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ARS science leads to new business opportunities.

Ask people in Bement, Illinois--ARS technologies really are helping the economies of rural America.

Not only does transferring research findings from federal labs to the private sector provide manufacturing jobs, it has a tipple effect on local economies where the jobs are located.

Six years ago, Central Illinois Manufacturing Co. faced a serious dilemma.

A key ingredient in the fuel filters that they manufactured was no longer available. The ingredient--carboxymethyl cellulose--absorbed water from the fuel. Its primary commercial use had been in feminine hygiene products, but production was discontinued because it was found to contribute to toxic shock syndrome.

At the time, Central Illinois Manufacturing had 65 employees in the eastern Illinois town of 1,800 people. In business since 1964, the company's sales had reached $3.5 million annually.

As William Ayers, president of the firm, embarked on a search for an alternative ingredient, he stumbled across a cornstarch-based absorbent developed by the Agricultural Research Service.

Ayers recalls. "We tried a lot of alternatives, but we chose the starch-based product because it had the best strength."

Today, Central Illinois Manufacturing has boosted its employment to 120 people with an estimated payroll of about $3 million. The company now averages $10 million in sales of fuel filters to most major U.S. oil companies and has markets in Europe and Asia as well.

In Bement, commercialization of an ARS technology is evidenced in the town's business district.

"It's kind of interesting, in a way, because there used to be six vacant buildings in the downtown area," Ayers says. "Because of our success we were able to invest and revitalize businesses. People that never considered buying before in Bement are now. Look how many jobs were created."

A few of the products of other ARS-discovered technologies are listed below.

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Title Annotation:Agricultural Research Service
Publication:Agricultural Research
Date:May 1, 1993
Words:301
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