Janesville70.2°

LiquiPur struggling to get into the flow

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JAMES P. LEUTE
December 6, 2009
— A company that announced 16 months ago it would bring its operation and 90 jobs to Janesville is in arrears with its local landlord and could be evicted before it bottles its first beverage.

LiquiPur said in August 2008 that it would move its bottling operations from Chicago to Janesville.


It said Friday that it hopes to secure financing soon and start production in 2010.


The company, owned by Fontana businessman Bernard Kaufman, specializes in liquid beverages that are nutritional, organic and based on leading-edge technology for recipes and packaging that is environmentally sensitive. In Janesville, the company planned a hot-fill beverage line as well as a state-of-the-art aseptic food and beverage operation.


Originally, the company was destined for 62,500 square feet of space in a Helgesen Holdings building on Venture Drive on Janesville's south side. At the time, LiquiPur said it planned to build a 105,000-square-foot manufacturing facility just across Venture Drive.


But Jeff Helgesen, the building's owner and developer, found other tenants for the 250,000-square-foot Venture Drive property.


LiquiPur then opted for another Helgesen building, a 110,000-square-foot building at 505 S. Wuthering Hills Drive vacated in 2007 by Unisource Worldwide. Unisource was a distributor of commercial printing and business imaging papers, packaging systems and facility supplies.


Helgesen said LiquiPur has moved equipment into the Wuthering Hills Drive property and staffed it with one employee.


In the meantime, the company has struggled to secure financing for the Janesville project.


Spokesman John Zolikoff said the company is poised to close on financing in the near future.


LiquiPur has the support of potential customers, he said, and the company's owners have continued to pay engineering and design costs of the project.


LiquiPur, however, has struggled with its rent and other payments. Helgesen said LiquiPur owes nearly $300,000.


Helgesen in October filed a small claims suit in Rock County Court to recover the back rent. He also sought a stipulated eviction, and a hearing on the matter was adjourned from Nov. 20 to Friday.


Without any back rent, Helgesen and his attorneys were prepared to show up in court Friday and seek immediate eviction.


But Kaufman signed an agreement Thursday that extends the eviction proceedings until Dec. 31.


Helgesen said the company has until the end of the year to get current on its debt and secure financing to move forward.


Otherwise, Helgesen said the locks will be changed Jan. 1 and he'll sit down with two other companies that have expressed interest in the property.


Helgesen said that if LiquiPur meets its obligations, he would renegotiate the company's lease to include an escrow account so it can't fall behind on rent and other payments.


"The bottom line is that we are positive about our commitment to manufacture in Janesville and provide jobs," Zolikoff said. "The LiquiPur team has committed a tremendous amount of time and resources to make this become a reality and will continue to work toward that goal.


"We hope that all of this will come together in everyone's best interest during the month of December."


The city of Janesville has a financial interest in the project. A Tax Increment Finance agreement already has provided LiquiPur with half of a $200,000 forgivable loan.


Vic Grassman, the city's economic development director, said that if the LiquiPur project falls apart, the city would try to recover the $100,000 advanced to the company.



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