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Published September 03, 2013, 10:33 AM

From China to ND

A North Dakota company that will manufacture biodegradable food containers and other products made from wheat straw is getting ready to start production.

By: Forum News Service,

DEVILS LAKE, N.D. — A North Dakota company that will manufacture biodegradable food containers and other products made from wheat straw is getting ready to start production.

The Ultra Green plant in Devils Lake plans to make environmentally friendly products such as pizza pans, condiment containers and toilet paper.

Officials with the Plymouth, Minn.-based company say the plant is slated to open later this year and will hire about 100 employees. It hopes to have as many as 350 workers within five years.

“We expect to grow,” says Mack Traynor, the company’s CEO who grew up in Fargo and has family in Devils Lake. “The demand already is there. We’re a green company, and there are no environmental impacts for communities.”

It’s the first facility in the United States for Ultra Green, which had been making its products from sugar cane in China. Wheat straw is the stubble left in wheat fields when farmers harvest their crops.

“We can make them cheaper than they can in China,” he says. “The cost of raw materials is cheaper in North Dakota, and we’re making the product here, so we don’t have to ship it overseas.”

Traynor says when the plant reaches maximum production, it will process six to nine large rectangle bales of wheat straw an hour — and use about 25,000 to 40,000 bales a year. Ramsey County and the neighboring counties of Nelson and Benson each grow roughly 100,000 acres of wheat. The company also can draw from Towner and Cavalier counties.

Traynor says the company selected Devils Lake over 242 other cities because it offered an attractive financial incentive package and because of the availability of the former Pasta by Leonardo’s plant, which closed in the spring of 2012.

The incentives given to Ultra Green by Devils Lake amount to $1,000 per job created above the initial 100 annually for 10 years, according to Mayor Dick Johnson. An early estimate put the city’s contribution at $3.5 million, plus $500,000 from the state, but the total amount could change depending on job numbers.

“It’s a wise investment for the community,” Johnson says.

Ultra Green recently received a $75,000 grant from the North Dakota Agricultural Product Utilization Commission, which Traynor says will be used to create new labels for the company’s products.

It will change the stamp from “Made in China” to “Made in Devils Lake, N.D., U.S.A.”

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