Jan 29, 2007 – By CHRIS WHIPPLE
Staff Writer, The Daily Advance
Sunday, December 10, 2006
Old school environmental activism may fine for hippies. But a new trend in environmental capitalism is making conservation practical on a global scale. Just ask Shawn LeMond, owner of ECG, a local glass recycling business honored this month by Business North Carolina magazine as one of the state’s top four small businesses.
Since LeMond opened a pilot plant at Pasquotank County’s Commerce Park in January 2004, ECG – formerly Elizabeth City Glass Company – has processed 2.2 million pounds of waste glass using a unique, patented crusher. If revenue projections at ECG are any indication, the guiding principle of the Age of Aquarius is no longer conscience plus activism equals karma. It’s conservation plus production equals profit.ECG’s projected earnings in 2006 are $320,000 – double what the company made in 2005.
Now, ECG is poised to expand its operations exponentially.
ECG is pursuing a deal with the 3M corporation to make one of its product lines more environmentally friendly. If the deal goes through, LeMond says, 3M would replace the natural abrasives it uses in its sandpaper with sand produced by ECG’s recycling process.
Researchers at 3M contacted LeMond about his product in June and LeMond has been sending them study samples since then, he said.
Of course, you can’t fill an order for a worldwide conglomerate using pop bottles discarded by a few Albemarle counties. To meet the needs of potential customers like 3M, LeMond is working on a deal to open a mega-recycling plant in Davidson County that would import waste glass from all of central North Carolina.
ECG was formed through private securities offerings, making it a C-corporation. It is also a “green” business venture which means investors qualify for tax credits. LeMond raised money for ECG with private stock offerings in 2002 and 2005.
With just 32 shareholders, LeMond said he raised $748,000 to capitalize the business. He’s currently conducting a third private offering now to support the Davidson County venture, he said.
The value of ECG is currently $8.50 a share, with a minimum buy-in of $7,500. LeMond is still the majority shareholder with 66 percent of the stock.
3M isn’t the only company interested in doing business with ECG. After reading an article in Waste News, billionaire Australian Anthony Pratt flew his private jet into Elizabeth City Airport in October to talk to LeMond about producing a line of “green” products. Pratt is looking to buy 38 of LeMond’s crushers, which sell for $250,000 each.
The government of India is another potential customer.
LeMond says after reading a May 2005 news story about ECG in The Daily Advance, an Indian official visiting Raleigh changed his travel plans to meet with ECG’s chief executive.
LeMond, a former mayor of Matthews and state Boxing commissioner, hasn’t had any more contact with the Indian government since that meeting. But he says the face-to-face is an indication of the potential markets for glass recyclers.
This month, LeMond is in Florida negotiating to build a glass reprocessing plant to supply the busy swimming pool filter industry.
LeMond says ECG’s recognition from Business North Carolina magazine shows it doesn’t matter where a business is located. Even at the edge of the Great Dismal Swamp (where giant, rat-like nutria emerge at night and occasionally walk out onto the ECG production floor), a business can shine, he said.
“We’re stepping out of the dark into the limelight now,” LeMond said Thursday. “We’ve finally hit our stride and this recognition by Business North Carolina is part of that. We have really made some ripples in the world.”