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Business news: Bottling spring water and Renovating Starbucks

Indian Township, Maine is home to the Passamaquoddy tribe, which has been struggling with the issues of rampant joblessness and lack of funds for public safety and other tribal services (according to the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs, the unemployment rate is 60 percent (!), causing a large exodus of tribal members).

bottling spring water by getty images

To combat this, the Passamaquoddy leadership has been working on a bold plan to capitalize on the tribal land’s pristine spring water (labeled as Passamaquoddy Blue) by building a 123,000-square-foot bottling plant and selling the water to outside customers (working with an investor, they’re hoping to complete a deal by early this year), with the goal of bottling 10 million cases of water by the third year of operation (the initial goal is for 20 million cases of water a year).
To help cover the $32 million cost of building the plant and the first 18 months of operation, the tribe (which intends to won 61 percent of the company), will take advantage of new market tax credits for rural area investors and loan guarantee programs through the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

The leadership believes the water bottling plant will turn the tide, providing for the community. And there’s broad support among the 1, 300 tribal members.
An additional goal is to create 70 well-paying industrial jobs at the plant and using that revenue to fund health care services, public schools, an assisted-living center and even more jobs from spinoff businesses, like a trucking company for hauling water.
If we had jobs that paid a livable wage, more of our people would come back”, said Chief Joseph Socobasin. “Some of them are my own family members who live off the reservation, and the only reason is that they can’t find work.”

Tribal members have been careful not to move too fast, to minimize any damage to the land’s resources and maintain its natural beauty. For these reasons, the industrial plant will be tucked away; trucks would use U.S. 1, which abuts the proposed plant site.

According to Bill Turner, hydrologist, water source expert and tribal consultant, rainwater and melting snow could provide more than 700 million gallons of water from multiple wells (without touching the aquifer deep below the ground’s surface). The remote location also insures that the water source is unspoiled.

There’s skepticism among some tribal members (previous proposals have come and gone), but everyone wants to believe this plan will be the one, the turning point.

Renovating Starbucks

Within Seattle’s University Village is a recently opened (since Oct. 2013) Starbucks Reserve store.

What makes this particular Starbucks store very unique (because Starbucks are practically everywhere) is that the world-famous mermaid logo, synonymous with the brand, is not prevalent here.

It’s the star-shaped symbol signifying the luxury Reserve brand, featuring Starbucks’ rarest coffees. And it’s one of the first Starbucks stores to feature the Reserve logo on its storefront.

A global network of more than 350 in-house designers in 18 cities now works closely with store managers and real-estate experts to give every store its own distinct mark (or stamp).
The design drive is one of Starbucks’ answers to two major challenges: renovating itself in the U.S. (where the brand’s already well-known) and adapting to wildly diverse new countries (where there’s the greatest growth opportunities).
Not every store gets the royal treatment; location and traffic often dictate the degree of customization a store gets (by now a majority of Starbucks’ nearly 20,000 stores have been retouched in some way).

When Starbucks increased its capital spending by $300 million for 2013, about $51 million of that amount was dedicated to store renovation.

In early 2007, the popular chain was among the first retailers to experience a big drop in sales later that year. And the chain doesn’t want a re-occurrence. So far, the renovating strategy has won Starbucks several design awards and has helped boost its bottom line.

The company is also pursuing other avenues for growth; recent acquisitions include tea retailer Teavana, juice maker Evolution Fresh and a packaged-food business!

Sources: “Hope springs”-Associated Press-The (Sunday) Vindicator, December 8, 2013 and “A drive to redesign”-Seattle Times-The (Sunday) Vindicator, Jan. 5, 2014

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