In a nondescript metal building just off the Eklutna exit on the Glenn Highway, a few miles north of Anchorage, the rumble of a robotic assembly line echoes between the walls. A handful of workers monitors the process, keeping careful watch on the snaking lines of plastic bottles as they are expanded, sterilized, labeled, filled, and grouped for bulk packaging.
Welcome to one of Alaska's few value-added manufacturing facilities and one of the few beverage bottling plants in the state. Welcome to Alaska Glacier Products, where high quality bottled water is processed and packaged for domestic and international markets.
When most people think of Alaska, they think only of Alaska's natural resources: oil, fish, and minerals. They imagine shipping containers and tankers filled with raw material being transported to other states or nations for refinement and processing. They don't think of factories or manufacturing plants. They don't think of value added products. But the owners and operators of this particular facility aren't stuck in that mindset. Nor are they ignorant about what it takes to market and promote the product. CEO Greg Galik and Plant Operator Joe Van Treek are both veterans in this particular game.
Years ago, Matanuska Maid established the first foray into preparing beverages for export. In the 1990s, that now-defunct company launched a bottled water operation to take advantage of equipment that was already in use for milk. However, the product line never quite took olf, and in 2007 Matanuska Maid ceased operations and filed for bankruptcy.
Both Galik and Van Treek had experience working with Matanuska Maid's bottled water venture. When the bottling equipment went on the auction block, Galik and his wife Lynn Alingham saw an opportunity and purchased it. The couple believed in the product and observed the increasing markets for bottled water, especially in Asia. Due to the deep recession in 2008, it took a few years for them to raise the capital to begin operations as Alaska Brands. Alingham had left her career in law and become a certified plant operator, and Galik handled the marketing end, promoting Alaska bottled water in California and in Asia under the name Clearly Alaskan.
Meanwhile, in 2011, Sea Lion--an Alaska Native Corporation based in Hooper Bay--purchased a derelict plant at the base of Eklutna for the purpose of making bottled water as Alaska Glacier Products. In 2013, Sea Lion negotiated with Galik and...