ST. CHARLES — The St. Charles City Council unanimously and happily approved the sale of land in its Chattanooga Innovation Park to a new manufacturer planning to build its plant in the Interstate 90 business park.
Envirolastech Inc., a manufacturer of plastic building materials and the winner of the 2012 Minnesota Cup in the Clean Technology category, plans to build an 18,000-square-foot facility in St. Charles.
Cris Gastner, St. Charles economic development director, said the company will bring a minimum of 10 manufacturing jobs to St. Charles within the first year and has plans to expand to 20-25 jobs within three to four years.
“This company has the potential to become one of the largest employers in St. Charles,” he said.
St. Charles has been looking for new jobs to fill the Interstate 90 business park since its completion in 2012, and has been eager to replace jobs lost when NorthStar Foods was destroyed by fire in 2009. Active Tool & Die, a company that opened in St. Charles in 1997, moved to the business park in 2014.
“They like the site,” Gastner said, referring to Envirolastech. “They like the infrastructure that’s in place. They like that it’s on I-90. They like that it’s close to Winona State, which has one of the top polymer programs in the country. And they like that they’re right across the street from Active Tool & Die.”
Along with NRB Metals, a foundry located in St. Charles, Gastner said the city had all the complementary businesses Envirolastech was looking for.
“Any time we can add an employer, it’s a good step,” said St. Charles Mayor John Schaber. “And we can leverage our existing businesses.”
The council agreed to sell the 4-acre tract for $1. The sale is contingent upon Envirolastech getting its funding in place for construction as well as the city council getting a positive report from a feasibility study being conducted on Envirolastech’s product in the marketplace by the University of Iowa.
“We had to determine if it’s worth it to us,” Gastner said. The EDA endorsed the sale at its Friday morning meeting. “The consensus was, it was.”
Paul Schmitt, the inventor of the composite materials used by Envirolastech, said the product has a unique place in the building materials market. The product is nonbiodegradeable, is impervious to water and salt water, is stronger than concrete and does not get brittle in cold temperatures. It is manufactured from 100 percent post-consumer recycled materials.
One potential market, Schmitt said, is for building seawalls in coastal areas. “On average, seawalls last 18 years,” he said. “Our product can last 100 years or more.”
Jeff Mintz, CEO of Envirolastech, said the company already holds letters of intent from national distributors, and one international client is hoping to use the product in international shipping containers.
Mintz said one of the other reasons the company chose to locate its first plant in St. Charles is that the company’s principals — himself, Schmitt and Geno Wente — are all from Rochester. “We are all Rochesterites,” he said.
The company chose Southeast Minnesota over other locations across the nation, then sent a request for proposals to six area communities before narrowing the list to three: St. Charles, Pine Island and Zumbrota. In the end, the proximity of the plant’s location to I-90 — both for bringing in raw materials and shipping finished products — was a major selling point, Mintz said.
Eventually, the company may have to expand to other locations, he said. The size of the facility is dictated mostly on the market for post-consumer recycled plastics. But even if the company builds a second plant elsewhere some day, Mintz said the St. Charles plant will always be the manufacturing headquarters.
“This will be home base, and eventually we’ll train new employees here,” he said.