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Heartland BioComposites holds grand opening

By Hector Rivera,2014-07-09 13:44
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Heartland BioComposites holds grand opening ...

Heartland BioComposites holds grand opening

By Jerry Abbott Staff Writer jabbott@torringtontelegram.com

     Amid dignitary speeches and excited onlookers, a new business officially opened Wednesday in

    Torrington.

     Heartland BioComposites is the “new kid on the block” in a number of ways. Not only are they the

    newest business to have a grand opening in Torrington, they are also the newest competitor in the wood

    composite/building material market. There is one big difference; Heartland is the only company in the

    world that commercially produces their composite building material from straw and plastic.

     “This is overwhelming,” said Heath Van Eaton, founder and president of Heartland BioComposites, in his

    welcoming comments to an estimated 200 well-wishers. “There were four steps for Heartland. First the

    product was developed and tested, which defined the company. Second, startup and equity capital was

    obtained from a network of investors. Third, the management was hired and trained while the equipment

    was ordered and installed. The fourth step is where we are today. Now we grow the company into what it

    can and should and will be.”

     Van Eaton said he was excited as a young man to learn that there was particleboard made from wheat

    straw. Then he heard that Trex was using plastic with wood to make a composite in the early 1990s. Van

    Eaton then decided on a product to market and used his resources and time to build his credibility and

    obtain research grants and loans. His idea gained momentum.

     “In my business model a company like Heartland could be in a rural community with quality of life that

    is important to the people,” Van Eaton said. “There my company could build careers. Imagination is the

    only limit to what we can do.”

     Starting with his wife, Amy, Van Eaton gave credit to a wide array of people: Heartland management,

    investors, board members, shareholders, participating banks, Goshen County Economic Development,

    Wyoming Business Council, WYRULEC, the city of Torrington, the state of Wyoming, Small Business

    Innovation Research (SBIR) Program, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Wyoming Small Business

    Center and the University of Wyoming (UW).

     A number of special guests spoke at the ceremony.

     “Congratulations to an inventor who made this a reality,” U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi said. “Heath told me there

    was a lot of straw in Colorado. When he (Heath) left my office he said, „I think I will put it (Heartland) in

    Wyoming.‟ We can make anything here in Wyoming and have it end up anywhere in the world.”

     Sen. Craig Thomas echoed Sen. Enzi‟s comments.

     “There are great opportunities in Wyoming,” Thomas said. “We are looking for diversity in our economy.

    We need more products that are made from ag products. Looking to Wyoming‟s future, these things will

    be what we want them to be.”

     Todd Peterson, president of Pinnacle Bank in Torrington, said he was president of the Goshen County

    Economic Development Corporation when Van Eaton presented his business plan.

     “Ben Avery in the Wyoming Business Council liked Heath‟s plan,” Peterson said. “Then came the „C‟ word.

    Heath needed capital. He sought out investors like Three Palms out of Denver. Local investors stepped up

    big time. He worked out a loan with most of the local banks and a couple banks in Scottsbluff, Neb. The

    USDA Rural Development worked on a guarantee for the loan.”

     “Brad Sutherland, executive director of Goshen County Economic Development Corporation, got a

    business ready community grant,” Peterson added. “The Wyoming Business Council gave a $1.5 million

    grant. A $450,000 loan was obtained for the (Heartland) building. This is the greatest cooperative effort I

    have seen for a startup business.”

     Torrington Mayor Mike Varney said the grand opening was a “great day for Torrington.”

     “Things are made of dreams,” Varney said. “Heath had a dream and never gave up. Congratulations to

    you and all who believed in you.”

     Ben Avery of the Wyoming Business Council thanked the U.S. senators present for supporting USDA

    programs as being building blocks to make Heartland happen.

     “We want to make the business a success,” Avery said. “You start a business to make money, not for

    economic development. When the business succeeds, that helps the economy.”

     After Avery concluded his comments, the Heartland BioComposites‟ ribbon cutting took place. Those present who desired to tour the facility were divided into three groups, each led by Van Eaton or a

member of his management staff.

     Van Eaton said the „feeders‟ send the wheat and plastic to the compounder where they are mixed.

     “The mixture is heated and passes to the extruder where it is pushed through a die and comes out at

    350 degrees,” Van Eaton said. “The formed product is cooled by chilled water to hold its shape. A puller is

    used to keep the product moving to the cutting saw where it is cut to length. Our product names Prairie

    Picket, Prairie Deck, Prairie Sheet and Prairie Pallet indicate that the product is made of wheat straw from the prairie.”

     Heartland BioComposites is working 12-hour shifts and will change to a 24-hour operation on Monday.

    Twenty-seven people are on the payroll.

     “We are fi nalizing product distribution with some of the biggest distributors in the U.S.,” Van Eaton said.

    “I want the product to be available everywhere. We are getting inquiries from all over the U.S., Mexico,

    Europe and Australia. We are also receiving inquiries from people who want to license our technology.

    Things will get crazy the next year or two. We are going to grow big and fast and we are ready for it.”

     Photo/Jerry Abbott Heartland BioComposites in Torrington is officially open for business. Wednesday morning

    amidst a large crowd of well wishers, Heath Van Eaton, president and founder of Heartland BioComposites (HB), cut

    the ribbon. Pictured are: Mike Varney, mayor of Torrington (left to right); Ben Avery, Wyoming Business Council; Mike

    Enzi, U.S. senator; Craig Thomas, U.S. senator; Todd Peterson, president of Pinnacle Bank in Torrington; Toby Lewis,

    president of Goshen County Chamber of Commerce; Heath Van Eaton, president and founder of Heartland

    BioComposites; Ashley Harpstreith, Human Resources and Media Relations (HB); Tim Ellis, chief financial officer (HB);

    John Mitchell, vice president and director of operations (HB); Cory Horejs, production manager (HB); Mark Stratton,

    production manager (HB); and Adam Johnson, associate director of operations (HB).

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