A Sterling-based company that makes chemicals to keep oil rigs, energy pipelines and petroleum storage tanks clean is getting a $500,000 boost from the Kansas Bioscience Authority.
Jacam Chemicals LLC this month had its grant application approved by the authority, whose members are charged with investing proceeds from a $580 million bioscience stimulus fund during the next 10 to 15 years.
The grant - $100,000 a year for five years - will be used by the company to build and equip new lab space, part of an overall expansion and relocation project expected to begin later this year and cost between $5 million and $10 million.
The grant will help Jacam hire two chemists: one with a doctorate and another with a bachelor's degree.
"It's nice to have the support of a Kansas agency," said Charity Boman, Jacam's project manager. "The board of the authority is just built with the most impressive men I have ever met - their business backgrounds, their scientific backgrounds.
"To have their support really makes us feel like we're doing the right thing, it's on the right track and it's getting noticed."
The grant will help Jacam increase its ability to develop innovative products and services, plus provide space for conducting contract research that other companies otherwise would send out of state, said Clay Blair, chairman of the authority.
"This is a company in a small, central Kansas community that people have not heard of, and is doing extraordinary things," Blair said. "We think that they can compete at a higher level by doing more research."
Gene Zaid, Jacam's owner, president and head chemist, founded the company 24 years ago in his Sterling garage. Today the business is in several buildings, has 95 employees and is planning an expansion and relocation project that could double the company's laboratory and manufacturing spaces.
Blair said that Jacam's employment would be expected to double in the coming years, something company officials are eager to make room for. Plans already are being developed for a relocation to 40 acres in the area. Sterling is 30 miles northwest of Hutchinson.
Jacam had sales of more than $20 million last year, Boman said, by focusing largely on regional energy clients. The company's chemicals - Zaid and chemist Beth Wolf have about 35 patents between them - are used to prevent buildup in pipelines and other equipment.
"Every drilling rig and every pipeline and every storage tank you've ever seen or even imagined has to be treated chemically in some form," Boman said. "It's a huge market. :
"We've had strong sales growth, and we expect strong sales growth for the future. We've definitely not capped out in our industry; $20 million is not the stopping point for Jacam."