Textile Systems, Inc.
Textile Systems, Inc. (TSI), a division of Borgess Health Alliance, provides specialty laundering and linen management services to the health care industry. In 2001, TSI worked with the City of Kalamazoo to purchase and relocate to a redeveloped brownfield in Kalamazoo's Northside neighborhood. The project was the city's third successfully redeveloped brownfield within a three-block area that was formerly characterized by junkyards and abandoned industrial buildings.
TSI began operations in 1987 at a 14,000 square-foot facility in Oshtemo Township, MI. The company launders sheets, blankets, towels, scrubs and other linens for many of the area's hospitals and health care facilities. TSI's customers include Borgess Medical Center, Bronson Health, Battle Creek Health Systems and a number of other hospitals, clinics and nursing homes throughout the state.
In the next several years, the burgeoning laundry outgrew the Oshtemo facility. TSI went from processing 2 million pounds of laundry per year to more than 7.5 million pounds, and needed a larger building to support further growth. Faced with labor challenges and production limitations, the company decided to relocate to Kalamazoo because of its proximity to its workforce and markets.
In 1997, TSI contacted the City of Kalamazoo's Brownfield Redevelopment Initiative (BRI). The BRI is a program to identify, acquire and prepare abandoned and environmentally-distressed property for redevelopment. After touring the available sites, TSI chose a .92 acre city-owned brownfield property on East Frank Street for the future site of its new facility. The property was previously home to the Pioneer Paper Company, but most recently was a vacant lot with an adjoining junkyard. Neighborhood residents voiced their approval of the project during a public meeting at the Douglass Community Association in late 1998. Less than a year later, the city's Brownfield Redevelopment Authority and the City Commission agreed to sell TSI the property for $23,000.
TSI encountered several problems with their newly-acquired property that needed to be addressed before construction of the new structure could begin. These challenges included contaminated soil, more than 10,000 cubic yards of buried building foundations and demolition debris, hidden underground tanks, and gaining possession of two occupied houses on the property. To overcome these development barriers, TSI collaborated with the city, the consulting firm Fishbeck, Thompson, Carr & Huber (FTC&H), neighborhood organizations, attorneys and contractors.
The city went to work securing United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) Region V brownfield assessment pilot funds to conduct soil testing, and FTC&H outlined a process for TSI to follow in order to avoid state environmental liability. Contaminated soils were used in landscaping berms and beneath parking lots to eliminate contaminant exposure pathways, recyclable building materials were extracted from the soils to minimize offsite disposal costs, and the underground tanks were also properly registered and sealed to do away with due care liability. Finally, TSI teamed up with the Northside Association for Community Development to relocate one of the homes from the project site for future rehabilitation.
Construction for the $5.7 million project began in June 1999 and was complete by August 2000. The new 32,000 square-foot facility features state-of-the-art laundry equipment that ensures the highest level of sterilization and reduces energy costs and the impact on the environment. Unlike the existing laundry, the new structure is air conditioned, providing more comfortable working conditions for employees.
In addition to the updated equipment and increased workspace, TSI's relocation across town benefited the company in other ways. The Northside location is closer to two major clients, Borgess Medical Center and Bronson Methodist Hospital, which eliminated 400 delivery miles and 10 hours of transportation each week. The move also put the laundry in the same neighborhood as the bulk of its workers and expanded its pool of potential employees. Within just six months of becoming operational, its workforce doubled from 55 to more than 100. The larger staff allowed the company to significantly increase productivity and take on additional contracts.
Today, the bustling laundry continues to thrive and now offers services to more than 30 different health care facilities in the area and processes approximately 18 million pounds of linen per year. Because of the incredible triumph this redevelopment project represented, TSI and the City of Kalamazoo were presented with one of two national Phoenix Awards for Community Impact by the USEPA in 2002. Phoenix Awards honor individuals and groups working to transform abandoned industrial properties into productive new uses. The TSI redevelopment project further demonstrates the city's ability to convert depleted areas into useful community resources.