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    << Return to news list Warren County Watch
     
     
    -- A twice-a-month column by Maury Thompson about economic development, business and quality of life in Warren County
     
    Finch Paper going strong a decade into new ownership
     
    When Atlas Holdings and Blue Wolf Capital purchased the Finch Paper mill in Glens Falls in 2007, skeptics suggested it was the beginning of the end for the more than 140-year-old local employer.
     
    The skeptics have been proven wrong.
     
    A decade later, Finch Paper, with about 625 employees, remains among Warren County's largest for-profit employers and property tax payers.
     
    The owners are committed to the long-term viability of the mill, regardless of who owns it, said Derek Basile, vice president and chief financial officer for Finch Paper.
    "They want this business here for another 150 years," he said. "Atlas may only be involved for 75 years of that, but they're committed to the long term."
     
    "Over the past decade, Atlas has spent more than $75 million on capital improvements, reduced energy costs, and assembled a "relatively young" management team to guide the operation in the decades to come," Basile said.
    The mill's economic impact extends far beyond the company's direct employment.
     
    The company purchases about 650,000 tons of pulp wood from loggers within about a 180-mile radius of Glens Falls.
    "We're not purchasing our raw materials from overseas," Basile said.
     
    Finch is an integral catalyst in the supply-and-demand equation that maintains the volume loggers need to be viable, and stabilizes prices for other regional wood products manufacturers such as International Paper Co. in Ticonderoga, in Essex County.
     
    The mill has an impact on regional quality of life.
     
    Cash contributions and volunteer service from Finch Paper and its labor unions assist local charities, such as The Hyde Collection Art Museum in Glens Falls.
     
    Finch Paper, originally known as Finch, Pruyn & Co., was established in 1865.
     
    It has evolved over the years from a logging and saw mill operation, to a newsprint mill, and now, for many decades, a producer of fine paper used for printing and publishing.
     
    In 2016, the company diversified to supplement its core business with new products such as "food contact paper" used to make restaurant disposable plates, cups and ketchup containers, "luxury parchment" for packaging consumer items such as watches and cologne, and paper used to make shopping bags for high-end retailers.
     
    In 2014-'15, the company invested $10 million to upgrade its wood yard to increase efficiency, reduce electricity consumption, and reduce costs for loggers.
    The upgrade included installation of the second largest wood debarking system in the world.
    "This was a very monumental event in the history of Finch," Basile said.
     
    National Grid, a regional utility company, provided a $1.8 million grant for the project.
     
    New York State, through its Regional Economic Development Council Program, provided a $1 million grant, a portion of which funded the wood yard project and a portion which funded improvements to the mill's largest paper machine.
     
    A second recent $1 Million State Regional Economic Development Council Grant will reimburse Finch Paper for costs associated with researching and developing ways to reuse paper residuals, commonly known as sludge.
    Finch has been collaborating with the State Department of Environmental Conservation, Cornell University in New York, and University of Arkansas on the project.
     
    "In "the first turn of the crank," Finch and its partners have researched and developed ways to reuse paper residuals as agricultural landscape cover materials and as an alternative fuel for industrial boilers," said Alex Rotolo, vice president of corporate development for Finch Paper and president of Finch Waste, an affiliated company that is undertaking the residuals project and operates a land fill in Northumberland that Finch purchased from Saratoga County in 2014.
     
    The project has already reused 24,000 tons of residuals that otherwise would have been disposed of in a landfill.
     
    The next phase of the project is research and development of a landscaping cover material for home gardening use, which would be sold at home improvement and gardening supply stores.
     
    Basile, the company's vice president and chief financial officer, volunteers on the EDC Warren County Board of Directors.
     
    In other Warren County economic development news:
     
    Exit 18 development
     
    -- A new Holiday Inn Express opened recently at 216 Corinth Rd. in Queensbury.
     
    The three-story 90-room hotel is the latest of three new businesses that add to the quality of life for employers looking to locate at available commercial development sites west of Northway Exit 18 in Queensbury.
     
    The other new businesses are Rocksport Indoor Rock Climbing Center and Sky Zone Trampoline Park.
     
    EDC Warren County is helping market the nearby former Native Textiles knitting plant on Carey Road, as well as various vacant commercial development lots in the vicinity.
     
    The Town of Queensbury, in collaboration with the City of Glens Falls, is in the process of extending municipal sewer service to the area.
    "Our new commercials that we are doing, we're saying, 'Sewer in 2018,'" said Edward Bartholomew, president of EDC Warren County.
     
    Mountain biking
     
    -- Garnet Hill Lodge in North River, in the Town of Johnsburg, has developed a new mountain bike trail system with trails for beginner, intermediate and advanced riders, according to Gore Mountain Regional Chamber of Commerce.
     
    The lodge also has a new fleet of mountain bikes available for guest use.
     
    Wilderness Property Management of Weavertown designed the trail system, and also designed the new Olympic Regional Development Authority mountain bike trail system at the Ski Bowl in North Creek.
     
    Elsewhere in Warren County, the Town of Queensbury recently expanded its municipal mountain bike trail system at Gurney Lane Park, off Northway Exit 20.
    Recreational mountain biking enhances the quality of life in Warren County and can be a great workforce team building activity.
     
    Turning STEM to STEAM
     
    -- Local U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Willsboro, continues her push to broaden STEM education to STEAM.
     
    Stefanik, with House Democrats Suzanne Bonamici of Oregon and James Langevin of Rhode Island, has co-sponsored HR 3344, according to the Library of Congress government information website.
     
    The legislation would require the National Science Foundation to incorporate art and design into a program that promotes a balanced approach between training in science, technology, engineering and math.
     
    Incorporating arts and design stimulates creativity and innovation necessary to fully utilize the other skills, Stefanik and her colleagues suggest.
     
    Stefanik and Bonamici are co-chairwomen of the House STEAM Caucus.
     
    The Hyde Collection Art Museum and World Awareness Children's Museum, two of the partners in the Glens Falls Arts District, have incorporated the STEAM concept in their children's educational programs, which enhance the region's quality of life and develop skills for future workers.
     
    Preparing students for the workforce
     
    Queensbury School District has broadened its focus beyond the traditional "one-size-fits-all Regents diploma" to help students make strategic choices of careers and prepare for the workforce, School Superintendent Douglas Huntley said in a presentation at the Sept. 19 EDC Warren County board meeting.
     
    "Students who go to college without a reason will often not find their path soon enough," he said.
     
    Among other initiatives, the school district offers an International Baccalaureate Program diploma, a "rigorous program of study" in the eleventh and twelfth grades that focuses on liberal arts, research and community service.
    "It's a high level of education," Huntley said.
     
    About 20 students in the school district are working toward the diploma, and about 140 other students are taking one or more advanced courses in the program.
     
    The district also participates in a SUNY Adirondack community college program that teaches high school students skills needed for employment at local companies.
     
    "Queensbury School District has been a great partner to collaborate with for student internships and educational tours," said Jim Siplon, chief operating officer of Just Beverages in Glens Falls.
    "There's somebody in our facility from Queensbury High School almost all the time," said Siplon, a volunteer EDC Warren County board member.
     
    Maury Thompson is a former newspaper reporter, who retired from The Post-Star after 21 years covering the region.
     
    He keeps his finger on the pulse of economic development, business and quality of life in Warren County by writing a twice-a-month column for EDC Warren County.
     
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