By: Jessica Holbrook
January 17, 2013
ARLINGTON, WASH. -- MicroGreen Polymers Inc. plans to expand its production capacity, a project jump started by a $5 million investment from the Stillaguamish Tribe of Indians.
MicroGreen is looking to raise $20 million in this round of funding. The funds will go toward purchasing new equipment and tooling, and will take the company from producing on a small, testing-scale to producing at commercial capacity, said Chris Jacobs, vice president of marketing and product development, in a phone interview.
MicroGreen uses patented technology, named Ad-air, to add microbubbles to solid sheets of recycled PET. According to MicroGreen, the company uses its expanded PET to thermoform cups and trays that are lightweight and require less material to produce, contain up to 50 percent post-consumer content and are insulated and temperature resistant.
MicroGreen plans to add several new production lines and invest in tooling to expand its line of cups and trays.
The company currently operates one thermoforming line – an R&D line – that can produce a few hundred-million pieces a year.
"In the food service world, that's not much," Jacobs said.
"There's so much opportunity out there," he said. "Even if we only aim for the low-hanging fruit, we'll need 20 to 30 production lines."
The company will also purchase an extruder. Right now, MicroGreen buys sheets of PET with up to 50 percent recycled content. Extruding in-house will allow the company to raise the amount of recycled content, Jacobs said.
With the increased production capacity, MicroGreen needs more employees. The company currently employs 45, but plans to employ 200-300 by year end, Jacobs said.
MicroGreen operates one facility in Arlington, Wash. The company has room to expand at its current site, but increasing the size of its current plant or opening a new one will depend on customer's needs and requirements, he added.
The company is still working on meeting its $20 million mark. MicroGreen is in talk with venture capitalist inventors, but the Stillaguamish Tribe also is helping out.
Koran Andrews, the Stillaguamish Tribe's enterprise corporation CEO, and other tribal members toured MicroGreen's facility last year. The Tribe purchased cups for its Angel of the Winds Casino in Arlington, and were so impressed with MicroGreen's process and mission that they asked about becoming investors, Jacobs said.
"That's how they got turned on to it, knowing that our focus was about showing people that being successful in business and doing the right thing environmentally, and for the world, is not mutually exclusive," he said.
The Stillaguamish Tribe was also looking to diversify its investment portfolio. The Tribe is now working to put together a consortium with other Native American tribes that have the same goal to invest in MicroGreen.
The Stillaguamish Tribe's initial investment was enough to get MicroGreen started, and the company plans to move forward with just the $5 million secured.
The company plans to close this round of funding by the end of the first quarter, when it closes they'll know "how steep the on-ramp really is," Jacobs said.