By James Dowd, The Commercial Appeal, 2/15/11
Phil Coop’s passion for environmental preservation is the foundation of his company, EnSafe. He is a 2011 inductee into the Society of Entrepreneurs.
From the early years spent on his family’s farm in Bell Buckle, Tenn., through studies at The Webb School and Harvard University, Phil Coop always loved one subject above all others: science.
That fascination eventually evolved into a passion for environmental preservation, which Coop later used as the foundation for his company, EnSafe.
The Memphis-based consulting firm, which started as a one-room operation and today counts some 15 offices across the country, specializes in environmental safety procedures at sites around the world.
More than three decades after establishing his global operation, the Memphis businessman’s achievements are being recognized by the Society of Entrepreneurs. Coop will be formally inducted into the organization April 9.
“In the beginning, we were winging it because there was no business model in the industry for what we were doing,” Coop said. “It’s wonderful to have succeeded on this level, and being honored for that by the society is humbling.”
Arriving in Memphis in 1973 to attend medical school, Coop soon realized his interests were elsewhere, so he changed his career path to concentrate in environmental testing. After a few years of working for other firms, Coop branched out on his own in 1980 and founded EnSafe with Wendell Knight and James Speakman.
Because of increasing government regulations regarding environmental policies, Coop managed to get in on the ground floor of what was then a relatively nonexistent industry.
“Public policy was driving stronger environmental protection laws, but the scientific community was behind the curve and we felt there was an opportunity to step in and fill that void,” Coop said. “There was a big need for companies to adhere to increasing compliance issues and we managed to tap into that developing market.”
And that they did.
Helping companies address and resolve environmental issues proved successful, so much so that by 1994 EnSafe was named by Inc. magazine as one of the 500 fastest-growing companies in the country.
“Phil is truly a remarkable story of innovation and inspiration, from modest beginnings to overseeing a company with global outreach,” said Pearson Crutcher, executive director of SOE. “He continues to improve our community and those throughout the world, and his emphasis on education ensures that new generations will focus on environmental issues.”
Coop received the 2004 University of Memphis Herff Award for distinguished service to engineering and currently serves as chairman of The Webb School board of trustees.
In addition, he has been an integral part of advisory boards for the engineering schools at the U of M and at Christian Brothers University, and has active roles in a wide-ranging spectrum of community organizations.
“Phil is dedicated to environmental improvement and preservation, and he’s creating opportunities for others to continue in that work,” said Dr. Eric B. Welch, dean of the school of engineering at CBU. “His impact on our school, our community and our environment has been substantial and he’s incredibly deserving of this honor.”
Occupation: President and CEO of EnSafe
Company Address: 5724 Summer Trees Dr.
Employees: 260 in 15 offices across the country