December 13, 2018

12-13-18 CleanFiber secures more investment, prepares to open Blasdell plant - Woods Oviatt serves as counsel.

A past 43North award winner has secured $9.2 million in investment this year, as the company prepares to open an insulation manufacturing plant in Blasdell.

CleanFiber, formerly known as UltraCell, said Thursday it has closed an additional $2.3 million in financing from private investors in the United States and Canada, bringing this year's total to $9.2 million. That was on top of the $2.25 million the company secured last year.

CleanFiber uses recycled corrugated cardboard to make high-performance building insulation. The company’s founders and management team developed a cellulose insulation that they say is more efficient and safer than regular insulation, using a patented process that infuses fire retardant directly into the fiber.

Jonathan Strimling, the CEO, said the company will open a 60,000 square foot manufacturing plant in Blasdell, on the site of a former Bethlehem Steel warehouse. But he declined to provide details about the plant or when it would start production.

"We'll be launching manufacturing in early 2019," he said.

A state Department of Environmental Conservation document said the facility will be at 250 Lake Ave.

"We think there will 30 to 35 jobs at a facility like this once we're up and running, and we think we'll create the large majority of those jobs in in 2019," Strimling said.

Under the name UltraCell, the company won $500,000 as a runner-up in the 2016 edition of the 43North business plan competition. The company, which moved here from Massachusetts in early 2017, has also received funding from Buffalo Angels and the Western New York Impact Investment Fund.

"We actually have millions of dollars in (orders from customers) waiting for product now," Strimling said. "At this point, it's a matter of how quickly we can add the capacity to fill customer needs."

The company said its production is sold out "well into the second quarter" of next year, based on advance orders, and has a goal of eventually making 3 million bags of its product per year.

Strimling said cellulose insulation is used around the country by installers who are home-energy retrofitters, home builders and subcontractors specializing in insulation.

CleanFiber pitches its product as an "advanced form" of cellulose insulation. Strimling noted his competitors predominantly use recycled newsprint as a feedstock, which he said leads to a dusty, less efficient installation process. And as newspaper circulation has dropped, there is less recycled paper available for those companies to use.

"All of those factors combined have created an opportunity for us," he said.

The Upstate Capital Association of New York recently named CleanFiber the region's "cleantech investment of the year." Noa Simons, the group's executive director, said the company "epitomizes the type of practical innovation that is attracting major investors to upstate New York."