Manatee County business joins fight against terrorism
The latest technology in preventing terrorists from setting off explosives and taking the lives of innocent civilians is being developed – and soon produced – in Manatee County.
Trace Eye-D is a start-up, veteran-owned security development company with a focus on counter terrorism that has developed the science to detect explosive material traces with their patented chemical mixtures. The chemicals are infused into an easy-to-use wipe and can reveal the presence of explosive materials almost instantaneously.
The company has developed a wipe for commonly used nitrate-based – or military-grade – explosives, but also for homemade hydrogen peroxide-based explosive materials undetectable until now.
“There is a key distinction between the two,” said Trace Eye-D CEO Chris Baden, a sixth-generation Manatee County native. “There is no adoptive technology the government has right now to detect hydrogen peroxide-based explosives.”
More frequently, terrorists are using less-sophisticated homemade devices made with everyday components to try to circumvent current U.S. technology that can detect nitrate-based explosives.
“Presently, the (Transportation Security Administration) has a system that involves an expensive piece of machinery that collects the sample and the machine will determine if there are any nitrate-based materials,” Baden said. “It doesn’t work on peroxide materials and it can’t be reprogrammed to detect those materials. We’ve been working together as a team since 2012 in other areas of counter-terrorism projects and technology, but we’ve seen a need to reliably and quickly detect the presence of explosive materials.”
Director of research and development Barry Gorski, a retired U.S. Marine, chemist and manufacturing specialist, developed the chemical mixture. Rob Hartwell, of Hartwell Capitol, serves as the chief marketing officer and Scott Andrews is the company’s director of information technology and software development.
The company potentially could eliminate the need for expensive machines and provide a low-cost opportunity that, thus far, has recorded a 99.7 percent success rate in detecting explosive materials, Baden said. It’s also easy to use and easily portable, making its uses in the field by law enforcement agencies and potentially military personnel invaluable to test suspicious packages or persons quickly and on site.
However, the first to eye its potential was the TSA.
“We traveled to Washington, D.C., last June and met with the TSA at Ronald Reagan Airport and they expressed keen interest in our technology,” Baden said. “Their main question was, ‘How many and how soon?’ The development state at that time indicated we had more testing to do before it was a product ready for market. But since June, we’ve done very successful field trials under the observation of the TSA at a major airport.”
The company has now set up in-house production and their product could be helping to save lives in the near future.
“The TSA sees an absolute need for capabilities to detect hydrogen-peroxide explosive threats,” Baden said. “And to our knowledge, no product performs as well as ours. But it also requires very little training to use and is portable for other law enforcement and security agencies working large sporting events and entertainment venues and it requires no electricity. We are currently setting up production equipment and expect to have trial samples for the TSA and others in the very near future.”
Baden’s father, Ray Baden, is one of the principal owners of the company and said he has been inspired by the capabilities of this team and the opportunities for this technology. The Badens are, by spirit, an entrepreneurial and philanthropic family. Ray Baden is known in the community for his annual check giveaways at Christmas and the family is a major donor to agencies across the county.
Starting this venture within Bradenton’s Station 2 Innovation Center, operated by Spark Growth founders Sara Hand and Stan Schultes, was a perfect fit given their networking expertise.
This could be another game-changing business for Manatee County.
Sara Hand, Station 2 Innovation Center
“That’s what makes this even more exciting,” Hand said. “Mr. Baden is super excited because for him, success means more opportunity to give even more back to the community. That I love because that’s what it comes down to for us at Station 2. Success, business growth, but community first. That’s why community is so critical. That’s where people find one another and what makes our city and region so special.”
Baden said Station 2 played a key role in launching the company.
“Station 2 has been a big supporter and adviser to our company,” he said. “Our current business relationships and investors have all been developed through the Station 2 experience.”
Hand said the launch of Trace-Eye-D is a perfect example of community networking.
“This could be another game-changing business for Manatee County,” Hand said. “This is huge, and sometimes when you take on something that huge, it can be a little scary. We are just kind of there as a resource and we were able to connect Trace-Eye-D with a financial consulting company with great expertise in the Hartwell Capitol Consulting and Cleveland-based Taft Law that has those specific science and defense skills needed to create their core team.”
Hand said Trace-Eye-D could have outsourced manufacturing and the fact that they will do it in-house in Manatee County is what separates the city of Bradenton and Manatee County from other metro areas.
“The Badens invest heavily in the community and always have,” Hand said. “Real successful businesses and how we measure real success in Manatee County is not just growing a business and making money. We measure how they participate in the community. These companies invest not because it’s some type of promotional piece, but because that’s where their hearts are.”
Our mission is to save lives and make travel safer and give the traveling public a higher sense of confidence that they will get to their destination.
Chris Baden, CEO of Trace-Eye-D
The company also has partnered with the State College of Florida. Baden said along with the Myakka Research Group, high-performing students were asked to help with double blind lab experiments as the product was being developed.
“No one was certain how it would take off, but more than three years later the program has been adopted by the college and it’s now a college credit for a one-hour course and we are quite proud of that,” Baden said. “We’ve established scholarship funds, which have been awarded twice already for two students who went into medical research and engineering.
“It was always a dream of my dad’s to inspire young people to be involved in the sciences and engineering and we hope to grow that program.”