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Unique Natural Products Facility Opens on A-B Tech Campus
Date:11/9/2010

ASHEVILLE, N.C., Nov. 9, 2010 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A natural products manufacturing facility believed to be the first of its kind in the country recently opened at the Enka site of Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College.

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The facility is a division of Blue Ridge Food Ventures, an agribusiness incubator and job-creation initiative of the regional economic development organization AdvantageWest.

Not only will the new facility generate jobs, it will help establish Western North Carolina as a leader in the natural products industry nationally, attracting new natural products businesses and supporting development of export opportunities for companies, according to Mary Lou Surgi, executive director of Blue Ridge Food Ventures.

The facility will accommodate early-stage and established companies, tapping the region's biodiversity and agricultural tradition of growing herbs and medicinal plants.  

"Interest is high in this facility; we've already gotten calls from all over the country, and even as far as France," said Surgi. "They range from small businesses seeking a facility where they can cost-effectively manufacture their natural products and meet the new federal regulations, to larger companies that occasionally need a place to meet overflow demand. We're delighted to help grow the natural products industry locally, regionally and nationally and, in doing so, contribute to the economy of Western North Carolina."

Costs for the facility were about $100,000, which includes equipment and supplies, building upgrades and technical assistance and training for companies that will use the facility. Funding came from the North Carolina Biotechnology Center; the Golden LEAF Foundation, a nonprofit grants-making organization; Blue Ridge Food Ventures, and Gaia Herbs, a dietary supplement manufacturer in Brevard. Other partners include the Natural Products Laboratory at A-B Tech's BioBusiness Center and the Small Business and Technology Development Center, part of the University of North Carolina system.  

"The Blue Ridge facility provides a critical piece for our growing natural products industry.  Along with the business counseling and training services and the analytical resources of the Natural Products Lab, both provided by the BioBusiness Center at A-B Tech, we can provide our start-up businesses with an infrastructure edge that is unrivaled in America," said Paul Knott, Manager of A-B Tech's BioNetwork BioBusiness Center.

The facility complies with federal Good Manufacturing Practice guidelines, standards that meet Food and Drug Administration requirements for manufacturing, packaging, labeling and holding of dietary supplements. The standards aim to ensure that herbal products are acceptable for clinical trials and domestic sales.

The new facility will offer a cost-effective resource for smaller companies that can pay to use the equipment on an as-needed basis, as food entrepreneurs do with Blue Ridge Food Ventures, a kitchen incubator facility for artisan food producers.


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SOURCE Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College
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