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After four years of work, the community of Hyder is going into the bottled-water business.
Construction is complete on a 73,000-square-foot water-bottling plant and production should start this month, said Hyder Community Association Administrator Paul Larkin.
The plant will sell water under the name Alaska Chill to Fairbanks-based Aqua Alaska, which plans to market Hyder's water in the Lower 48. The plant also will sell water under the name Alaska Glacier Blue for its own markets, according to John Pearson, an economic development planner for the community. At full production, 41 people will work in the plant.
Funding for the $1 million project came from the community's reserves, bank loans, state funding and federal grants, Pearson said. The water will come from a glacier-fed well 600 feet from the plant.
The nonprofit Hyder Community Association owns the Alaskana Glacier Water Co., commonly called Hyder Waterworks by the town's residents, Association President Charles Bishop said.
"It gives us an economic base," he said. "Things were getting pretty slim here for the last couple of years."
Water will be produced in half-liter, 20-ounce, 1-liter and 1.5-liter bottles, plant Quality Assurance Manager Erin Hausske said. The project puts Hyder on the map and will help alleviate high unemployment, she said.
Proceeds will go into community improvements, she said.
"It's a success story of rural development in Alaska. It shows what people can accomplish by working together," she said.
The business will ship the water by truck and barge. Plant workers also will manufacture plastic bottles and wooden pallets for shipping, Pearson said. The University of Alaska Southeast in Ketchikan is helping train the plant's workers.
"What we've done in Hyder really is an ideal model of what could happen in other rural communities," Pearson said. "My feeling is that water is the next major resource for Southeast Alaska."
Hyder, with a population of about 100 people, has close ties to nearby Stewart, British Columbia. Sometimes called the "Friendliest Ghost Town in Alaska," the community's largest employers include Hyder Community Association road projects, the U.S. Forest Service and the tourism industry.
Joanna Markell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.