20Q: Harry Minas, Florelle Tissue Corp.

Harry Minas

Harry Minas, President of Florelle Tissue Corp., Brownville.

  • Age: 41
  • Family: Single, no children.
  • Hometown: Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
  • Education: Construction education technology, George Brown College, Toronto
  • Professional: Thirteen years in the paper industry, prior to that owned a food service company for 10 years.
  • Last book read: Last book I read was on quitting smoking, but it didn’t really work. I read a lot of business autobiographies.

NNYB: This project coming to Brownville was the result of more than two years’ worth of work. What were the main components to making this happen?

MINAS: Other than persistence, one the key ingredients was the location of Watertown for our current sales, which are in Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto, and future sales. Watertown is strategically located for distribution of paper products. The mill and the infrastructure are here. The employees in the area have substantial paper background. I am finding a lot of talented employees to pick from.

NNYB: You mentioned persistence; you strike me as someone who believes in perseverance. Is there ever a time you didn’t think this project would happen?

MINAS: You always think that. Especially going two years and three months into the project, you ask, when will it ever end? I believe that this is a good project, a solid project. I wouldn’t have put this amount of time into the project if I didn’t believe in it.

NNYB: Was there any time when you hit a wall of frustration when you thought about giving up?

MINAS: I did. There were a few points. We had a lot of support from the Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency. Dave Zembiec was there fighting every step of the way with me. It was two years with banks and everything else we had to go through to accomplish where we are right now. Did it go through my head? Yes, it did. We pushed it off to the side and kept going.

NNYB: Were you looking at other locations for the business?

MINAS: I was looking in Michigan at the Detroit area, but if I move bathroom tissue and towels from Detroit to Montreal it’s a seven hour drive. If I move it from here to Montreal, it’s a three hour drive. The key component to my industry is that our product cubes out before it weighs out. The truck fills up to its maximum capacity before we get to the weight. Companies that manufacture standard paper or board stock weigh out before they cube out. Logistically you have to be within a 500 mile radius of your markets. If you are in Watertown you have Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal, you have the northeastern United States, which holds one-third of the population of the U.S.

Harry Minas in his office at Florelle Tissue Corp. in Brownville. Photo by Justin Sorensen.

NNYB: The timing for starting this project couldn’t have been the easiest, what was most challenging about the banking climate?

MINAS: They weren’t willing to lend. We finally negotiated a deal with Chase. Chase doesn’t have any representation in this area, so they don’t have branches. The local banking and banks with local representation weren’t coming to the table for us so we had to go to Chase. It took 11 months to work with Chase.

NNYB: You’re from Canada, were you considering any sites in Canada?

MINAS: We were. We looked at a few sites in northern Quebec and Ontario. Logistically it didn’t make sense. New York is a very taxed state. Compared to Canada, we’re at par. We’re used to it. If you ask someone from Florida, they look at the taxes and they go running.

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