The plant, located on 901 Grand Ave., was destroyed in a fire on May 8, and its ruins have remained largely untouched since then. Snyder said demolition will begin within the next two weeks, but he doesn’t know when the plant will be rebuilt. The Mancos Western Excelsior facility was the second-largest in the country and employed about 100 people from all over the Four Corners region.
Snyder said his company’s main obstacle in rebuilding has been figuring out the cost and how much its insurance will cover. He said he’s been “playing phone tag and email tag” with insurance company representatives for several weeks. But he and the rest of the company’s leadership are highly motivated to reopen the plant, he said.
“The sooner we can get it running again, the better,” he said. “It’s had a huge impact on our production.”
Western Excelsior has set up a temporary production facility in Mancos, in one of the buildings unaffected by the fire. Employees there are still producing straw wattles, which are used in the company’s sediment control products. The plant also started selling firewood again the week of Aug. 14, Snyder said. But the facility is still far from operating at its former capacity, and most of its employees have not returned.
On Aug. 11, the U.S. Small Business Administration declared the Western Excelsior fire an economic disaster, and announced it would provide low-interest economic injury disaster loans to businesses in the Four Corners that were affected by the plant’s loss.
Snyder was among several business owners who filled out worksheets in June to request the emergency declaration, but he said he didn’t plan to apply for a loan himself.
“I’m glad it worked out for everybody else,” he said.
Several local businesses and nonprofits have donated money and held fundraisers to benefit employees who lost their jobs after the fire. The latest such event was the Mancos Valley River Film Festival in July, which raised about $10,000 for charity organizations like Mancos Valley Resources, Mancos FoodShare and Mancos Pay It Forward. Local yoga teachers also plan to hold a firewalk ceremony on Sept. 10 to raise more money for employees and their families.
Snyder said he planned to visit Mancos the first week of October to meet with plant managers and discuss plans for the future. By then, he said, he hopes to have a strategy for rebuilding the facility.