Not many people know what goes on inside the big walls of Petersen Inc. in Farr West. The big warehouse-looking building holds insides its walls the makings of just about any kind of high-end manufacturing you can think of. This includes steel products, exotic metals, machines, and dissolving nuclear waste. They even manufacture roller coasters.
“We try to keep some things very, very, very, secret. Not because what we are doing is wrong but because we respect the intellectual property of those we do the work for,” said Rob Despain, Vice President of Business Development at Petersen Inc.
The work done at Petersen is quite varied and they are in the business of producing high quality and engineered products. “Sometimes people think we have a product, but usually someone comes to us with something on paper and we produce it. Pretty much if you can draw it, we can produce it,” he said.
That makes for a large workforce – about 500 people with varied educational backgrounds. “We absolutely have people who can come in and work here off the street,” Despain said. But they also have employees with high level engineering degrees.
Petersen Inc. was founded in 1961 as a manufacturer and has progressed steadily in that industry. The company has grown and gained international respect for its hard work and close precision detail. Right now, Petersen has been doing a lot of work in the nuclear business – the clean-up nuclear business. “Our country produces a lot of nuclear waste,” Despain said. Petersen Inc. has been working for 17 or 18 years to create products that will process nuclear waste more efficiently. Their work falls in line with nuclear clean-up and nuclear power.
“There are no warheads or bombs here. We are on the good side of nuclear power,” he said.
Aerospace engineering is also a big component of what they do. Despain said they provide a lot of the ground support products that go into aerospace engineering, things like casings for rocket motors. “That’s kind of fun,” Despain said.
Contracts for the Department of Defense are also carried out at Petersen. And while Despain couldn’t go into a lot of details about some of the contracts there, he admitted the work is exciting and rewarding. The amusement park work also fits that description.
“Some people have heard about the Jimmy Fallon ride at Universal Studios. Every part of that ride was done here,” he said. That was kept under raps for quite a while, but once Fallon announced it on his show and the cat was out of the bag, Despain said it was fun for people to know Petersen Inc. created the ride.
Despain said a project like that can take from six month to a year to complete. “It is a very sophisticated product. That ride will be open 20 hours a day 364 days a year. There is a lot that goes into that,” he noted. “So many people just see and think about the seats and what they see on the ride, they don’t realize how much thought goes into just the what is below the seats,” Despain said.
There is always a level of excitement happening at Petersen Inc. “We are continually upgrading our facilities because we want to be more efficient. There is excitement in that,” Despain said. Also, when they think about how many lives their work touches – from a platform at NASA to helping the United States troops to watching people get big thrills from amusement park rides, it is all happening at Petersen Inc.
Despain pointed out that Petersen Inc. is not a place for widget products. “There is a place for that, but it’s not us,” he noted. They like the diversity their business offers and the fact that their products are ever-changing based on the needs of the clients.
And why do they stay in Ogden? “It’s home. We could be anywhere in the United States. We don’t stay here for any other reason than that it’s where we love living, working, recreating and raising a family. We just love Ogden, Utah,” Despain said.