Spokane Journal of Business

Strawboard offering eyed; British want to buy shares

Plant to make particle board from straw may open in ’99; one in Spokane to follow

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Northwest Strawboard Inc., a Pasco, Wash.-based company thats been formed to develop three plants in Eastern Washington to make particle board out of straw, hopes to raise $5 million in a stock offering to help pay for the first of the plants, in Pasco.

In addition, a Lincolnshire, England-based company thats expected to supply equipment for the Pasco plant has offered to take a significant equity position in Northwest Strawboard.

The British company, Compak Systems, plans to invest $1.6 million in the strawboard venture, says Dan Johnson, of Compak America, a dealer for Compak Systems.

The rest of the $10.5 million needed to open the plant is expected to come from loans, says Don Phillips, a Harrington, Wash., wheat farmer whos helping organize Northwest Strawboard.

If all of the plants funding falls into place as expected, the Pasco company intends to order equipment for the plant in April. With such a schedule, it could start producing particle board from strawcalled strawboardin about a year, Phillips says.

The plant, which would have two production lines, would use about 30,000 tons of straw and produce around a million 4-by-8-foot sheets of strawboard annually. Strawboard typically costs about the same or slightly less than high-quality wood particle board.

Plants of similar size in the Moses Lake and Spokane areas respectively are expected to follow the opening of the one in Pasco.

Johnson says that Compak Systems plans to invest in Northwest Strawboard to help the company become successful and to show other potential investors and end users that Compak is absolutely confident in this technology.

Strawboard can be made out of wheat straw, grass straw, cornstalks, or rice straw. The straw is chopped into small pieces, combined with a resin, then pressed into sheets, which are trimmed and sanded to produce the final product.

Because of the type of resin used and the properties of the straw, strawboard is touted as being more fire and water resistant and stronger than conventional wood particle board.

Compak Systems has supplied equipment for about 10 strawboard plants around the world, says John Marwood, the companys installation manager, who was in Spokane recently for the Ag Expo. In the U.S., its equipment is installed in a plant in Kansas. It also has equipment in plants in such countries as Pakistan, Bangladesh, Australia, and Indonesia.

The company has taken an equity position in about one-third of those plants, Marwood says. He adds that the strawboard equipment is Compak Systems main product, and it has been involved in that business for about 15 years.

  • Marlene Mehlhaff

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