Thursday, October 27, 2011

Four Wins for this project

Imagine starting a company where you were paid to have your raw materials dropped off at your dock, where your workers were supplied free as part of a training program for the unemployed, where your rent was subsidized as part of a community redevelopment program yet you could sell your final product at high prices because of its ‘green’ value. Now that’s worthy of the term WIN WIN WIN WIN.

Check out the business model of Big City Forest, based in the Bronx, New York. I read about these people over ten years ago in an article in the Times and hope they are still going strong.

New York City sees thousands of full pallets entering every day and being discarded. Landfills won’t take them so trucking companies will charge for their removal. But these are usually turned into wood chips, a pity for the strong wood they are made from. Big City Forest charges people 75 cents for each pallet dropped off at their loading dock.

Unemployed people need experience and new skills. The governments, rather than simply pay for unemployment benefits, would prefer to see them learn these skills. So the workers are given to Big City Forest where they trade free labor for furniture-making experience and skills.
The South Bronx has a lot of abandoned buildings subject to drug use and other crimes. It is in the community’s best interest to have viable businesses operating in these buildings so the borough substantially subsidizes the rent on these buildings to Big City Forest.

Pallets turned into wood-chips, burned or thrown into landfills mean other trees need to be cut down to make furniture. And pallets are usually made of excellent wood like rosewood, cherry, oak, mahogany, maple. So here is the ‘Green’ hook for this company.

As chips, the wood is worth about $30 a ton. As flooring, the value rises to $1,200 a ton, and as furniture, the wood in pallets is worth $6,000 a ton.

This wood makes excellent furniture. Butcher-block tables and benches with the company's logo are sold to institutional clients like foster-care centers and Cornell University -- ''they're frat proof,'' Ms. Dimino said -- but are also showing up in chic shops like Terra Verde in SoHo.
Customers happily pay $750 for a five-foot table, said the shop's owner, Katherine Tiddens.
''They're like a rock,'' Ms. Tiddens said, ''like a lesson in wood.''

No comments:

Post a Comment