LACEY - Earth Friendly Products, a manufacturer of all-natural cleaning products, has made a big splash in its first nine months of production.
The company’s Lacey operation won the Thurston County Economic Development Council’s best new business award for 2010 and is set to receive a green-business award Wednesday from the Thurston County Chamber of Commerce, said Amber Petersen, general manager of the company’s northwestern division.
Thurston County EDC marketing and business development director Renee Sunde, who interviewed staffers at Earth Friendly Products as part of the awards process, said she came away from the interview impressed with the operation. In addition to manufacturing an environmentally friendly product, it has incorporated green designs into the manufacturing facility (future solar panels are expected to generate about 40 percent of its power needs) and have demonstrated a growing commitment to buy from local vendors, she said.
“It’s good to see them taking that approach,” Sunde said.
Van Vlahakis, the founder of the business, accepted the business award at the EDC’s awards events last month. Vlahakis started the business in 1967 and launched the Earth Friendly Products brand in 1989. The company is headquartered in the Chicago area and operates five manufacturing facilities, the Lacey site being its newest, Petersen said.
The company came to the Northwest, in part, so it could supply Costco Wholesale, its largest customer here, she said. Its products also are sold at other grocery stores throughout the region. Mud Bay, the Olympia-based retailer of healthful products for dogs and cats, sells pet-related products produced by Earth Friendly.
Earth Friendly manufactures 150 cleaning products and is perhaps best known for a laundry detergent called ECOS. All of its products are derived from plant-based materials, and the company shuns a long list of chemicals typically found in cleaning products, such as ammonia and chlorine.
Earth Friendly here occupies about half of a nearly 100,000-square-foot building at 8735 Commerce Place Drive N.E. The company has an option to purchase more space in the building and so far employs 25, up from 10 when the facility began operations in June.
That was welcome news for employee Jay Elsner.
Elsner, 29, lost his job in June and worked a series of temporary jobs before his temporary position translated into a full-time job as head batch maker at Earth Friendly.
“It’s kind of a godsend,” said Elsner, who has been with the company for about two months. “It’s a good company to work for, and I’m happy to be here.”
More growth could be on the way because the Lacey facility is generating $1 million to $2 million in sales per month, Petersen said.
Three businesses and a nonprofit won EDC awards. The EDC received 33 nominations in January and narrowed that to 12. A committee of last year’s winners and EDC board members selected the winners.