PULLMAN — Barbara Hardaman, 60, couldn’t stop smiling on Tuesday at a ribbon-cutting for a new South Side soap factory.
Hardaman, a Pullman resident, is one of 100 new employees hired by Method Products, an environmentally-friendly cleaning products manufacturer. On Tuesday, at the new factory on 111th Street right off the Bishop Ford Expy., Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) and other business leaders gathered to celebrate the opening.
“This is the first manufacturing plant in over 30 years on the South Side of Chicago in the African-American community — that’s huge stuff and it’s going to revitalize our community,” Beale said.
The factory, which is partially powered by solar and wind energy, will provide jobs and reduce crime in the Roseland and Pullman neighborhood, he said. Families are moving back to the community, where there are fewer boarded-up homes, he said.
“I been living across the street from two empty houses, but now they are refurbishing them, so families are moving to the community, and I think that’s really good,” said Hardaman, whose role is to pack the soap into boxes before distribution.
Directly above the soap-making factory sits a 75,000-square-foot greenhouse. Gotham Greens, a New York City-based company, will operate the rooftop farm.
Gotham Greens co-founder and CEO Viraj Puri said that this rooftop farm will be the “world’s largest.” The company plans on hiring 40-50 local full-time employees to help with the farm, Puri said, adding that the jobs are year-round.
Puri said that training will be provided, and experience isn’t necessary. The rooftop farm will focus on leafy greens such as lettuce, arugula and spinach. More than 1 million pounds of fresh produce is expected to grow each year. Puri said the produce will be sold to local stores, markets and community groups.
Gotham Greens grows its produce without soil, a method known as hydroponics. Puri said that a head of lettuce usually takes 60-70 days to grow outside in the dirt, but hydroponically grown lettuce only needs 30-35 days.
The mayor said Method considered more than 100 other sites before choosing Pullman. He said Method's potential to improve the Pullman and Roseland communities is what drew it to the Chicago neighborhood in the first place.
“The ability to recruit other companies becomes easier when one comes,” Emanuel said.
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