By Colin Zalewski
"You have to always be looking ahead five years and start working on it today," said Frank Dutro Jr., '81. His pursuit of "the next best thing" has taken him to Hollywood and the Academy Awards, Australia, the restaurant business, and now to the water filtration industry.
Success seems to follow Dutro. Since graduating from Whitworth with degrees in business management and English, he has always sought opportunities to apply his naturally entrepreneurial and progressive mindset, and has triumphed along the way.
Around the year 2000, he happened upon a company selling water filtration systems at the Los Angeles County Fair. Upon talking with the company's representatives, he had another forward-thinking revelation typical of those that have marked his career. His eyes were opened to the finite amount of clean and usable water, and at that moment he said, "Holy smokes; water's going to be big."
After years of success in various industries, Dutro co-founded Clean Filtration Technologies, Inc., in 2008. He said the idea was for the company to make a cost-effective filtration system that needs less maintenance and does not need replacing.
The company's top product is the outcome of Dutro's ideas and engineer partner David Levitt's ingenuity: the CFT Turboclone.
"My big contribution was we need to build a device that can do what the (CFT) Turboclone does," Dutro said. "I didn't know exactly how it would look or work; I just wanted to get somebody to figure it out."
While the intellectual property of the project belongs to Dutro, he said Levitt is on all the patents.
Dutro said, "That's why you have the idea; then you can find engineers that can actually execute it."
The CFT Turboclone is a water filtration system geared to be a long-lasting product that can work alongside current filtration systems to enhance results. Among a variety of upside characteristics, the CFT Turboclone has the ability to lower sediments that cloud-up water, or turbidity, by as much as 93 percent.
The system's ability to purify water along with its cost efficiency makes it a revolutionary product, Dutro said. Furthermore, the market for the product is almost endless. The CFT Turboclone has the ability to improve the quality of water everywhere from pools to hotels and even to entire communities. Recently, Dutro's company has even gained recognition and support from a selective and well-known investor.
"We just had a big investment from the Dow Corporation," Dutro said. "So we can take this product to market now."
While ideas for this water filtration system had been churning in his head for quite some time, it was only after he shook off his other occupational obligations that his ideas began to take form.
Water filtration may be where Dutro is now, but how did he get there? Prior to Clean Filtration Technologies, he had dipped his toe in the waters of many different careers, constantly looking around the corner for "the next big thing."
In 2002 he made a personal entrepreneurial move when he founded Frank's Famous Kitchen & Bakery, based on work done in his own kitchen.
"My wife and I like cooking, and it just got out of control," Dutro said. "Pretty soon we (were) preparing tons of food every day with a staff of 10."
Frank's Famous Kitchen & Bakery was his first major step in the entrepreneurial direction. But to grasp Dutro's passion for progressive thinking and his true professional roots, one need to return to his graduation from Whitworth.
He moved back to his hometown of Saratoga in California's Silicon Valley following graduation, but he did not settle at home for long.
Computers were beginning to gain much attention in the early 1980s, so Dutro sought out a career in this area. "What was happening in Hollywood at the time was computers were coming on the scene," Dutro said. "Hollywood was quickly moving into the digital age."
His brother, John Blake Dutro, who was involved with movies such as Iron Man 2 and Angels and Demons as a makeup artist, saw the need for computer savvy workers in the industry and connected with Frank.
Dutro's first project was working next to his brother for a small-budget horror film. While his start in the film industry was small, he quickly got involved with the Walt Disney Company and Universal Studios.
Dutro hit his stride at Universal Studios. He became the senior consultant for the Universal Motion Picture Group, adding to a resume that already included a stint as president of the Association of Entertainment Industry Computer Professionals. Furthermore, his advancement in the film industry was producing some opportunities few people ever have the chance to experience.
"At Disney and Universal I met many, many people involved with filmmaking," Dutro said. "One of the nice perks was being able to attend the Academy Awards. I had the good fortune to attend them many times."
As time went on he sought out new avenues to apply his skills, driven by his innovative bent. "I'm always looking at what everything's pointing to," Dutro said. "What's going to be the next big thing? In business you are always looking five years out to make sure you are constantly riding the waves of growth. Steve Jobs [CEO of Apple Computers] has done an excellent job of this with Apple."
In 1991 Apple Computers, Inc., was still a young company with opportunities that attracted Dutro. In conjunction with Apple, he built the American Film Institute (AFI) Apple Computer Center, which he described as "one (of) the hotspots in town to come and experience new technologies as they were applied" to making movies.
After two years with Apple establishing the AFI Apple Computer Center, he decided to move on, still looking for "the next big thing."
Continuing to improve his abilities in the computer world, he went on to higher levels of image enhancement with companies like Silicon Graphics and Panavision. His relations with the movie industry took him all over the world for filming.
"We traveled a lot of places for different productions: Europe and Australia and certainly Canada and the U.S.," Dutro said.
He said a unique place his travels took him was Coober Pedy, Australia. Time spent working on the movie Red Planet with actor Val Kilmer led to some memorable experiences for Dutro.
"Your hotel rooms are carved into the sides of hills into caves," he said. "Because it's so hot there you have to stay underground."
Throughout his time in the film industry, Dutro had opportunities to work on major motion pictures and experience places all over the globe. However, as always, he was pushing towards the future, and he saw himself leaving the movie industry.
In 2004, while managing Frank's Famous Kitchen & Bakery and still working with computers in the film industry, Dutro started to have a change of heart.
"I like using technology, but I didn't want to keep doing what I was doing," he said. "I'm a real project-oriented guy. I get bored if I have to do the same thing every day. I like for a project to start and then end so we can start a new one."
Dutro said working on movies fulfilled the project-oriented aspect of his character for a long time, but it was losing the lure it once had.
It was time for another change. However, this time, rather than changing companies or specialties, Dutro found himself seeking an entirely new vocation, which led him to his current ventures in water filtration.
Dutro left the computer industry in 2004. He also sold off his restaurant and began the water filtration project he had been working on behind the scenes for years.
"It's been an interesting last few years working on this product [CFT Turboclone] to get it ready to be sold into the marketplace," he said.
With the latest turn in Dutro's ever-evolving career path, he once again has found another meeting point between his entrepreneurial DNA and his forward-thinking mindset. For Frank Dutro, that's a sweet spot to be.