The Big Reach: Denis Gagnon

 In Blog

Imagine how cool it would be to invent a product.

I wished I was one of those smart, creative and persistent people that make things happen – like Denis Gagnon. He’s one of those take-an-idea-and-run-with-it people.

President and CEO of Excel Dryer in East Longmeadow, he formed a research and development team and spent more than three years working on his invention. The result is a product that you’ve probably used countless times but never thought about how it came to be.

The XLERATOR® high-speed, energy-efficient hand dryer can be found in hundreds of thousands of restrooms at schools, hospitals, airports, restaurants and other locations throughout the country and internationally. If you’ve ever been to a New England Patriot’s football game at Gillette Stadium, Red Sox baseball game at Fenway Park or had dinner at Max’s Tavern restaurant in Springfield in the last couple of years then chances are you’ve used the XLERATOR. If you travel internationally, you’re likely to use XLERATOR at a major airport, like Heathrow or a sport stadium, such as Wembley, or many a European pub or restaurant.

The XLERATOR hand dryer blasts hot air down onto your wet hands and within 10-15 seconds they are completely dry. Not the 30 to 45 seconds or more it took other hand dryers to be effective when Denis embarked on his idea.

Part of his thought process in developing XLERATOR was being mindful that in the U.S. at the time, over 90 percent of public restrooms had paper towel dispensers in them. The key ingredient he needed was to develop a faster hand dryer.

“We measured the residual moisture left on the hands over set periods of time so that we could quantitatively determine when people felt their hands were completely dry. We developed a target range of 10-15 seconds,” he said. “So that’s what drove the research and development process.”

The XLERATOR is three times faster than conventional hand dryers—and uses 80 percent less energy. Businesses that have the XLERATOR save money by not using paper towels, a source reduction alternative. The company’s tagline is: “Time to throw in the towel.” Clever. And green.

“We woke the industry up. Everyone has tried to come up with their version of a high-speed, energy-efficient hand dryer,” he said. “Ours is the best-selling hand dryer in the world.”

Denis learned a lot about marketing and sales when he worked for game and toy companies Milton Bradley and Hasbro before he started working at Excel Dryer in 1992. He later bought the company in 1997.

“I initially took over sales and marketing, which allowed me to travel the country, work trade shows, meet our sales reps and really get a feel for the industry I was now in,” he said.

As successful as XLERATOR has been for the company—double digit growth for the 13-year life of the hand dryer—Denis does not want to be complacent. So he set out to find a new way to use his invention.

In collaboration with Sloan Valve, an Illinois plumbing products company, Denis and his research and development team have developed an automatic dryer in the shape of a faucet, which would be located in the sink right next to a soap dispenser and water faucet. The point is to take care of all your business in one spot, no dripping on the floor. Think of it as one-stop shopping for your hands.

To date, a prototype of the system has been tested out at Macy’s flagship store in New York City. Additional prototypes have been installed locally at Tower Square and the new headquarters of Square One on Main Street in Springfield. The official launch of the integrated sink system is planned for this fall.

It’s probably only a matter of time before Denis invents his next best thing.

To learn more about Denis and Excel Dryer, visit

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