Glass tile business moving to Idaho

Posted: Monday, February 11, 2002

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Sandhill Industries is moving out of state so that the glass tile business can grow.

The decision was a tough one, said co-owner Terry Raudenbush.

Sandhill has grown as much as it could in Fairbanks. Now it's time to be closer to raw materials and customers, and that means moving to the Lower 48, Raudenbush said. In April, she and her husband, Jim, will move the business to Boise, Idaho.

''We really struggled to make the decision,'' Terry Raudenbush said. The couple had been weighing the decision for months.

The couple's business makes colored glass tiles from recycled crushed glass in a small warehouse and office space in Fairbanks.

Terry runs the operation and Jim works for the Bureau of Land Management. The two started the business three years ago with a start-up loan of $500,000 from the Alaska Science and Technology Foundation.

Now their tiles sell in 60 locations nationwide, competing head to head with Italian manufacturers.

The tiles are made from clear, crushed glass -- the consistency of sugar -- which is usually made from discarded windows, she said. Crushed colored glass is added for color and the mixture is poured into molds and baked in a kiln.

Alaska can't meet the business's demand for glass, so the company has to ship the 4,000-pound sacks of glass from the Lower 48.

Terry said the cost of packing materials and shipping orders out is over $50,000 a year from Fairbanks.

And the company still must pay back the $500,000 loan.

In Boise, she will be able to rent a larger warehouse, a loading dock and office space for what she is paying in Fairbanks now, she said.

The new place also has the right electric hookups for industrial kilns. That's important because the company is thinking of making glass bricks using less-pure recycled glass, Raudenbush said. The new process would require they pay at least $18,000 for a new hookup in Fairbanks, she said.

The company received an $80,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency to develop glass bricks. The bricks would be too expensive to ship from Fairbanks because they would sell for much less then the tiles, Raudenbush said.

The new shop is close to both the company's raw material supply and a corrugated cardboard company, she said.

Raudenbush plans to take her three employees with her. She estimates that she'll be able to tap into the large manufacturing labor force in Idaho as the company grows.

The move will make her business competitive to bid on large corporate projects. The company has supplied 4,000 square feet of tiles for large public works construction, including the Monroe Public Library in Seattle, she said.

The last day for the Fairbanks store will be April 15.

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