Dan Hust | Democrat
Enduring a rainy fall day to visit the under-construction site of ASB Greenworld’s mulch plant near Mongaup Valley were, from the left, Partnership and IDA CEO Allan Scott, Bethel Town Councilman Dick Crumley, ASB Plant Manager Tim Baumann, engineer Glenn Smith, Bethel Planning Board Chairman Dan Gettel, Bethel Building Inspector BJ Gettel and Bethel Town Councilman Bob Blais.
Global mulch and soil company starting factory in Bethel
By Dan Hust
MONGAUP VALLEY Even in the world of economic development, the wheels of government turn ever so slowly.
That’s what sets ASB Greenworld’s entrance to Sullivan County apart. Late this coming winter, about a year after the company first expressed interest, their new mulch factory is expected to be operating in the Town of Bethel.
“We’re going to start producing in the first part of March,” affirmed Tim Baumann, manager of ASB Greenworld’s Valdosta, Georgia plant and overseer of the company’s expansion into the Northeast market.
Located off a sharp bend of Lt. JG Brender Highway (County Route 73) between Mongaup Valley and Harris, four-and-a-half acres of the 54-acre site are already graded, paved and prepped for what will be a 19,000-square-foot steel structure, parking lot and outside storage area. (The rest of the acreage is being left untouched for now.)
The $4 million project has got the support of town, county and state officials, who have somehow found a way to grease those aforementioned wheels of government.
“We started building a relationship with ASB Greenworld about 8-10 months ago,” explained Allan Scott, CEO of both the county’s Partnership for Economic Development and Industrial Development Agency (IDA). “We knew all-local businesses would be working for them.”
In fact, Scott said the only non-local company involved in the facility’s construction is the builder of the structure itself, who has erected similar factories for ASB.
And that builder, Scott added, has promised to purchase materials from local providers.
The company is getting a tax break, though not through the standard IDA method. Per state law, ASB Greenworld is entitled to take advantage of what’s known as the 485-B exemption, which cuts its town, county and school tax bill in half for the first year of operation, decreasing five percent each year thereafter for the next nine years, ultimately becoming fully taxed at the end of its first decade.
Based on the firm’s history, local officials hope it will be around far longer than that.
ASB Greenworld is a mulch and fertilizer production company based in Germany, where it’s existed for more than half a century.
Offering its products all over the world, it has 16 plants in Europe and North America, including two in the U.S. Virginia and Georgia.
“We do business with all the big box stores,” Baumann explained.
You may know ASB’s products as K-Grow at K-Mart or Stay Green at Lowe’s, though the company markets products through its own label, too.
Last spring, ASB began seeking a new location closer to the Northeast markets it serves, as distribution and logistics costs were becoming expensive.
“We went all over the county trying to find a suitable site,” Scott recalled.
A former horsetrack and farm near the geographic center of Sullivan County ultimately proved perfect, and ASB bought it and a nearby house (to be used as an office and break area).
Baumann said part of its attractiveness was the attitude of Bethel town officials.
“Everybody was friendly and inviting,” he related. “Lord knows they need business here!”
“We need growth and permanent jobs in Bethel,” affirmed town board member Bob Blais.
“This fell within our zoning [rules],” added fellow board member Dick Crumley. “Basically, it was a shovel-ready property.”
Planning Board Chairman Dan Gettel said ASB is classified as an agribusiness, so it didn’t need site plan approval either, further speeding up the process.
Building Inspector BJ Gettel “put a lot of time into the project” as well, noted Scott.
She worked with the company on the permitting process, which included permits for the driveway, the building and stormwater management.
But sans any on-site wetlands or flood zones, gaining the permits was, again, pretty simple.
Even NYSEG pitched in, extending three-phase power to the site at its own cost, totalling $82,000.
“This is unusually easy,” admitted the project’s engineer, Glenn Smith of Monticello.
The toughest part may be winnowing through the dozens of applicants for just 10 jobs, only four of which will be year-round. Duties will include machine and vehicle operations, plus general labor.
Wages have yet to be established, but the jobs open first to Sullivan County residents will come with benefits and a 401K plan. In concert with the Center for Workforce Development, ASB is conducting a recruitment effort today and will send the first hirees down to Georgia to learn the company’s equipment and culture.
Once the local facility is operational, residents will be welcome to bring wood debris to the plant, which will turn it into mulch for sale. (Baumann confirmed ASB does that as a free service, however, not as a paid transaction.)
About 20 trucks a day will utilize county routes (no town roads) to go to and from the plant from Route 17’s Exit 102 in Harris.
Construction is proceeding rapidly, and while BJ Gettel said there have been some complaints from neighboring residents, they’ve all been given tours and details that town officials feel have addressed concerns.
Baumann said all his workers will be doing is grinding, screening and coloring mulch.
“No smoke, no smells, no wastewater,” he explained.
“It’s a positive for the county,” Gettel affirmed.
“We’re just happy they came here,” agreed Blais.
Regardless, Gettel welcomes calls with questions about the facility at 583-4350.
For more information about ASB Greenworld itself, head to www.asbgreenworld.com.