Fiber Processing Capacity Expansion
Battenkill Fibers seeks to expand operations, but lacks the financial resources to do so. Funding for new equipment was sought through the 2012 NYS Regional Economic Development grant program; and while the Capitol Region economic development council ranked our project very highly and recommended it for funding, Governor Cuomo decided to focus limited ag economic development funds elsewhere in the region. We have a commitment for matching funds in place from an area ag lender, but can only access those funds if we can obtain other funding first.
Expansion plans include the addition of an opening machine and a large capacity scouring line; and working capital to purchase fiber. This expansion will enable Battenkill Fibers to make more efficient use of our existing full-size high-capacity fiber processing machinery including a 7' Davis and Furber card, a 4-head Warner Swassey pin-drafter; and a 60 spindle Gaudino spinning frame. As a result of adding this capacity, we will be better able to utilize more local fiber in manufacturing yarn for national customers; and be more competitive in bidding on these jobs. As such, farms will have a better market for their lower quality fleeces. We will also be able to provide higher quality value-added products for our farm-based customers. Once this expansion is complete, we anticipate creating 1-2 new full or part-time positions - adding to our current workforce of 12 and creating new local employment opportunities in southern Washington County.
Final design has been completed and estimates have been received for all manufacturing equipment and related installation costs for the expansion project. Landlord approval has been obtained for necessary building rehabilitation activities; and a new dedicated wash water source (20 gallon/minute well) went on-line in mid-Dec. 2012. Fiber farms that produce the grease wool targeted for purchase have been identified. As such, we are poised to launch our expansion phase but we lack the financial resources to undertake the building renovations and equipment purchase; and we don't have sufficient working capital to purchase large quantities of fiber at one time.
Battenkill Fibers experienced an unexpected financial setback early in its existence as a result of a catastrophic fire in June 2010 that burned the building in which the business began to the ground and destroyed most of the manufacturing equipment and purchased fiber. While the machinery and fiber was insured at purchase value, replacement machines were more costly, fiber couldn't be replaced until another shearing season, and there was no business interruption insurance nor insurance for salvaging and moving equipment and rehabilitating the current space from an abandoned warehouse to a manufacturing facility. This depleted all sources of start-up or expansion funds. Current sales/income exceed expenses, but with a high debt load there are only limited corporate savings to finance the expansion phase.
Letters of support for this project were received from Cornel Cooperative Extension Capital Area Livestock Program leader, Executive Director Agricultural Stewardship Association, and President Washington County Local Development Corporation. The project supports Recommendation #5 of "¨the Washington County Agricultural and Farmland Protection Plan: "Promote the Economic Development of Agriculture." The project specifically addresses the following aspects of this recommendation as detailed on pages 57 and 58 of the plan:
· "Promote and support agriculture, including higher returns to producers;
· County economic development efforts [should] include the promotion, production and marketing of specialty and value-added products;
· Attract agricultural processing and manufacturing plants to Washington County."
Mission and History
Battenkill Fibers Carding and Spinning Mill, Inc. is located in a 6000 square foot commercial building in Greenwich, NY and manufactures artisan quality natural-colored and kettle-dyed premium knitting yarns using traditional semi-worsted milling machinery. Services offered include providing value-added, custom carding and spinning for fiber farms and manufacturing yarn and fiber products for wholesale and retail markets.
Battenkill Fibers was founded in 2009 by owner Mary Jeanne Packer and began production in 2010 after receiving start-up funding from a loan from the Washington County LDC, a loan from Glens Falls National Bank, two angel investors, and owners capital. After two years in operation, the Phase I- Start up of Battenkill Fibers business plan has been accomplished "“ the mill has established a strong regional market for custom processing of premium fibers for fiber farms and has obtained and filled some large national orders and completed several indie dyer projects. Battenkill Fibers has 12 full-time and part-time employees, including mill manager Karin Kennedy who is also an area sheep farmer.
To date, Battenkill Fibers has a farm-based customer list of about 350. Many farmers who ordered processing services in 2010 and 2011 and were very satisfied with with our work; and placed more substantial re-orders following their 2012 shearing season. Over two dozen indie dyers are sourcing their breed-specific base yarn from Battenkill Fibers and another dozen estimates have been furnished; and orders are pending.
In 2012, Battenkill Fibers received a 700 lb order, and two subsequent smaller re-orders, from a large international yarn distribution company that was responding to its retail customers' requests to furnish locally-sourced and spun yarn. This contract placed Battenkill Fibers squarely in the national spotlight in yarn consumer and trade media such as Yarn Market News and Vogue Knitting; and as a result, inquiries are coming from all over North America for breed-specific locally-sourced premium knitting yarns.