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Partnership Industrial Center...Canbrands International breaks ground for plant

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by Karen E. Culp

SBJ Staff

Canbrands International Ltd. was to break ground for its new facility in the Partnership Industrial Center May 1. The Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada-based company produces cat litter from recycled newsprint. The company also produces ferret litter and animal bedding used for lab animals.

Canbrands began negotiations to move into the Partnership Industrial Center in July of 1994, said Karl Plumpe, associate general manager at City Utilities, who is involved in the marketing of the center. Canbrands closed on the land July 7, 1995, Plumpe said.

The Partnership Industrial Center's agreement with tenants says that after land is purchased, construction on the building should begin in a year and occupancy should follow within two years, but the center's administrative council granted Canbrands a couple of extensions, Plumpe said.

"We never thought it wasn't going to happen. We just knew that Mr. (John) Austin (president of Canbrands) was working on the plan for his business and needed some extra time," Plumpe said.

This center represents Canbrands' first expansion beyond Moncton, New Brunswick, said Diane LeBlanc, executive assistant to the president of Canbrands.

"Our No. 1 reason for coming here was that Springfield has such a good recycling program for newsprint," LeBlanc said.

Canbrands has a five-year contract with the city for access to its recycled newsprint, which it will then refine into cat litter and animal bedding at its Springfield plant, LeBlanc said.

The company has also received a grant from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, another incentive for locating in the state, which will help it pay for the $1.3 million worth of equipment it will need at the plant.

The city will not supply all of the newsprint Canbrands needs for its plant, so it is negotiating contracts with other major haulers in town, LeBlanc said.

Barbara Lucks, materials recovery/education coordinator for the Department of Public Works' Solid Waste Management Division, said Canbrands' plan is progressive.

"This is a unique situation because we see these recycled products the city can provide being used as an attraction for business and industry. We're literally taking trash and turning into infrastructure. It speaks very well for the recycling industry in general and for Springfield's commitment to recycling specifically," Lucks said.

Canbrands will be using 12,000 tons of recycled materials per year, Lucks said.

"This reaffirms the entire community's commitment to recycling. Canbrands is listing as one of its No. 1 reasons for locating here that we have such a good recycling program," Lucks said.

Canbrands packages the cat litter under its own trademark label, Yesterday's News, but also operates as a private label manufacturer, LeBlanc said. Yesterday's News is sold in pet stores such as PetsMart and through veterinarian's offices.

The Canbrands building will be 30,000 square feet and sit on 4.7 acres in the Partnership Industrial Center. The company will initially employ about 15, but will increase its staff to 40 within 30 months, LeBlanc said.

Mike Bilodeau is in town now and will remain as the interim plant manager for about six months. He will be hiring staff during the summer, and the plant is set to be finished in September, with an October up-and-running date, LeBlanc said. The building team for the project includes Wehr, Wehr, Johnson and Bridgeforth and Morelock-Ross Builders, LeBlanc said.

Canbrands began in 1987 and has always been involved in recycling newsprint to produce cat litter. In 1994, the company signed an agreement with U.S.-based Golden Cat to market the product in the United States.

The Partnership Industrial Center is now about 70 percent full, Plumpe said, and, at the rate announcements are being made, it could be filled within a year, he added.

Greg Williams, of the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce, said the center has about 90 acres available for sale. A study concerning whether a new industrial center should be built is now being conducted.

The Springfield Business & Development Corporation, which oversees the center, has hired Gene Norber, who works for Economic Development Resources in St. Louis, to report back to the corporation on what should be done to expand Springfield's industrial space. Once Norber's study is complete, the corporation will open up the results for public comment in order to get feedback on what to do next, Williams said.

INSET CAPTION:

'We're literally

taking trash and turning it into infrastructure.'

Barbara Lucks

City of Springfield[[In-content Ad]]

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