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The Indian Community of Metlakatla opened a bottled water plant this past spring and should have water on store shelves in Southeast Alaska and the West Coast soon.
The bottling plant receives its water from the municipal water system. The water passed all tests and was approved for bottling. Proceeds from the water -- bottled from Chester Lake on Purple Mountain -- will be given back to the local businesses in the Metlakatla Indian Community.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development issued a $500,000 grant to the community, which was used for the 5,000 square foot plant's construction. The plant has the ability to produce 3,000 bottled per hour.
The company will be blowing its own bottles as well as filling, capping and labeling them.
Currently, there is no name or label design for the product. The company has four employees, but once the plant is in operation, it hopes to employ two shifts of eight to 10 people.
"We started processing the bottled water around June 13 and are just getting the system ready," said India Semaken, marketing director for the Metlakatla Bottled Water Co. "We're running on a skeleton crew because we haven't gone to full production yet."
Alaska is seeing a growing industry in bottled water. Hyder, Alaska, opened a water bottling plant in 2001. Sitka and Juneau have bottled water businesses.
People in Japan and other countries are interested in Alaska water, said Margy Johnson, director of International Trade for the Alaska Department of Commerce and Economic Development.
"All over Japan, the image of Alaska is pure and pristine and water from (here) will definitely have a leg up," she said.
At the same time, Johnson said Alaska producers need to make sure their product is labeled and bottled to compete in foreign markets. She urged would-be bottlers to do careful market research.