David Grant On Track With Fast Company

By Bill Corbett

An Alberta trained engineer, David Grant, is turning  Omni-Lite Industries into a heavyweight in the production of lightweight composites.

hen Michael Johnson ran to stunning victories in the 200 and 400 metres at the 1996  Atlanta Olympics, David Grant, P.Eng., was among millions watching the blur of the American runner's famous gold shoes. But unlike other enthralled viewers, the Calgary engineer's focus was on the bottom of those featherweight shoes.

Mr. Grant's Calgary-based company, Omni-Lite Industries Inc., manufactured the spikes moulded into the shoes' soles, perhaps helping Mr. Johnson shave fractions of a second en route to his decisive world record in the 200 metres and to other victories, such as in the 400 metres at the World Track and Field Championship, this summer in Greece (Marion Jones, winner of the women's 100 metres in Athens also wore Omni-Lite spikes).

That's because these are no ordinary spikes. They are made from a space-age ceramic material that compresses the track rather than bite into it, thus transferring energy back to the runner.

As well, they are one-third the weight, yet just as strong, as traditional steel spikes.

Many Other Uses Too

Needless to say, Omni-Lite's spikes are worth their weight in gold. In fact, they helped athletes win 20 gold medals at the Atlanta Games. But these accomplishments are just the glitter for a fledgling company that makes 65 products -- made of lightweight carbon fibre and metal matrix composites -- sold around the world and used in everything from  Chrysler cars to the space shuttle. Omni-Lite, which recently became listed on the Alberta Stock Exchange, should generate revenues of $1 million this year.

"For an engineer, to build something that is used in the space shuttle and the Olympics is the piece de resistance," says the 44-year-old Mr. Grant, who as Omni-Lite's chief executive officer divides his time between the Calgary head office and the company's California plant.

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