Harnessing Innovation for a Better Planet with Gore’s Amos Wampler

May 2, 2023

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Amos Wampler is a career chemist and Enterprise Capabilities Associate with W. L. Gore & Associates. After earning his Bachelor of Science Degree in Chemistry from Bucknell University, Amos became a Chemistry teacher in the Christiana School District. Shortly thereafter, he joined Gore in 1997 as a Manufacturing Chemist where he worked to continuously improve adhesive processing and performance while collaborating with downstream partners to ensure products’ fitness for use. In 2001, Amos became a Thermal Analyst with Gore where he delivered results and analysis for troubleshooting and new product development projects. During his time in this role, he returned to school in 2003 to work toward his Masters of Material Science at the University of Delaware.

He then transitioned within the Enterprise to Characterization Technologist where he provided broad fluoropolymer characterization knowledge within Gore’s Core Technology and worked with scientists and engineers to develop meaningful R&D test methods, including introducing some new characterization methods. He continued to develop deep materials understanding through multi-faceted characterization efforts and the exploration of new materials.

John Shegerian: Listen to the Impact podcast on all your favorite podcast platforms, including Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, iHeartRadio, Audible, Spotify, Stitcher, and of course, at impactpodcast.com. This edition of The Impact Podcast is brought to you by ERI. ERI has a mission to protect people, the planet, and your privacy, and is the largest fully integrated IT and electronics asset disposition provider and cybersecurity-focused hardware destruction company in the United States and maybe even the world. For more information on how ERI can help your business properly dispose of outdated electronic hardware devices, please visit eridirect.com.

John: This episode of The Impact Podcast is brought to you by CO2.com. Companies today are trying to figure out how to achieve high-quality climate credentials. CO2.com is the easy button for any business to go beyond offsetting and fund truly impactful projects across carbon, nature, and community. CO2 provides verified metrics that can be used in reporting and messaging. Have confidence in demonstrating your climate leadership. Go to CO2.com to access quality climate credentials you can trust on the road to net zero and nature positive.

John: Welcome to another edition of The Impact Podcast. I’m so honored to have with us today Amos Wampler. He’s the Enterprise Capabilities Associate for W.L. Gore & Associates. Welcome, Amos, to The Impact Podcast.

Amos Wampler: Thanks very much, John. Thanks for having me. Appreciate your time. Happy to be here.

John: Well, before we get talking about all the innovation and great things that you and your colleagues are doing at Gore, can you share a little bit about your amazing background journey? Where you grew up and how you even got here?

Amos: Sure. Yes, I’d be happy to. It’s kind of fun. So we’re here in the Capability Center at Barksdale in Newark, Delaware, right? Where we’re headquartered. That also happens to be where, I guess, I’m headquartered. The 19711 zip code has been where I’ve lived my whole life. So I grew up just a few miles from here, went away to college, came back, I actually started teaching here in the area and was looking for a change and decided to try Gore. And 25 years later, still here, right? And just been a phenomenal place to work. All kinds of different things I’ve been able to do, finally landing in the Capability Center here. This is kind of a corporate welcome center where we bring in partners, suppliers, customers, interview candidates, anybody who wants to learn a little bit more about Gore. We share our products, we share our history, we share our materials with them so they get hopefully excited to work with us or even want to join us.

John: Yes. Is the Gore family too, that part of Delaware? What, like the Walmart family is to Bentonville, Arkansas, is it the same thing? Is it a legendary family and the Gore brand, just the legendary brand that everyone rallies around all the time over there?

Amos: Lots of people know Gore, obviously, of course, right? I’d say the Gore family and the enterprise to some extent, we try, we’re pretty quiet about things. So a lot of times you wouldn’t necessarily know that you’ve bumped into some of the folks around here.

John: Good.

Amos: And that they’re connected with the Gore family. It’s kind of hard to be too quiet when you employ a couple thousand people right in the general area, 13,000 globally.

John: Unbelievable.

Amos: So the family, wonderful people and always very humble and actually involved in the day-to-day business as well.

John: And also, let’s just say this, compared to other iconic American brands, which are wonderful as well, such as Walmart and others. Yep. Your Gore brand, which our listeners and viewers confide at www.gore.com is a privately held enterprise.

Amos: Yes.

John: Wow.

Amos: Yes. Privately held from day one continues to be. So the only way that you can hold stock in Gore is to either be a family member or to be an associate. So those of us who are associates who join and work as part of the enterprise, we we start to collect stock. We own a piece of this, right? So it’s great incentives, not just in the pride of knowing that you kind of own a piece of the company, right?

John: Yes.

Amos: But it really is a little bit extra drive too to make sure that we’re putting out products that are helping people, that we’re doing our absolute best because, might be a little selfish, but ultimately we benefit from that.

John: That is just awesome. I got to share this with you off the year before we got going here. We’re going to talk about it later on ’cause we’re going to go into more specifics, but your background is just literally probably the best ever we’ve had on this show. And I love your purposeful innovation. That’s just innovation is what makes America great. And your company’s just a great example of it, and purposeful innovation is even better. Let’s get talking though about sustainability and innovations and the Global Gore enterprise. Talk a little bit about innovation and sustainability coming together at Gore and how that’s part of really the culture at Gore historically. Could you go into that a little bit, Amos?

Amos: Sure, yes, absolutely. The innovation from day one was the reason why W.L. Gore and Associates just sounded in the first place was because Mr. Gore had this idea working at DuPont, had an idea of using ptfe for insulation for wiring cable. Dupont wasn’t interested in finished goods. So they reached an agreement and he started W.L. Gore Associates making wire and cable. We’ve obviously grown a little bit since then, but that was the original idea. And Mr. Gore saw the beginnings of the computer industry and the need for high performance wiring cable, and that’s kind of where we got started.

John: Alright.

Amos: Sustainability, I’d say has always been part of what we do. The Gores by their own nature, who came from out West avid outdoors people always looking for ways to kind of protect the environment. So as the products grew, Gore-TEX as an example. As providing a way for people to feel, to be comfortable, to be safe, to be warm and dry and explore this great planet that we have. In addition, it’s great to have all these other products that we have around not just to allow people to enjoy the environment, but to protect the environment itself. For industrial filtration and a variety of venting. And this guy right here is a fuel cell engines. So we’ll be able to talk a a little bit about that as well. Just a variety of ways that we’re looking to try to just improve life, right? Improve life on this planet.

John: Of course, history really is developing technologies and products and materials that support sustainability and environmental protection. So, I’m looking at this fascinating background that you have. You mean there’s everything from, as you say, outerwear clothing, which I’ve worn since I was a child’s Gore, the famous Cortex brand. That was a huge deal when that hit the marketplace. But I also see shoes and boots and running shoes and all sorts of other even mechanical devices behind you and things of that such. Share some of your favorite examples of technologies and products and materials where sustainability and environmental protection come together.

Amos: Fuel cells is a great example, right?

John: Yes, it would.

Amos: And it even comes back to us being privately held. So we’ve been at fuel cells for over 25 years. And the early days, there wasn’t really any money to be made at it, but we knew it was the right thing to chase down. We knew we had the materials and the people to be able to figure this out. So where maybe a more traditional company might be worried about like, “Hey, do you keep pumping investment into this? And we’re not seeing any return.” We knew the return was going to come. It just was maybe a longer timeframe than some other people would be comfortable with. Now, that we’re there, we’ve got wonderful contracts with a variety of manufacturers to be able to produce these engines that go into cars that now run on hydrogen, right? And so the only thing coming out your tailpipe is water.

John: Wow.

Amos: Our materials allow that to happen. So by understanding the materials, understanding the end use, understanding things like durability, no one’s going to buy a fuel cell engine if it chunks out after 5,000 or 10,000 miles. It’s got to last as long as a car, it’s got to sit in a car. A lot of different design challenges. But we’ve been at it for a while and we know at this point we’re the best in the world at it.

John: Wow. What kind of adoption do you believe will happen this EV, we have traditional cars that run on, obviously fossil fuels. We have the new EV generation coming up, now hydrogen fuel cell driven cars. How is that going to break down in the near term to come? What’s your thinking in terms of adoption?

Amos: Some of these things are kind of tough to predict, but if we just focus on, let’s skip fossil fuels for right now, right?

John: Yes. Of course, of course.

Amos: But at the point we focus on the two that are coming out. So we’ve got batteries and we’ve got fuel cells. I don’t know that there’s a technology that’s going to be a one solution for everything, right? They both have their strengths.

John: Sure.

Amos: One of the really nice things about fuel cells is like a traditional gas engine you pull up to a hydrogen station, If there is one, you fill up your car in five minutes on your way, again, you got a full tank as opposed to the longer times you might need to charge a battery. So it’s one of the limitations, of course, we have then is getting hydrogen, right? In some places in the world, it’s a little bit easier to get to. We’re still trying to find our way in the US a little bit.

John: Sure.

Amos: But I think it’s coming. I think it’s coming. And one of the reasons I think it’s coming actually is because we’re involved with that, right? So if you think about it, if you run a fuel cell backwards instead of burning hydrogen, you’re actually, you can split water and create hydrogen. So it’s not too far off of the technology that’s in this guy that allows us to be able to create hydrogen, to generate hydrogen. So we are definitely active in that space as well so that we can provide the hydrogen needed to move our automotive society, if you will, to a cleaner solution.

John: Right. That’s so fascinating. I have lots of friends that tell me, John, hydrogen is where the whole world’s going. I mean, just, there’s a lot of people that really believe hydrogen is really where hydrogen is. Just the puck is today, but where the puck is really going. So it’s just fascinating purposeful innovation. That’s such a great one-two punch of wording. And the way I see what you’re doing here, Amos, is there’s an outward product that you create that supports the environment and sustainability, but now there’s also inward sustainability, internal sustainability efforts. Can you talk a little bit about what you’re leading on the internal side at Gore in terms of sustainability efforts with your employees and the whole culture at GORe?

Amos: Yes, I mean it’s a great point, John, right? Because it’d be kind of hypocritical for us to be questioning all this green stuff and not doing anything internally, right?

John: Right.

Amos: So we’re taking a variety of steps just to make sure that we’re doing all we can to reduce our carbon footprint. That’s anything from talking advantage of our roof space, putting solar panels up here, a really cool project that’s happening, actually not too far from here. We’ve got a campus that has soccer fields and we’re moving the soccer fields from those plants to a little bit more of a remote location, and we’re putting a solar field in there because they’re actually five plants in the area. So nice big solar field to be able to supply at least as much clean power as we can. On top of that, we can’t generate all our own power. We’re just not big enough. So we’re definitely taking steps. I think in Europe we’re already a 100% renewable energy. Here in the Eastern, what we call the Eastern cluster of the eastern coast of the US, we’re really close. Western, we’re working on it in other places around the world too. So we are definitely taking those steps and looking for ways, not just in terms of energy consumption, but our production and stuff as well. So you think about things like clean rooms to make our medical devices, like what are you going to do sustainably there, right? It takes a lot of energy to run a cleaner, right? So being diligent about making sure we seal up the leaks and making sure there’s no air leakage in the room, conditioning and recycling as much as we can in that space. So that we’re not burning off a lot of extra energy to condition air when we don’t need it, right? We’re freaking keep that air, keep it conditioned, filter it, recycle it, and use it in that space. So lots of steps we’re taking internally too, to try to reduce the footprint of our processes so that we’re not even using as much energy as we need to. So we’ve got teams in growing in every plant to be able to look for those opportunities, like least energy audits and how can we continue to reduce the amount of energy. This place, for instance, when we renovated in here, a little while ago, LEDs all the way, right? So as much lighting and everything, so LEDs and the new monitors and we’re using far less power in our capability center now, obviously than we did before the renovation because we made some deliberate choices. It all adds up.

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John: Now, let’s go back. So Amos, you’ve been with the company 25 years or so, right?

Amos: Yes.

John: So your title is enterprise capabilities associate. Are you really then saying, are you the defacto chief sustainability officer or? Tell me where?

Amos: How that works, No, absolutely not. We’ve got a ton of people working on sustainability, truly is. Bernard is a wonderful associate, actually leading [inaudible]. I’m not, no, absolutely not. So one of the wonderful things about our culture, we’ve got beliefs in the individual, and we believe in the power small team, so.

John: Got it.

Amos: There are efforts that go on within each valley, each plant’s a little bit different. We don’t do any manufacturing here. We’re more of a welcome center conference center, right, for rooms and stuff. So the way that we would look after trying to save energy. Trying to be more sustainable. Are things that other plants might necessarily use, right? So things like moving away from single-use plastics and paper plates to putting in an extra dishwasher and using things that can be reused, right? So that’s not something that’s usually a concern as much with other plants. So that each plant has its own kind of little group that’s looking after, and yes, definitely we have an enterprise one, but, I’m not the guy on that one.

John: But even where you sit, what’s on a daily basis or a weekly, monthly basis or yearly basis, how is your time split on the outward products or the inward products? Where do you find spending a lot of your time?

Amos: Great question. So for us, we recognize, while this place generally has a lot of outward focus for suppliers and customers. We spend a good fraction, I’d estimate a third or so internally as well. So people wanting to come here to have team meetings, bringing in new associates, getting them excited, right? Because we know they accepted a job and they’ve got a pretty focused right area of it, but Gores pretty broad and a lot, there’s a lot of variety and, and a lot of different things. So this is a great place to bring people, bring associates, right? And for them to say, wow, I’m connected to all this, right? I might be working, shipping and receiving in some plant somewhere. And it’s critical, right? To be able to receive our own materials and to get our products out the door, right? That’s a critical piece of it. But then to get that feeling that I’m with 13,000 other associates and we’re all working together to do all this stuff, that’s a lot of fun too. So we definitely focused some of our time here getting associates to really recognize the power and the strength of the enterprise that they’ve joined. And that they’re all part of it, and it takes all of us in order to do that.

John: For our listeners and viewers who’ve just showing us, we’ve got Amos Wampler with us today. He’s the enterprise capabilities associate associate at W.L. Gore Associates, and you can find Amos and all his wonderful colleagues at www.gore.com. Amos, you’re now January 1st, 2023, Gore celebrated 65th anniversary. You’ve been there 25 years. Give us a little peek into the future of Gore and what you are really excited about to work on with your colleagues in the months and years ahead.

Amos: Yes, I think there’s a tremendous amount of excitement in terms of the innovation has never left us. That entrepreneurial spirit has been [crosstalk] so even though we’re big we’re kind of a long term large standing startup in a way, right? We continue to act that way. So it might sound a little cliche, but really one of the things that excites me most are just the people that we have. We’ve grown phenomenally over the past, even through the pandemic, we’ve grown phenomenally. And see some of the newer associates come in and challenge some of us who have been here a while, like, “Can, we do better here, or, what about this, what about this idea.” To really challenge us and to have those new ideas. I think coupling the experience from some of us who have tried some things before, maybe, maybe a while ago, right? And maybe there’s some assumptions that need to be challenged. Along with some of the new enthusiasm coming in, just wanted to get after everything all at once. Means that we’ve got some really phenomenal places to go, but more specifically, obviously sustainability is, is a major vector for us, right? And it takes a variety of different forms. It can be anything from the new line of Gore-Tex that we’ve been launching. It’s all Gore-Tex, but we’ve now released a new membrane in it. It costs, it’s a lot lower carbon footprint in order for us to produce. So you’re still getting the windproof, waterproof, usable protection that you expect out of Gore-Tex. But it didn’t cost us near as much energy to manufacture that membrane. So the overall carbon footprint for a jacket, for someone to get out to enjoy the environment means we put less of a dent in the environment in order to do that. And so to see those teams and to see that approach to say, look, we’re not giving up on any of the performance and we’re still going to make it better. We’re still going to make it an easier product on the environment. That’s just been phenomenal to see. And that’s going to, we have the, just a few coming out now, and I know there’s a lot coming in right behind it. So whether it be that [crosstalk].

John: Tell us a little bit about the growth. So you joined the company 25 years ago. How many associates were there then?

Amos: Oh, boy, that’s a good question. I don’t know. I don’t know right off the top of my head.

John: Okay.

Amos: Do you know my associate number, which I probably shouldn’t give out, but I do know, like, but I think every person, and so that’s a lot lower than the numbers we’re giving out now.

John: Right. But it was a lot less than 13,000, right?

Amos: It was a lot less than 13,000. I think we’ve done about 4,000 in the last four years, if I remember hearing.

John: Wow. That’s 30% just in the last four years out of 65 years is massive growth.

Amos: Yes. In four years.

John: Yes.

Amos: So when people come into the innovation center where you are and start feeling, start to feel it, like it becomes real tangible that their new job is, what do they go up to on the wall? What’s the most exciting things that they go up to? Are they drawn to that? They ask about in terms of the you know, the W.L. Gore brand, like what do they get the most jazzed about when they’re from the visual side of this? So some things they just the things they don’t recognize. The clothing, of course, they get, right? So then they might see like, what’s the guitar doing there?

John: Exactly, I was wondering. [crosstalk].

Amos: The guitar strings, that’s these guys right over here, right? So they make Alexa guitar strings. They’ve got a special coating on them, so it takes the salts and the oils from your fingers. It prevents them from getting in and killing the tongue. So they actually last longer. So it’s kind of weird thing about music and sustainability, but making a set of guitar strings last longer, right? You’re not burning through as many strings. It’s just, it’s a small contribution, but, little bits and pieces like that. Or they might look at something weird, say like, what are those, “Oh, those are industrial filters,” right? So they are breaking down toxins, right? They’re breaking down carcinogens the way this one does. This big one here this is scrub and mercury out of industrial processes. And so to me, that’s the natural curiosity that I would say all of our associates have, in terms of looking, “What is that? What is that? How can I, oh, what, tell me more about this?” And being able to recognize that it’s just, it’s fun to bring them up to this wall and just to let them back up and kind of take it all in, right. And see what questions they have.

John: Is your sustainability team yet created an annual impact or sustainability report that’s published to your associates and to the greater public? Or is that in the making going to happen in the future?

Amos: I know we keep making more and more steps. Yes, absolutely. It’s transparency’s big these days, right? So we want to be upfront and we want to be authentic. We’re also a bunch of scientists and engineers who geek out on numbers, so we want to make sure that we have the numbers right and we get the testing rate, and we do all that as well. So I’m almost positive that on gore.com, we do have our first report out there.

John: Great.

Amos: And I think we’re continuing to work on that.

John: That’s great.

Amos: I think we’ve released, when certainly our carbon goals are out there, right? So you know, from the Paris report. Trying to drop our missions by 60% by 2030. We’re on pace to do that. Looking to be carbon neutral by 2050. We’re definitely on our way there as well. So even if it’s not a formal report, all that stuff, you can find it according to the sustainability section.

John: Yes. I’m on your site right now. In fact, thanks to you saying that you guys did post your enterprise sustainability update for 2021, so it’s there and it’s great.

Amos: I didn’t make that up.

John: You didn’t make that up. And it’s right there on your website. It was published last September so it is wonderful, September 29th, 2022. Wonderful. And your website is just great, like you said, in terms of information. It’s a tremendous resource for folks that want to learn more about what you’re doing with your colleagues at work. Amos, a lot of people, I got a lot of listeners and viewers, this is 17 years in the making, almost 2000 guests over the years. And a lot of people write to me all the time, like, “How can I become the next Amos?” Like, how do I, so how does that work? I mean like what’s the way a this whole new generation of young folks around the world that are really excited about the shift from the linear to circular economy, the rise of ESG, the rise of sustainability, both inwards like we were talking about that you do with W.L. Gore and outwards, like all the wonderful products you make. How do we counsel them best in terms of their journey in terms of traditional education versus on the job experience, et cetera? What’s your thoughts on all that?

Amos: While I’m speaking to a former teacher? So I’m always going to have a soft spot for a little formal education.

John: That’s right. Great. I love it.

Amos: But it’s the kind of thing if you can’t put it into practice, if you can’t make that connection to what’s real, then it’s not going to do you much good, right? So I think one of the things that I’ve really come to enjoy about Gore and all the different associates is just the real recognition, understanding that there isn’t a magic background, there isn’t a magic path, right? Everyone has a way that they can contribute based on their talents, their strengths, right? So I do remember specifically an overview that I gave to a bunch of folks. There were logistics folks, in fact pretty specialized. So these are the folks that get our medical products from our loading docks, then to various hospitals around so that the products are there for the surgeons to use right when they need them. And after the overview, one of the women in the group said like, “Wow, I thought what I did was important.” I said, “What you do is absolutely important.” I said, “Because you can’t put me in charge of logistics. I have no idea what I’m doing. And so, if those products don’t make their way in a safe and sterile environment, if they don’t make their way safely to the hospital, we’re not helping anybody, right? It’s all these links from the chain that need to happen. And so that’s first and foremost, I think, to folks even think like, “Oh, I don’t know about getting into STEM or whatever.” There’s so many ways that these companies, like ours, there’s so many other things that we do besides like putting on a lab coat and getting in the lab and doing some experiments somewhere. That’s important, obviously. But the idea never escapes the lab, if it never becomes a product, if it never gets manufactured, if it never gets out the door, all those are opportunities for anyone. So everyone’s got skills, everyone’s got talent. So I would say, you figure out what you do best. Cuz if you enjoy that, then you’re going to make a contribution somewhere, right? And there’s always a way to do that. Gore, there’s no one specific [inaudible]. There’s no real path, so how did you become associate after being an associate. We don’t have any titles, right?

John: Right, right. That’s so interesting. Well, I love it. You’re right though. Everyone really can participate. Everyone can be part of the greatness of the sustainability revolution. But they have to first figure out their skillsets and then figure out how to get on onto the bus, onto the merry-go-rounds.

Amos: I remember hearing from one, it was a shipping receiving associate talking about how they had a project about recognizing that all our plants got their pallets from different suppliers. And he said, “You know, if we consolidated that, then we’ve got one company coming out making one loop on one truck, dropping off all the pallets that we need, as opposed to a bunch of different trucks coming five, 10 minutes away from each other, right? So why are we doing that?” Even that, right being able to define strong partners and be able to work with them, not just to get what we need, but then also to make a dent for keeping more trucks off the road and just getting what we need from one, right? It does come from, come from everyone. So I thought that was just a fantastic example about how in every little nook and cranny we’re looking for ways to just be better, right? To live out our brand promise, which is right together improving life, right? We need those contributions from everywhere. We’re not going to purely work our way out of it in a lab. These are real world things that need to find their way into the real world in some fashion. So from that standpoint that’s why we’ve got 13,000 folks all working on different things towards those goals.

John: Well, I love it. Amos, this has just been a wonderful conversation. I’m so thankful for you. I’m so thankful for your colleagues, I love your background is literally I think it’s the winner of all winners of the last [inaudible].

Amos: Thanks, God. That’s very kind. Thank you.

John: And for our listeners and viewers who want to find Amos and his 13,000 colleagues that are undergoing and doing purposeful innovation and making the world a better place every day, making huge impact, please go to www.gore.com. Amos, you’re always welcome back on this show to keep sharing the wonderful journey at Gore. And thank you for your time today, and you’re quite an inspiration.

Amos: Absolute John, appreciate it. It was great having that conversation with you.

John: This episode of the Impact Podcast is brought to you by Closed Loop Partners. Closed Loop Partners is a leading circular economy investor in the United States with an extensive network of Fortune 500 corporate investors, family offices, institutional investors, industry experts, and impact partners. Closed loop’s platform spans the arch of capital, from venture capital to private equity, bridging gaps and fostering synergies to scale the circular economy. To find Closed Loop Partners, please go to www.closelooppartners.com.

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