [Douglass]. And in what other state would we find ourselves talking to a U.S. senator, in our house, interested in what we do and need as business owners? I don’t think you could find that anywhere else.”