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Green Nature expands manufacturing operation to Brainerd Industrial Center

Graham Technology, which has developed a fire-restraining product the company believes could revolutionize how forest fires are fought, expects to begin manufacturing it this summer in the Brainerd Industrial Center.

Brainerd Industrial Center
Brainerd Industrial Center

Graham Technology, which has developed a fire-restraining product the company believes could revolutionize how forest fires are fought, expects to begin manufacturing it this summer in the Brainerd Industrial Center.

Graham Technology will be leasing 40,000 square feet of space at the BIC and is scheduled to start manufacturing the product this summer. The company's operation will also produce wood pellets that will be shipped nationally and internationally as an economical biofuel used for heat.

The fire-restraining product is proprietary technology developed by company President Jeff Graham over the last 11 years. The product is dropped from large aircraft over forest fires to extinguish the fire. The company reports It's not limited to distance, terrain obstructions or dissipation like some of the retardants that are currently used. On the ground, the company reports the product has the ability to reseed the forest floor.

The product will be mixed and assembled at BIC and then shuttled to the company's airbase operation at the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport, where the plan is to have it flown to firefighting operations throughout the world.

Graham said that his manufacturing operation, for the fire-restraining product and the wood pellets, means he will be hiring between 28 and 51 employees. No manufacturing experience is necessary, just a strong work ethic, he said. Wages will be above average for local manufacturing jobs, the company reports.

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"We looked at many locations to expand our operation but the Brainerd Industrial Center had everything we needed, including affordable warehouse space, room to grow, access to rail, close proximity to a regional airport and an able workforce," Graham said in a news release. "BIC CEO Mike Higgins and Katy Pittman have done a great job, and we're excited to get our operation up and running."

In a Dispatch phone interview, Graham said his company Green Nature Cycle is all about green living and maintaining the environment.

"Brainerd is the hub of the northwoods to me, it's a very clean environment," he said. "The pollution there is one of the lowest in the whole nation not just Minnesota."

He said the Brainerd Industrial Center was a spot he watched as he visited the lakes area on a fishing trip last fall and to visit friends on Little Pelican and wondered about the former paper mill space and later learned of the options at what he called another hidden gem in the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport. He credited former airport manager Jeff Wig and Chris Robinson, formerly with the Brainerd Lakes Economic Development Corporation, in helping him in the decision to expand here. The After Wig left, he said one of the real incentives to choose Brainerd came from a phone call from Mike Peterson, Airmotive, Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport. Graham said Peterson took it upon himself to call Graham to ask if he was bringing his business to the airport.

"There are people out there who still care about the community and that's the spine of Brainerd," Graham said, noting Peterson wasn't the airport director or a salesman, yet he cared so much about the company he chose to reach out to a potential employer. "That tells me a big, big story about Brainerd. I was very very impressed with that phone call."

Graham said they are looking at a mid-summer timeframe for opening.

Graham credits the Brainerd Lakes Area Economic Development Corporation for bringing together his company and the BIC. Also, BLAEDC assisted in identifying resources and other possible sites, as well as working with DEED to help find workers for Graham's new operation.

"Having Graham Technology expand to the Brainerd Lakes Area is a huge win for this community and it's a perfect fit for BIC," said Sheila Haverkamp, BLAEDC executive director, in a news release. "In addition to generating good-paying jobs, Graham Technology's welcome expansion into BIC will continue to grow the manufacturing sector in this region."

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Graham Technology is a division of Green Nature Cycle. Based in Excelsior. Green Nature is a recycling and environmental company that's focused on preserving and bettering the earth through protecting the environment and recycling waste. It's licensed and certified by the Department of Agriculture. Green Nature Cycle is a lawn specialist recycler and biofuel company specializing in fertilizer and pesticide applications through the Department of Agriculture. Graham said he started treating lawns and trees at the 1982 World's Fair in Knoxville, Tenn. His website lists other areas of his work including the Mall of America, Target Stores, Boston Scientific, the Indianapolis 500 or NASCAR events or college football games as turf builders. The company also has a wood pellets division as a biofuel made from wood, wood fiber, paper fiber, grass, newspaper and grass clipping or leaves and twigs. Other divisions are in firewood, recycling corrugated cardboard, metals and motor oil.

For more hiring information at the facility in Brainerd, contact Trudi Amundson at the state Department of Employment and Economic Development at 218-825-2024 or trudi.amundson@state.mn.us .

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