Francisco Guerra has turned snow from northwest Alabama into a fortune.
"It's a great story, a great American story," he announces in his company's 45,000-square-foot building on Lauderdale County 71.
He's not kidding.
How many people anywhere, much less from North Alabama, have business associations ranging from Justin Bieber and Jack Daniel's to J.K. Rowling and the family of Walt Disney?
It's the story of how Guerra, the president of Global Special Effects, has turned fake snow into a worldwide operation that is expected to generate revenue of about $10 million this year.
He projects about $20 million in revenue in 2012.
"This is the world headquarters," he says. "We're in 23 countries."
Among the countries are Lebanon, Russia, China and South Africa.
"We help the film industries" there, he said. "For instance, when China started a film industry, I'm the effects guy. They came here and asked me to go over there."
Making snow and other special effects has afforded him something of a luxurious lifestyle, certainly for someone who works in a one-caution-light town.
"The big claim was the Harry Potter ride," he says. "We designed the effects."
That's the Harry Potter ride at Universal Studios in Hollywood and Orlando.
"The writer, J.K. Rowling, comes in and says, 'Fantastic, you're bloody brilliant,' " he says. "This was in Universal in Orlando. To spend time with her and the family of Walt Disney was amazing. She had to approve everything."