MARICOPA, Ariz.—Yulex Corp., the maker of natural rubber latex from the guayule desert shrub, has moved into a facility in Chandler and plans to produce latex and bioenergy feedstocks at the factory by early 2012.
The 60,000-sq.-ft. facility, known as “Demeter” within the company, was financed by $15 million in private funding from Argonaut Private Equity, according to Yulex. The operation is located in the Lone Butte Industrial Park within the Gila River Indian Community, and consists of two buildings on five acres of land. Yulex has the potential to expand on as much as 20 acres, as needed.
The Gila River location offers Yulex both tax savings and Enterprise Zone status, the company said.
Yulex staff already has moved into the office space at Demeter, and manufacturing equipment is being moved into the production space, according to Jeff Martin, Yulex president and CEO. The company also has started to hire production line workers.
“We expect to have 60 full-time employees at Demeter,” Martin said. “We've already started training some workers at our existing plant in Maricopa, which we have designated 'Ceres.' “
Ceres will remain open after Demeter comes on-stream, Martin said. In addition to production workers, Yulex is recruiting key executives in product development, marketing and engineering, but isn't ready to announce any names as yet.
In December 2010, Yulex signed an agreement whereby Arizona Grain Inc. is responsible for overseeing the efforts of more than 600 guayule growers through the desert shrub's entire life cycle, according to Martin.
That life cycle includes planting, harvest and transportation of feedstock to Yulex processing facilities for latex extraction. While the contract is Arizona-based, it allows for expansion into California and New Mexico as needed, Martin said.
Martin declined to say how many acres are planted in guayule or how many more will be cultivated under the Arizona Grain contract. He said an acre of guayule by rule of thumb produces about a ton of latex per acre annually, and the Demeter facility eventually will produce 10,000 metric tons of latex per year at full capacity.
Yulex was founded in 1997 as a start-up company and exclusive licensee of the patented process for making hypoallergenic guayule latex developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Katrina Cornish, the USDA scientist who led the guayule processing research, became Yulex senior vice president of research and development in 2004.
Guayule latex has a number of applications in the medical, consumer and industrial product industries.