Boreal is already advertising this “family pack” of stacked trays of cubes filled with water (or ice, as the biodegradable material is capable of withstanding repeated freeze/thaw cycles), suitable to be shipped to places without safe or plentiful water.
Local water company reveals 'revolutionary' innovation
By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO Thursday’s Empire Zone Administrative Board (ZAB) meeting featured a surprise: the unveiling of an innovation that could revolutionize the water bottling industry and boost the profile and profits of a local bottler.
“This product has tremendous potential,” said Boreal Water Collection President/CEO Francine Lavoie as she lifted flexible plastic trays of water into the view of ZAB members. “I’ve been working on this for four years.”
Easily stackable and shippable, the trays hold individual pockets of water, similar to the plastic air cushions ubiquitous in long-distance packages.
Their advantage, said Lavoie, is that the clean, fresh water stored in the tray’s individual compartments can be sent all over the world, frozen, unfrozen, refrozen, and used as drinking water and ice cubes in areas otherwise lacking in safe or plentiful sources of water.
“This is a revolution in the ice business,” she explained.
The idea is not her own, but the Mexican government and the Red Cross are already interested in what Lavoie brings to the mix: the capacity to produce and package 100,000 of these cubes every hour.
“The fastest-ever machine was 10,000 cubes per hour,” Lavoie said after Thursday’s meeting. “This made the cost of the cubes so expensive that it was very hard to commercialize them.”
Her company, Boreal, bought out Leisure Time Spring Water from bankruptcy earlier this year, and she’s been chafing to use the Kiamesha Lake plant to its full capacity.
This new technology, however, is likely to warrant an expansion, she told ZAB members.
Add in a new process to use biodegradable plastic for this project and the bottles Leisure Time already produces, and “we’re looking at a roughly $3 million investment in Sullivan County,” Empire Zone Coordinator Susan Jaffe told her board.
The first million, said Lavoie, is now being spent and includes adding 50 employees and bringing the plant up to full operating capability.
“There is a big rebuilding project there,” she explained, “to put back the facility to a certain standard.”
That’s why she was at Thursday’s ZAB meeting, seeking designation as a “regionally significant project” that, although outside any Empire Zones in Sullivan County, would enable Boreal to take advantage of the program’s tax breaks and credits.
The next $2 million in investment would focus on the plastic tray business and possibly include an expansion of the current facility in Kiamesha Lake.
Though not all members were present, the ZAB unanimously approved seeking that designation with the state, which oversees the Empire Zone and has the final say on whether or not to include Boreal.
Plastics co. interested in Bridgeville
Another company to get the ZAB’s unanimous endorsement for designation as a “regionally significant project” on Thursday was Shelburne Plastics.
Although a representative was unable to attend the meeting, Jaffe said the company is a Vermont-based manufacturer of plastics for the food and cosmetics industries.
The business, said Jaffe, is interested in Sullivan County as a way to take back market share it has lost to companies in Connecticut and Pennsylvania.
Shelburne is also looking at sites in Allentown, Pa., Newark, NJ and Utica, but two Bridgeville sites may have preference because Boreal uses Shelburne’s plastic in its bottling process.
Jaffe would not reveal what two sites are under consideration, though one is likely vacant land and the other is known to be the old Marcal building between Route 17’s exits 106 and 107.
She said Shelburne is looking at a $4 million investment and 50 net jobs earning an average of $26,000 a year. She affirmed that the company would not be manufacturing plastic at this location just changing the material’s size and shape for various purposes.
“There are very, very little fumes,” Jaffe explained, thus requiring no special environmental permits.
But it remains a concern for Glen Wild resident Toby Boritz, who attended Thursday’s meeting to talk about her chemical sensitivities and the rashes they cause.
“I would not take lightly the outgassing of chemicals,” she told the board. “It has to be very carefully studied [before the plant is in operation].”
ZAB Chair and County Manager David Fanslau promised her the company would be required to meet all applicable state requirements.
In fact, added Lavoie, Boreal is currently working with plastics at its Kiamesha Lake plant in a fashion similar to what Shelburne proposes.
Pierce Library gets $100,000 ‘capital’ credits
Thursday’s ZAB meeting also featured representatives of the Daniel Pierce Library in Grahamsville, where a $3 million, 23,500-square-foot addition is currently under construction.
Five years ago, the ZAB approved allocating $175,000 worth of “zone capital credits” to the library to leverage the non-profit’s fundraising capabilities.
In other words, someone donating time, money, equipment and/or materials to the library’s building project can claim a 25 percent tax credit against their liabilities.
Such an incentive has enabled the library to nearly reach its $700,000 fundraising goal, said construction coordinator Phil Coombe, and a nearby land grant has also enabled the library to begin installing a geothermal heating and cooling system.
He and Library Director Joanne Gallagher were present to ask the board to free up an additional $100,000 in tax credits to help continue the expansion, and ZAB members unanimously agreed.