Jacques Côté is the founder and serves as Chairman of the Board at Solmax, the largest geosynthetics manufacturing group in the world. Mr. Côté helped establish the IGS Foundation in 2019 and currently is running for a new, full four-year term on the Council now.
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As you seek a second term on the IGS Council, what are you proudest of with the IGS from the past four years?
The achievement that I am most proud of over the past four years was gaining from the IGS Council an approval for the establishment of the IGS Foundation in 2019. To date, the mission of the IGS Foundation is to support educational initiatives capable of understanding and promoting the appropriate use of geosynthetic technology throughout the world, thus enabling a reduction of our carbon footprint for the benefit of humanity. This mission fully supports the IGS mission statement that is “To provide an understanding and promote the appropriate use of geosynthetic technology throughout the world.”
After decades spent building your company, what inspired you to focus on IGS Council service and helping launch the IGS Foundation?
Giving back for me was my way of saying thank you for what I received. From a professional and human point of view, the geosynthetics industry has brought me a lot. Now was the time to give back to this great industry, so the main goal is to protect our world today for the benefit of future generations.
Are there specific endeavors you hope the IGS Council puts a stronger focus on in next Council cycle?
I believe that a major effort must be put on greater involvement of all IGS members in the realization of the vision of their Society. For my part, I would like to work to bring together Corporate Members to obtain their collaboration in the achievement of the IGS sustainable development vision with regard to the use of geosynthetic products in applications for the reduction of greenhouse gases. This endeavor will preserve the quality of life for our future generations. It would also be important to emphasize the promotion of all the services and tools that the IGS has developed over the last few years and which are not used enough by the people and organizations who need them most, because many of them do not know that these resources exist.
Finally, I believe that it is important to have a strong link between the IGS and the IGS Foundation to ensure a harmonious alignment of these two entities toward the future. I am certainly the person who could fulfill this role!
What exciting opportunities do you see coming for the geosynthetics field in the next few years?
What I see in the next few years is a significant increase in the use of geosynthetics for two main reasons. The first is for cost reasons: applications using geosynthetics can replace large volumes of natural materials, thus making the purpose of a project more economical. Secondly, for environmental reasons: the use of geosynthetics allows the preservation of our natural resources and makes it possible to reduce the carbon footprint in the realization of our infrastructure projects. Moreover, in the years to come I also see great efforts that will be employed in our industry to innovate. In this respect, we have at my own company a group of dedicated people so the raison d’être is to find disruptive technologies in relation to the use of geosynthetics both from a products and applications point of view.
All superheroes have an origin story. How were you introduced to geosynthetics?
My dream when I was an engineering student in Canada was to do international cooperation and more specifically to build roads in Africa. At the end of my studies in 1978, I was offered the opportunity to work in a small manufacturing company (TEXEL) which manufactured non-woven products, therefore a new product called geotextile. They needed a young engineer to do the technical and commercial representation of this new product. My first geotextile initiator was Jean-Paul Drouin, a mentor who introduced me to the technology of needlepunched nonwoven products and marketing techniques for these products. On the other hand, I was far from my dream of adventure of going to build roads in distant countries. In July of the same year, I had the chance to attend a conference in Manchester, UK on geotextiles and their applications. This is where I met my second initiator. During this conference there was a presentation made on the subject by the ‘young and dynamic’ Dr. Jean-Pierre Giroud from the University of Grenobles. I was impressed by the clarity and eloquence of his talk on the functions of geotextiles and the obvious advantages of using these new materials in civil engineering infrastructure applications. My conclusion was immediate: I’m in the right industry!
There is a lot to do and I like challenges. My third and fourth initiators were Dr. André Rollin from the Polytechnic School of Montreal who had Bob Denis as a master’s student. These two persons allowed me to evolve in the learning of geosynthetic technology. They have been apostles and builders of our industry.
Finally, today I can confirm to you that I made the right decision to make a career in this beautiful industry that is geosynthetics. I have never built roads in Africa but I have supplied geosynthetics to build them and installed thousands of square meters of them during my years on construction sites all over the world. In the end, however, I succeeded in realizing my adventurer’s dream.
THE 2022 “5 QUESTIONS” SERIES FOR THE IGS ELECTIONS