By Jim Hagerty


While a number of area businesses have come and gone since 1986, one Belvidere company is still thriving, with plans to continue for another 30 years.

Affordable Water, Inc., located at 214 W. Menomonie St. in Belvidere, has been a water purification service provider for three decades. Owner Paul Durham, who started the business 35 years ago with this father, said he’s found a simple, yet effective formula to make sure he stayed the course.

“We service a big area that starts right here in Belvidere,” he said.

That is no small task. In today’s market, there is plenty of competition, even in the commercial water conditioning industry. Some competitors come and go, while others find a niche, if only temporarily. Durham has seen them all, and he still sets himself apart, seeing to it that when anyone within a 60-mile radius has a need, the first name that comes to mind is Affordable Water.

“We stand by our work,” Durham said. “And because of that, we are a preferred service provider.”

While he services a wide range of consumers, including fellow small businesses, Durham has landed some big game. The Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Menards realize that when it comes to water purification, they need someone with the knowledge of local water and the skills to properly treat it.

“They know we are the people to call for discolored and smelly water,” he said.

Therein lays a big part of Affordable Water’s formula—buying local. It’s a concept that begins with local revenue in mind, a foundation whereby owners are also the craftsman, shopkeepers, and administrators who keep their companies running.

Studies show that companies with absentee owners push a significant amount of their revenue (as high as 77 percent in some cases) out of the communities in which they operate. They must do so in order to cover expenses at the corporate level.

However, there is always a tradeoff. Customers often sacrifice quality and expertise when shopping with less expensive, non-local businesses. At the end of the day, especially in Durham’s line of work, it is the local guy who makes everything right when consumers are not completely satisfied.

“I spend a lot of time fixing other people’s mistakes,” Durham said.

Durham’s customers have known where to find him for the past 30 years. The chance of Affordable Water moving to maximize profits doesn’t exist. There is not an economic incentive attractive enough to change that. Durham is not going anywhere. In fact, he is doing the opposite.

“I have acquired other water companies over the years, and we are on our fourth generation now,” Durham said, which is an impressive feat, especially as small businesses throughout the country are cashing in on millions of dollars to relocate or sell to corporate suitors.

Durham feels better about bringing his son into the business to preserve it as a cornerstone of the Belvidere community. He doesn’t think about the short-term rewards for a company to sell or move. Those deals are usually not good in the end for employees and most importantly, for the communities in which it serves.

This is too often the case when a non-local company employs a large percentage of the local workforce. They operate at a low cost while things are good, but if they close, it can be catastrophic, as there are no local companies there to pick up the pieces. Durham and others have weathered such storms, ones that would have been less damaging had the local economy been built better around local businesses.

“I try to buy whatever I can in Belvidere,” Durham said. “That keeps my money here to benefit the community. I think that’s how it should be.”

Affordable Water, Inc. specializes in water purification equipment and service. Durham’s team provides quality work in reverse osmosis, water softeners, drinking water systems, and supplies.

For more information, call (815) 544-0918 or go online to:


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