State chilly to fry machine maker

Maker of french fry vending machines wanted Alaska site

Posted: Wednesday, July 02, 2003

ANCHORAGE - Representatives of a Pennsylvania company proposing an Alaska factory to build a patented french fries vending machine were told Monday the building they want already has a tenant.

Mike Barry, chairman of the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, said a South Anchorage fish processing plant desired by the company already is occupied by Alaska Seafood International, and that will not change as long as ASI doesn't violate its lease.

"We're not entertaining any proposals for it at this time," Barry said.

Spokesmen for Tasty Fries Inc. of Blue Bell, Pa., told the board that the company could manufacture thousands of machines a year and employ more than 3,000 Alaskans by May 2006.

The company wants the authority to help issue $150 million in bonds that would be underwritten by private firms, not the state, and to either sell or lease Tasty Fries the state-owned factory building near the Anchorage international airport.

"The vending machine industry has been waiting for a french fry vending machine for years," said Louis Kelly, Tasty Fries vice president of operations. He said there are millions of soft drink vending machines in North America and Tasty Fries wants one of its machines next to every one of them.

Barry asked Kelly how Tasty Fries, a publicly traded company, expects to raise $150 million on the private bond markets when the company has mainly debt on its books. According to documents filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Tasty Fries had $44,136 in cash as of April 30 and $1.2 million in debts due within the next year. Also, the company has had no revenue over its life while amassing $34 million in losses.

Kelly expressed confidence. "This is going to be a big company in a very short period of time."

After his presentation, which lasted less than half an hour, Kelly said the first 12 french fries vending machines rolled off a California production line just last week. Tasty Fries has approached other states seeking help in starting up a factory, most notably New Hampshire.

The company says its machine dispenses 32 hot french fries in 90 seconds. It uses dehydrated potatoes instead of frozen fries, which have been a problem in other attempts at french fries vending, Kelly said.

Juneau resident Bob Loescher, a former authority board member now working as a consultant to Tasty Fries, said he had hoped for more enthusiasm from the Alaska development authority.

"We don't feel encouraged by the reception we've received here today from the AIDEA board," he said.

Loescher and Kelly expressed confidence that Tasty Fries can find an underwriter for the $150 million bond issue and then return to the authority, which has a program to help businesses do bond sales without obligating the state's credit.

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