Founded in 1965 by Dr. Charles Whiteside, the company has seen substantial growth and numerous physical expansions over the years. Today, the modern analytical testing facility continues to be an innovator in the field.
While Ana-Lab spearheads new-and-improved methodologies, such as the still-fresh QAC analysis developed to help wastewater treatment facilities face novel challenges caused by COVID-19, Kilgore Economic Development Corporation has had the opportunity to support the company and fuel its growth.
Though headquartered in Kilgore since its inception, the operation also has eight regional offices throughout Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma. According to Ana-Lab’s Tayna Chitwood, those offices are primarily focused on the collection of samples that are then sent to the primary facility in Kilgore for testing and analysis. As one of the largest labs of its kind in the United States, Ana-Lab also receives samples – industrial, commercial, civic, and even residential – from American clients outside its central service area (and some international customers as well).
“It’s all specific to what the client needs per their regulatory agencies,” Chitwood said, “and what certification those labs require. We partner together with a lot of different laboratories just to make sure we’re meeting our clients’ needs – that they’re getting the correct methods, that they have everything the regulatory agencies require.”
Ana-Lab is employee owned, with a Board of Directors and an Executive Team. The company launched its Employee Stock Ownership Plan in 2003, and a decade later it topped the list of things Whiteside took pride in at the company’s 50-year anniversary.
Ana-Lab has worked with Kilgore EDC through multiple Economic Development Performance Agreements – in 2000, 2004, 2008, and 2019 – in addition to a 2004 tax abatement coordinated with the City of Kilgore, Gregg County, and Kilgore College.
The 2004 agreement was a major milestone in the company’s history, tied to the construction of a new 9,600 square-foot, $1.3 million administration building. Under the terms of the three-year EDPA, KEDC pledged $50,000 in incentives to the company for capital improvements and an increase to the employee roster at Ana-Lab’s headquarters at 2600 Dudley Road, the fifth construction-expansion for the company.
In recent years, Chitwood added, KEDC was instrumental in another significant expansion for the company: the economic development corporation helped facilitate Ana-Lab’s growth into another off-site facility on a major industrial corridor. The latest addition enabled the company to relocate its business office; Human Resources, Accounting, and other personnel are now collected under one roof on Hwy. 135, and Ana-Lab has filled the vacated first floor space of its Dudley Road HQ with more square footage for labs and essential equipment.
The expanded laboratory space further supports Ana-Lab’s role as a driver in the testing field. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the East Texas operation developed its QAC analysis to help personnel at municipal wastewater treatment plants test for an influx of chemicals that were damaging their processes.
“When COVID happened, everyone started cleaning more,” Chitwood said. “By cleaning more, a lot more chemicals went down in the drains then to wastewater treatment plants – it was shutting down those facilities,” and the QAC test helped identify the problem and reach solutions faster.
More methods are always in the works as Ana-Lab seeks to better-serve its clientele.
“At the end of January, we hit 2 million samples that have been received and started. That was a milestone as well,” Chitwood added. “The biggest thing is we want to be seen as a reliable lab that gets you data-defensible analysis.” Even while focused on data, Ana-Lab also works hard to serve real people, even if just minimizing customer service automation so callers can count on getting an actual person on the phone: “We want that family-like relationship with our clients.”
With new methods and analyses in the pipeline, the company is working to craft new opportunities that will benefit the Kilgore community, as well.
“Lord willing, we’ll need to have more employees, which opens up more jobs for the area,” Chitwood said. “We have Master’s degree chemists, we have doctorates as consultants… We have just a diverse group from our customer service base to scientists.”
Including all facilities and the regional offices, Ana-Lab has about 90 employees, most of them located in Kilgore. Through the ESOP, every employee is a part-owner of the company.
“That's been beneficial for the employees to have different stock options into the company. The better our company does, the better our employees do,” Chitwood said, and they have a common purpose at Ana-Lab, to STRIVE – focusing on Safety, the Team, Results, Integrity, Vision, and Excellence. “We’re putting any and all effort into helping the environment and our clients.”