NORTH MONMOUTH — Burning wood shavings have rarely made so many so happy.

These shavings may be no different than what you might find on the floor of any carpentry shop, but when they are collected and processed for the new biomass boiler at Tex Tech Industries, they represent savings of hundreds of thousands of dollars and new jobs to the area workforce.

“It’s good environmentally, it’s good for the company and it helps our employees,” Ken Bundy, Tex Tech’s director of engineering services, said during the open house the company held Monday to unveil its boiler and new research and development center. “There’s no downside.”

Opened in 1904, Tex Tech makes textiles used for a variety of applications, from tennis ball felt to fibers used in the aerospace industry and by the military and law enforcement.

The roughly 100 business and local government representatives who turned out for Monday’s ceremony got an up-close look at two massive upgrades Tex Tech has taken onin the past several years. The research and development center, called the Center of Excellence, has new laboratories for designing high-tech synthetic fabrics.

The boiler, meanwhile, will allow Tex Tech to move as many as 20 jobs from China to Maine by cutting the company’s oil consumption as much as 95 percent.

“It’s gone even better than we expected,” said Chief Operating Officer John Stankiewicz.

Tex Tech’s process requires several pools of water, each with up to 2,000 gallons of water, to be brought to a rolling boil. The company had primarily burned oil to get the tanks to temperature. Bundy said Tex Tech consumed more than 200,000 of home heating oil each year.

Bundy first broached his boiler idea with Stankiewicz in late 2008. The $1.6 million price tag to convert would have been prohibitive without roughly $800,000 in grants from the state-run Efficiency man and a $300,000 Community Development Block Grant the company got in collaboration with the town of Monmouth.

“The initial investment is often too much,” Bundy said.

The wood shavings, the leftovers produced during the pallet-making process, are shipped a couple of times a week from a company in Livermore Falls. Bundy expects to burn about 35 tons per week.

The boiler is efficient. The company has burned about 70 tons of chips so far, which has left behind less than 55 gallons in waste. The residue is non-toxic and works as a garden fertilizer.

Bundy said the boiler is expected to pay for itself in three years, but Tex Tech’s investment will be returned in less than a year.

The wood shavings will all be purchased from Maine companies and all but one component on the boiler itself was made in the U.S., mostly in New England.

“For a small company in North Monmouth, Maine, we’re very fortunate,” Bundy said. “We couldn’t have done this without the town of Monmouth, the wonderful vendors and the management here. Most of the time when you come up with a hair-brained scheme they tell you it’s a hair-brained scheme, but they bought into it.”

Monmouth Town Manager Curtis Lunt said the town saw an opportunity to help an important local company and the residents who work there when Tex Tech officials last year asked the town to partner with them.

Seeing the finished product confirmed residents, who voted to approve the venture, made the right decision.

“It makes you feel good,” Lunt said. “We’re happy to see this investment in the employees and the facility.”

Stankiewicz said Tex Tech has remained vital by staying on the cutting edge of textile technologies.

One of the beneficiaries of that effort is Malin Reynolds of the Idaho Falls Police Department. Reynolds was shot June 17 after chasing a wanted man into his home.

“He grabbed a gun off the cabinet and shot me, point blank,” said Reynolds, who was recognized during Monday’s ceremony as the first officer to be saved by Tex Tech ballistics material.

Reynolds, who has four children, ages 16, 11, 9 and 6, said he had just received the protective vest six months earlier.

“It was the newest and best version,” he said. “I walked out of the hospital with my wife and daughter three hours later. I returned home to my wife and four kids. That’s priceless.”

Craig Crosby–621-5642

[email protected]

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