Biz buzz :: Eco-friendly foam

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September 27, 2010
By: Gregory J. Scott
Gregory J. Scott
Eco-friendly firefighting foam wins MN Cup

A Downtown-based start-up that manufacturers an innovative, environmentally safe fire retardant has won this year’s Minnesota Cup, an annual entrepreneurial contest honoring “Minnesota’s Top Breakthrough Business Idea.”

At a Sept. 13 ceremony, EarthClean, which offices in the North Loop, was awarded $40,000 in total seed capital ­— $20,000 for the Cup’s grand prize and $20,000 more as the Clean Tech and Renewable Energy Division winner. The seed money was just a portion of a total prize that includes a slew of start-up services, from professional legal and accounting assistance to a scholarship to attend the upcoming Minnesota Venture & Finance Conference.

Not that EarthClean, founded in March 2009, really needed the money. CEO and founder Doug Ruth has reportedly already raised $1 million to help bring EarthClean’s Tetra KO product to market.

“We did it for visibility,” he said. “We felt it was a good opportunity for us to show the state that innovation in this state, inventions happening in garages around the state, is still alive and well. I couldn’t think of a better way to do that than the Minnesota Cup.”

Tetra KO is a biodegradable powder that makes water more adhesive to surfaces. It can be pumped through fire hoses and other equipment to produce a cool, dense steam that can suffocate a blaze more efficiently than plain water. The product is currently being beta tested by six local fire departments.

Ruth says his company has already manufactured 10,000 pounds of the product and that in six weeks EarthClean will begin selling Tetra KO for profit. EarthClean owns rights to all patents, present and future.

The team of engineers and inventors that created Tetra KO includes a 20-year firefighter from Woodbury named Terry Lund. Lund and his wife were in a running club with Ruth and his wife.

According to Ruth, who has 20 years of experience founding and running start-ups, Lund’s wife “told me, Hey, my husband and some guys have invented this product, would you come over and take a look and give us your opinion?

“After I did the research, it became very, very clear to me that the technology they had was seriously game-changing for the fire industry,” Ruth said.

He estimates that fire departments spend approximately $400 million on firefighting foams and nearly $90 million on toxic retardants each year. “There’s a great market opportunity — and demand,” he said.


Carmichael Lynch Spong turns 20

One of the most esteemed public relations firms in the nation, Downtown-based Carmichael Lynch Spong celebrated its 20th anniversary on Sept. 17, welcoming friends, employees and clients to a rooftop party at its offices at 110 N. 5th St.

The 200-plus staff has won 11 “PRWeek” Awards, 58 Public Relations Society of America’s Silver Anvils, 38 Bronze Anvils and was recently named “Agency of the Year” by trade journal “The Holmes Report.”


Chipotle adds third Downtown location

Out with the old burritos, and in with the new.

Chiptole Mexican Grill Inc., has signed a lease for a third Downtown location, pledging to take over the ground-level space at U.S. Bank Plaza vacated this summer by Baja Sol Tortilla Grill.

The new Chiptole restaurant will be one of the largest in the city, at 3,700 square feet. Scheduled to open in December, it will be the 51st Chipotle in the state.

Baja Sol chose not to renew its lease, which expired at the end of July. The company is remodeling its City Center location instead.


Walker Art Center Shop announces big sale

The Walker Art Center Shop has long been the impulse-purchase capital of Downtown, thanks to its brilliant ability to disguise routine necessity with clever design. Sure, you’ve probably got like 10 power strips. But do you have one shaped like a stick man? Didn’t think so.

During the first weekend of October all those quirky items are going to get hugely less expensive. The Shop has announced its first ever “SUPER SALE,” from Oct. 1–Oct. 3. Discounts will go as deep as 90 percent on some items, including art books, jewelry, toys and kitchen items.

Sale shopping hours are 11 a.m.–6 p.m. Friday and Sunday, 10 a.m.–6 p.m. Saturday.


Best Buy plants self-serve kiosk in IDS Center

It’s not exactly the Best Buy Downtown leaders had hoped for. But the Richfield, Minn.-based retailer can now claim a presence in the core of the city, if a very small one.

The electronics giant has installed a “Best Buy Express” kiosk in IDS Crystal Court. The touch-screen vending machine allows passers-by to purchase all sorts of Best Buy products, from cheap phone chargers to $300 iPod Touches. The blue machine is located on the ground level, right near the exit onto Nicollet Mall.

According to IDS Center leasing director Linda Solberg, the kiosk is the closest thing Downtown
will likely get to a Best Buy retail store. Solberg said that
Best Buy has for the moment abandoned any plans to possibly open a new store in the city’s center.

Best Buy launched the vending machines in 2008 at 12 major U.S. airports. Its partner in the venture is Zoom Systems, a San Francisco-based company.

Zoom also runs a line of machines that sells Apple electronics at Macy’s department stores, including the store in downtown Minneapolis, across from IDS Center.